Design

Old Media, and New

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I’m Alan, and I edit the art and design books here at Chronicle. It often sounds confessional to say that, perhaps because it’s a pleasure and honor to make our books come to light. Within our diverse offerings, there are a few books in particular that break boundaries and become true cultural events. We were so pleased to hear recently that Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation won the prestigious Theatre Library Association Award for the best book about film, television and radio in 2006.

This is a great honor, and one that a Chronicle book has won twice in the past few years (The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting won in ’02). Amid will receive the award in New York at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on June 1—so the Book Expo will not be the only game in town that night.

Cartoon Modern was significant in a few ways, from concept to completion. Its author, Amid Amidi, is cofounder and host of the most thoroughgoing animation blog around: cartoonbrew.com. As an animator and industry insider himself, Amid is a rare author: articulate, upbeat, totally engaged with and deeply knowledgeable of his subject, and respected by his peers.

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Development piece by John Hubley from UPA’s Rooty Toot (1952).
From the collection of Mike Glad.

The online buzz around the making of this book was unique in my experience, and attested to the convergence of the fusty old industry that is illustrated book publishing (read: slow) and the hypercatchy medium of blogs (fast). When Amid conducted an inclusive, non-binding poll of his readers to vote on the various jacket designs that had been proffered so far, the results were eye-opening.

What we had pragmatically hoped for—clear consensus—was not achieved. Instead, the big ideas behind the internet came to life: divergent, informed, impassioned opinions that represented the wide spectrum of the audience for this book. No cover direction was clearly favored, but the community around the book was invested in the process, pointing to potential new models of how we announce and make books.

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Development piece by Mary Blair from Disney’s The Little House (1952).
From the collection of Mike Glad.

So congratulations to Amid and the readers of Cartoon Modern and cartoonbrew. You all helped make this book a success and taught a small but significant lesson to an “old media” company and editor.

From now until June 15th, use redemption code “cartoon” at checkout and receive free shipping when you buy Cartoon Modern on-line.

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2 Comments

  • Michael Sporn May 30, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Cartoon Modern is certainly one of the best animation art books published. It deals with an odd period in animation's history in which the art styles changed radically, and the medium stepped into the 20th Century. It was fortunate that someone so thorough as Amid Amidi was behind this book since he not only appreciates the best art, but he obviously knew where to find it. His research is impeccable and the choice of art displayed is exciting.

    The book not only highlighted the period but gave long overdue attention to many who had gone nameless. Thanks are due both to Amid for his research, drive, enthusiasm and talent as a writer but also to Chronicle for not only publishing the book, in the first place, but for doing justice to the art.

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  • Ward May 31, 2007 at 10:52 am

    I was a fan of Cartoon Modern even before it went to press. The only knowledge I had of the work from that time was viewing old VHS tapes of commercials and films from that era via Something Weird Videos. The book offered me the chance to view these works up close and personal, not to mention giving me some excellent background stories on the majority of the studios during the 50′s. Big thanks to Amid and his colleagues in getting this book out — especially to you, Alan. Thank you for giving Amid the right amount of direction in producing a book filled with beautiful artwork.

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