Learn More About the History of Cartoons from These Books

The technical definition of a cartoon is an illustration that is animated in a semi-realistic or non-realistic style for satire, humor, caricature, or a motion picture. However, not many of us grew up with the literal definition of cartoons; some experienced childhood with something more personal.

The name “cartoon” conjures up images of Cartoon Network, the most popular channel of the 1990s. It’s a channel that prompts a flood of memories to flood back into our heads.

Cartoon Network featured a range of cartoon series, and in the days before the internet and online streaming services, cartoons ruled all entertainment forms, from small comic strips in children’s magazines to full-fledged TV shows.

These cartoon characters were extremely popular, and they were adored by everyone from toddlers to adults. With technological advancement, one can see a gradual improvement in the quality of cartoon characters from the 50s top cartoons to now. Let’s take a step back and learn more about the history of cartoons with the help of these books.

Of Mice and Magic

By Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck

This comprehensive reference on animation and cartoons has it all, whether you’re looking for movie gifts or anything for the history lovers in your life. Leonard Maltin, the famous cinema critic, and historian delivers the most comprehensive filmography on cartoons ever assembled in this one-of-a-kind authoritative history of American animated cartoons.

Leonard Maltin not only recreates this glorious era from the silent era through the Hollywood golden age to Spielberg’s An American Tail in this up-to-date edition of Of Mice and Magic, but he also traces the development of the art of animation and brilliantly portrays the key artistic talents and their studios. This classic history of American cartoons also updates Maltin’s many admirers on current work at the Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Studios and other animation advances.

Maltin has compiled a treasure mine of anecdotes and cinematic history based on colorful interviews with several key figures in the American cartoon industry. Walt Disney, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Mel Blanc, and a slew of other brilliant animators and businesspeople worked behind the scenes. Overall, Maltin has crafted a magnificent tribute to a generally adored aspect of Americana.

Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age

a figurine of Mickey Mouse holding a telephone, brick wall

By Michael Barrier

Michael Barrier takes us on a marvelous journey of American animation in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s in Hollywood Cartoons, where we meet the legendary creatives and entrepreneurs behind Betty Boop, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Wile E. Coyote, Tom and Jerry, and other cartoon favorites. Barrier gives us an inside look into early New York studios and Hollywood giants like Warner Bros., Disney, and MGM, starting with black-and-white silent cartoons.

Barrier shines at showing the artistic side of animation, revealing how tales are put together, animators develop characters, and technical breakthroughs improve cartoon “realism.” Colorful pictures of the industry’s giants, from Roy and Walt Disney and their animators to Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna, are also included. 

Based on countless interviews with seasoned animators, Hollywood Animations gives us a definitive insider look at this vibrant era and the creative process behind these magnificent cartoons.

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Where to Buy
Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, Revised and Updated Edition
Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation
The World History of Animation

Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation

By Giannalberto Bendazzi

Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation is the first book to present a complete history and critique of film animation worldwide. It’s the much-awaited English language version of a reference book on animated cinema’s fascinating and thrilling subject, which has already been hailed as a classic work of research in its Italian and French editions.

This extensively illustrated, authoritative, and comprehensive study covers more than 70 countries, 3,000 films, and 2,000 animators.

The Complete Set of Animation: A World History

Mickey Mouse driving a steamboat

By Giannalberto Bendazzi

Giannalberto Bendazzi’s three-volume Animation: A World History is the deepest, broadest, and most extensive literature of its kind, based on the premise that animation is an art form that needs its own home in research. It is a continuation of 1994’s pioneering Cartoons. Bendazzi goes beyond Disney, bringing readers to over fifty previously unknown artists and providing insights into the animation of Africa, Russia, Latin America, and other often-overlooked regions.

Animation: A World History covers the history of animation creation on every continent over three centuries and is jam-packed with first-hand, never-before-explored, and otherwise unavailable information.

Volume I explores the origins and forerunners of modern animation and the history of Émile Cohl’s Fantasmagorie and the first two decades of silent animated films. This book covers topics from well-known classics such as Steamboat Willie to animation in Nazi Germany and Egypt and spans the earliest years of the artistic medium through its Golden Age.

Volume II goes into the decades after the Golden Age, a tumultuous period in which television shows surpassed feature films, art was significantly affected by the Cold War, and technological advances endangered established animation processes. Take part in the turbulence of American animation from the 1950s through the 1990s, when it began to lose steam, and the introduction of television sparked global interest in the medium.

Volume III brings you up to date on animation’s state from 1991 until the present. The story of contemporary animation is still subject to interpretation, despite tendencies like economic globalization, the rise of television series, burgeoning marketplaces in countries like India and China, and the reinforcement of elitist auteur animation. 

This book is the most comprehensive record of current animation on the market, with much first-hand research and topics spanning from Pixar and Nickelodeon to modern Estonian animation.

The World History of Animation

By Stephen Cavalier

The World History of Animation is beautifully illustrated and comprehensive in scale, telling the genre’s 100-year-old tale across the globe, including notable characters from North America, Europe, and Asia. Animation has evolved, resulting in a wide range of vibrant styles, inventive techniques, famous characters, and unforgettable stories.

Stephen Cavalier’s detailed account chronologically includes feature films, pioneers, television shows, games, digital films, indie films, and the internet. The narrative is supported by an extensive timeline of films and developments, with must-see films listed with overviews and in-depth biographies of personalities and companies.

From rotoscoping to direct film, cel techniques, claymation, and more, the book explores the progression of animation techniques. The World History of Animation is a thrilling and inspiring voyage through the vast and still-expanding world of animation—a realm as infinite as the human imagination.