Researching Hollywood's short subjects is a lot harder than it sounds. And the cartoons are even harder to trace. Records weren't kept very long, and the films weren't covered by the press as well as the feature films at the time. British animation historian Graham Webb has spent 30 years compiling the data presented in this book. (It would take 30 years, and I ought to know having done several volumes chronicling just the Warner Bros. cartoons.) Webb decided to document every theatrical cartoon, animated feature film and cartoon sequences (i.e. Song Of The South, Anchors Aweigh, etc.) with credits, release dates and one-line plot synopsis. The book is presented in alphabetical order and each entry is numbered (the final entry, the Betty Boop cartoon, Zula Hula, is #6900). An appendix listing films by series title and an index are also included.
This is quite an impressive work. As a cartoon buff, even a casual browsing of this book is dangerous -- I could spend hours looking up my favorite cartoons! As a fellow cartoon historian, I can attest that this is a first class research work, with a lot of solid information that needed to be published. Webb lists all silent cartoons and much independent animation as well. Complete credits for undocumented Disney shorts, George Pal Puppetoons, Screen Gems and DePatie-Freleng shorts, as well as obscurities like Marty The Monk join the popular MGM, Fleischer, Paramount, Lantz, Terrytoons and UPA films, among others.
There are mysteries still to be solved in animation history and occasionally Webb hit a wall, posting a "No story available" line when necessary. But this is a must-have work for anyone wanting quick basic information on the oft-neglected, under-researched Hollywood cartoons.
The Animated Film Encyclopedia, A Complete Guide to American Shorts, Features and Sequences, 1900-1979 by Graham Webb. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2000. 634 pages. ISBN: 0-7864-0728-8 (library binding, US$125.00).
Jerry Beck is a cartoon historian, animation industry executive and producer. Visit him at www.cartoonresearch.com