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Book Review: 'Original Cartoons, the Frederator Studios Postcards 1998-2005'

Bill Desowitz chats with ILMs Joel Aron about the challenges of converting Chicken Little into the all-new Disney Digital 3-D process.

In this book, Original Cartoons, the Frederator Studios Postcards 1998-2005, Fred Seibert has always gathered around him some of the most uniquely talented artists in animation, and in this book youll see their work expressed in the medium of postcards. The Frederator postcards are one of animations closely held secrets. Not just anyone got sent one of these cards. Seibert is a promoter, and, first of all, these cards were sent out to ballyhoo his studio. The fact that they are a nice design reference when put together into a book is just another indication that the man really knows talent.

Yeah, I know, youve got dozens of design references on your shelves for when your head runs dry, but these are funny (or funny drawings), most of them. Some are just good design. They are divided by year, series 1 through 5 from 1998 to 2005 and then the posters. All of the artists art is fully credited, and listed on the back of the book as well. Seibert says in his introduction that, the postcards (and posters) in this book are also part of our attempt to bring attention to the indisputable gifts of our team Of course, the outpouring of positive response to our cards led us to be completely full of ourselves

Postcard collecting is the third-largest collectables hobby, according to Eric Homan, vp of creative affairs for Frederator, who, in a short intro, gives you a taste of why people collect things like postcards and why these particular postcards are worth collecting they communicate.

Seibert started Frederator Studios in 1998 when he left Hanna-Barbera, where he is credited with turning the then tired studio around. Before that, he had been a jazz & blues record producer, an ad man for a country music station, and then created a bunch of wild animated spot promotions for a brand new cable network called MTV that helped make it a household name.

Jerry Beck, in another introduction, says that this book is a rare piece of animation history, a time capsule of an amazing period of animation creativity. He also says he is grateful to be able to look at the postcards in this book because that saves wear and tear on his originals.

Then there is a terrific interview of Seibert by Joe Strike (originally published in Animation World Magazine on July 15, 2003 and Aug. 15, 2003). It gives a history of how he got H&B out of its rut and where he gives full credit to other people for being an awesome spotter of talent. His method of producing sounds like the forerunner of the current studio system of having show talent be a unit, rather than the old standard of assigning artists to a production from separate background, color, layout, etc. departments. Seibert says he got this idea from Berry Gordys Motown system of recording.

The Frederator postcards assembled by Fred Seibert is proof that the man knows talent.

The Frederator postcards assembled by Fred Seibert is proof that the man knows talent.

Seibert talks about how The Fairly OddParents got started and how they got Ralph Bakshi to do a cartoon for Nickelodeons Oh Yeah! Cartoons. That led to working as an independent for Nick and Frederator was born. He talks about how the studio started and its philosophy. Be nice if we all worked in studios like that!

Seibert says he was interested in ideas that dont necessarily fit the system. He gives credit for changing the name of the game in traditional animation to John Kricfalusi, and people like Mike Judge. He stated that he is a cartoon guy, not an animation guy animation is a production technique My natural space in life is cartooning.

And the postcards amply illustrate cartooning, from character design to pinups to collages. As a sort of addendum, there is a scholarly bio of Seibert at the end of the book by Steven Heller, art director of the New York Times Book Review. You want to know how the MTV logo got started (and almost killed by the suits)? Here is the tale. Here also is what Seibert is doing now. Hes on the Internet, of course. Hopefully there will be more postcards, too.

Original Cartoons: The Frederator Studios Postcards 1998-2205 edited by Eric Homan and Fred Seibert with essays by Jerry Beck, Steven Heller and Joe Strike. New York: Frederator Books; distributed by Easton Studio Press, 2005. 256 pages with 194 color illustrations. ISBN 0-9743806-3-6 ($35.00).

Libby Reed started out at Walt Disney Studios in the 50s on Sleeping Beauty as a painter. She has worked at numerous commercial studios, spent 16 years as a fashion illustrator and wound up at Film Roman as a color designer under Phyllis Craig. Libby has two children, (one is Alex Reed, animation producer at Electronic Arts) and four grandchildren.