Synopses & Reviews
Walt Disney (1901-1966) was one of the most significant creative forces of the twentieth century, a man who made a lasting impact on the art of the animated film, the history of American business, and the evolution of twentieth-century American culture. He was both a creative visionary and a dynamic entrepreneur, roles whose demands he often could not reconcile.
In his compelling new biography, noted animation historian Michael Barrier avoids the well-traveled paths of previous biographers, who have tended to portray a blemish-free Disney or to indulge in lurid speculation. Instead, he takes the full measure of the man in his many aspects. A consummate storyteller, Barrier describes how Disney transformed himself from Midwestern farm boy to scrambling young businessman to pioneering artist and, finally, to entrepreneur on a grand scale. Barrier describes in absorbing detail how Disney synchronized sound with animation in Steamboat Willie; created in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sympathetic cartoon characters whose appeal rivaled that of the best live-action performers; grasped televisionand#8217;s true potential as an unparalleled promotional device; andand#151;not leastand#151;parlayed a backyard railroad into the Disneyland juggernaut.
Based on decades of painstaking research in the Disney studioand#8217;s archives and dozens of public and private archives in the United States and Europe, The Animated Man offers freshly documented and illuminating accounts of Disneyand#8217;s childhood and young adulthood in rural Missouri and Kansas City. It sheds new light on such crucial episodes in Disneyand#8217;s life as the devastating 1941 strike at his studio, when his ambitions as artist and entrepreneur first came into serious conflict.
Beginning in 1969, two and a half years after Disneyand#8217;s death, Barrier recorded long interviews with more than 150 people who worked alongside Disney, some as early as 1922. Now almost all deceased, only a few were ever interviewed for other books. Barrier juxtaposes Disneyand#8217;s own recollections against the memories of those other players to great effect. What emerges is a portrait of Walt Disney as a flawed but fascinating artist, one whose imaginative leaps allowed him to vault ahead of the competition and produce work that even today commands the attention of audiences worldwide.
"Comics historian Barrier sets off like Scrooge McDuck in search of gold. He pans out the criteria of artists including Walt Kelly, John Stanley and Carl Barks, and stakes a claim for their work as deserving the same respect as classic literature."
"In 'Funnybooks,' Mr. Barrier, whose previous works include a history of the Hollywood animated film as well as an excellent biography of Walt Disney, has set out to write a business history of Dell Comics. . . . For his study, Mr. Barrier draws on interviews, archives and his own astute knowledge of comics."
"Barrier re-immerses himself in classic comic books and emerges impervious to nostalgia."
"Funnybooks is the crowning achievement of Barrier's illustrious career. . . . Written with clarity, expressiveness, and enthusiasm, this is a book for scholars, historians, practitioners, and fans old and new."
Based on decades of research, "The Animated Man" offers a portrait of Walt Disney as a flawed but fascinating artist, one whose imaginative leaps allowed him to vault ahead of the competition and produce work that even today commands the attention of audiences worldwide.
