Take a deep dive into the history of cinematic animation in the United States with the book that Publishers Weekly says is "a lively chronicle of a perennially evolving medium."
Animated films started with simple sequential drawings photographed one at a time—little bits of comedic fluff to make amateur title scenes or surreal escapist sequences. Today, animation is a worldwide industry valued at nearly $300 billion and still growing in scope and popularity.
In Moving Pictures, Darl Larsen playfully lays out the history of American animation as it transitioned from vaudeville sub-feature to craftsman-like artistry to industrial diversion and, ultimately, to theatrical regulars on par with blockbusters. Larsen identifies and discusses the major figures, movements, and studios across the nearly 120 years of animation in the United States. Progressing chronologically, the book follows animation from stage performance through to its use as wartime propaganda, its seven-minute heyday and decamp to television, and finally the years of struggle as cartoons became feature films.
Covering everything from the generations preceding Mickey Mouse to recent releases such as Super Mario Bros., Moving Pictures is an essential read for movie fans and a nostalgic revisiting of some of America’s favorite films.
Darl Larsen is program director and professor of film and animation studies at Brigham Young University, Media Arts Department, and affiliated with the Center for Animation at BYU.
Chapter 1: Blackton Begat McCay Begat Bray Begat…
Chapter 2: Inking the Path to Industry
Chapter 3: A Cat, a Clown, and some Fables
Chapter 4: The Rise and Rise of Disney: 1919-1932
Chapter 5: 1930s Undercard - Schlesinger, Harman-Ising, Van Beuren
Chapter 6: 1930s Main Event - Disney vs. Fleischer
Chapter 7: World War II: Cartoons, the Essential Industry
Chapter 8: Postwar or Pre-TV?
Chapter 9: UPA and/Against Disney
Chapter 10: Magnavox Destiny: “The story book closes”
Chapter 11: From Retrograde to Renaissance
About the Author
Larsen presents a robust history of American theatrical animation from its newspaper comics strip roots to the present day.... Larsen energetically traces the remarkable adaptability of the medium from Disney’s meteoric success, through the use of animation studios during World War II to produce public service films, to the advent of television, which undermined cinematic shorts yet offered an exciting new avenue for animators, and the growth of such powerhouse studios as Pixar and Dreamworks. The result is a lively chronicle of a perennially evolving medium.
Darl Larsen’s Moving Pictures is a captivating exploration of American animation. With meticulous research and insightful storytelling, Larsen brings to life the visionaries and innovations that changed animation forever. A must-read for all animation lovers.
In Darl Larsen’s gripping account, over a century of American animation flickers before our eyes in a lively ensemble including the usual suspects—Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Bambi—alongside such less familiar but still fascinating characters as the Dover Boys, Private Snafu, Colonel Heeza Liar, and Little Nemo (not the clownfish). Lively and compelling, Moving Pictures explores the industry and studios, the audiences, the technologies, the animators and their aesthetics, the characters and narratives that underlie the delightful art and craft of animation. I wouldn’t have thought I could enjoy cartoons even more than I already do, but Larsen’s big-picture exploration opens up their richly illustrious role in American culture.
Moving Pictures energetically weaves animation’s legal, economic, and aesthetic histories together into a revelatory new study of the competing forces that have shaped the growth and institutionalization of the art form. Larsen’s insightful, multi-faceted account widens the cast of players ordinarily found in animation’s historical canon, and reveals the intricate interplay of business acumen, skill, and creativity that gave rise to and continue to sustain animation as a vibrant and essential dimension of American cinematic culture. Throughout, Larsen’s rich engagement with primary sources brings the story and stakeholders of American theatrical animation to life as vividly as the characters on screen.
As an animation veteran I consider myself a student of the craft. Reading Moving Pictures has increased my appreciation for my vocation and taught me a few things I hadn’t known before. (Who knew that William Randolph Hearst had a connection to animation?) Focusing on American cinematic animation and couching his history in the social and economic upheavals of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Darl Larsen invites a new perspective into the story of the animated film and cements the importance of the art form in American culture.