Makin’ Toons Book Review
But then the next chapter, “Ain’t That a Pretty Picture: Creating the Stunning Visuals of TV and Film Cartoons,” makes it sound like it’s the character designers and background artists who are really responsible for a production’s success. Scott Wills, background artist on Samurai Jack; Eric Radomski, stylist of the noir look of Batman: The Animated Series; Michael Giaimo, art director of Pocahontas; and others tell their stories.
Subsequent chapters focus upon directors (Rogers Allers and The Lion King; Chris Savino, a director on several series for The Cartoon Network; Pete Docter on directing computer graphics for Monsters, Inc., and Chris Wedge who did the same for Ice Age); animators (Andreas Deja who brought The Lion King’s Scar to life; John R. Dilworth who had to make Courage, the Cowardly Dog both cowardly and endearing; Eric Goldberg who made the Genie in Aladdin both grotesquely fantastic and recognizably Robin Williams); producers (Margot Pipkin, “mother” of The Simpsons; Paul Germain of Rugrats; Don Hahn who saw to it that what director Robert Zemeckis wanted done, got done in Who Framed Roger Rabbit); voice actors (from multi-voice stars like June Foray and Billy West to the story of the voice searches for particular characters, the villainess Ursula of The Little Mermaid and Sid the sloth of Ice Age); songwriters and composers (Alan Menken and Howard Ashman reinvent the animated theatrical musical feature for Disney); and a few closing comments on the business aspects of the Toon Boom.
Makin’ Toons jumps around so much that it works best as a kaleidoscopic potpourri; a sampler of all the frenetic activities that have hauled animation out of its embarrassing dead-end of TV babysitter during the ‘70s and ‘80s. The many “in their own words” stories are all so interesting that one wonders if Neuwirth only interviewed industry professionals who are excellent conversationalists. (One also wonders if the speakers realized that Neuwirth was going to leave the words in their dialogue that are usually replaced with euphemisms.)
The book is well illustrated on almost every double-page spread, mixing photographs of practically everyone interviewed with samples of the artists’ works from model sheets to background paintings. The art is only black-and-white, but the reproductions are very sharp. Neuwirth provides a bibliography and a good index.
Makin’ Toons is both fun to read, and is a key reference volume for any serious library about today’s animation industry.
Makin’ Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies, by Allan Neuwirth. NYC, Allworth Press, May 2003, xiii + 273 pages; ISBN: 1-58115-269-8 (trade paperback; $21.95).
Fred Patten has written on anime for fan and professional magazines since the late 1970s. He wrote the liner notes for Rhino Entertainment’s The Best of Anime music CD (1998), and was a contributor to The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, 2nd Edition, ed. by Maurice Horn (1999) and Animation in Asia and the Pacific, ed. by John A. Lent (2001).