"This book is important not just as a biography, but also as a cultural history that provides great insight to one of the best-known creative minds of the twentieth century. Barrier's engaging and highly informative writing style offers excellent perspective on how much changed in the world of animated cartoons during Disney's lifetime, and just how much the Disney studio brought about these changes. The remarkable quantity of first-person accounts, interviews, and other primary evidence is one of the book's most important attributes. This biography chronicles Disney's life while keeping in view the technological and stylistic developments in animation and filmmaking that Disney helped bring about. Barrier's deft navigation of a wide variety of historical streams gives Animated Man
a uniquely comprehensive and compelling story about Walt Disney."and#151;Daniel Goldmark, author of Tunes for 'Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon
"Michael Barrier's biography of Walt Disney is impressive, with a remarkable range of interviews. I was fascinated to see this mysterious world laid out as an industrial processand#151;somehow, this makes what we see on the screen even more miraculous."and#151;Kevin Brownlow, Director, Cecil B De Mille: American Epic and Garbo
"The Animated Man is by far the best critical study to date of Walt Disney and his worlds: corporate, personal, ideological, architectural. Michael Barrier's years of discussion with Disney's collaborators and family members make for a richly textured discussion of a figure often dismissed by the scholarly community as a vulgarian of the worst sort. Barrier shows us a tireless innovator, a man of deep feeling, a true American original who has woven himself into the very fabric of modern culture."and#151;Karal Ann Marling, editor, Designing Disney's Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance
Funnybooks is the story of the most popular American comic books of the 1940s and 1950s, those published under the Dell label. For a time, Dell Comics Are Good Comics” was more than a sloganit was a simple statement of fact. Many of the stories written and drawn by people like Carl Barks (Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge), John Stanley (Little Lulu), and Walt Kelly (Pogo) repay reading and rereading by educated adults even today, decades after they were published as disposable entertainment for children. Such triumphs were improbable, to say the least, because midcentury comics were so widely dismissed as trash by angry parents, indignant librarians, and even many of the people who published them. It was all but miraculous that a few great cartoonists were able to look past that nearly universal scorn and grasp the artistic potential of their medium. With clarity and enthusiasm, Barrier explains what made the best stories in the Dell comic books so special. He deftly turns a complex and detailed history into an expressive narrative sure to appeal to an audience beyond scholars and historians.
"Way back when the idea of a 'comics scholar' sounded like the punch line to a bad joke, Michael Barrier was a serious historian, a discriminating aesthetician, a trustworthy guide, and an impassioned lover of... funnybooks. His keen and analytic championing of Carl Barkss Donald Duck
, Walt Kellys Pogo,
and John Stanleys Little Lulu
is revelatory proof not only that comic books are worthy of adult attention but that the most rewarding have often been those aimed at the very youngest readers."Art Spiegelman, comix artist and author of Maus
"If all you know about comic books is their variants on tales of superheroes, prepare to discover how much more 'funnybooks' offered from the beginning. Here is a pioneering look at the people, the stories, and the businesses that brought four-color fun to young readers during and after World War II. Michael Barrier draws back the curtain that has long hidden much of the world of what was once dismissed as kiddie fare. After following the comic-book field in depth for more than half a century, Im stunned and delighted to find the wealth of information new to me that he now brings to light."Maggie Thompson, writer and editor for three decades of Comics Buyers Guide
About the Author
Michael Barrier is the author of Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age and The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. He is also coeditor (with Martin Williams) of A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics and coauthor (with Harvey Kurtzman) of From Aargh! to Zap! Harvey Kurtzmans Visual History of the Comics.
Table of Contents
Introduction: and#147;Itand#8217;s All Meand#8221;
1 and#147;The Pet in the Familyand#8221;
On the Farm and in the City, 1901and#150;1923
2 and#147;A Cute Ideaand#8221;
The Self-Taught Filmmaker, 1923and#150;1928
3 and#147;Youand#8217;ve Got to Really Be Minnieand#8221;
Building a Better Mouse, 1928and#150;193
4 and#147;This Character Was a Live Personand#8221;
The Leap to Feature Films, 1934and#150;1938
5 and#147;A Drawing Factoryand#8221;
Ambitionand#8217;s Price, 1938and#150;1941
6 and#147;A Queer, Quick, Delightful Ginkand#8221;
On a Treadmill, 1941and#150;1947
7 and#147;Caprices and Spurts of Childishnessand#8221;
Escaping from Animation, 1947and#150;1953
8 and#147;He Was Interested in Something Elseand#8221;
Escaping from Film, 1953and#150;1959
9 and#147;Where I Am Happyand#8221;
Restless in the Magic Kingdom, 1959and#150;1965
10 and#147;He Drove Himself Right Up to the Endand#8221;
Dreaming of a Nightmare City, 1965and#150;1966
Afterword: and#147;Letand#8217;s Never Not Be a Silly Companyand#8221;