Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bill's Book Nook: What's New with Magoo?

Yes, I know the Christmas Holiday season is behind us at last. Our tree still stands though. This is not really that unusual for me. In my carefree bachelor days, my tree was often still standing around long enough to become my "St. Patrick's Tree". Now that I am married though, I doubt that Perfect Wife will allow the tree to remain much longer. Women are funny about having dead, rotting foliage shedding all over the house.

While it still stands though, and I still feel a nip of the Yuletide spirit. I must tell you about a  gift I received that is a must-have for any fan of classic cartoons and/or Holiday TV specials.

I love the story of "The Christmas Carol". There have certainly been a lot of filmed adaptations, some great (Patrick Stewart, Albert Finney, George C. Scott), and some not-quite-so-swell (The Henry Winkler one, anybody?). My personal favorite though, is "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol", which first  aired in  1962. Before Rudolph and his homeys came along, this show was the very first animated Christmas special! This special, which casts the irascible little nearsighted guy as Ebeneezer Scrooge, is a musical version of the story.

For some reason, this gem has been lost in the Holiday special shuffle nowadays, and is not repeated very often, which is a shame. It really is a delightful special. For those of you living in a cave who have never seen the show, it is thankfully readily available on DVD. Go watch it right now!

While I always liked this production, I could never find out much on the making of it. Neither could author/animator Darrell Van Citters. Unlike me, though, he did something about it. He went out and tracked down as many of the cast and crew as he could find, and assembled a fantastic collection of production artwork from the show. The result is the book, "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special". This wonderful book tells the whole "making of " tale illustrated with all kinds of rare artwork. The behind the scenes stuff is  interesting, but where the book really shines is with the artwork. I am a sucker for original animation art, and the pieces in this book had me  drooling. Especially the background paintings, which I never really paid a lot of attention to before.

As I said earlier, if you are a cartoon fan, this book will make you very happy. You can go to this link and order a copy, then curl up on the couch with it and some Razzleberry Dressing, and spend a couple of hours reliving one of TV's brightest moments.

Maybe it will even inspire your spouse to leave the tree up awhile longer!

(I hope you kids out there like these book reviews I do every now and then. If there's a cartoon book out there you'd like to hear my two cents on, please let me know in the comments.)



Blogger David said...

Hey Bill, how about talking about what anatomy books are good for cartoonists? You always hear debates about Hogarth and Bridgeman. Then I have heard other people say don't bother with the books, just buy a mirror. The problem with the mirror line of thinking is that I will always draw weird looking fat guys:o)

January 12, 2010 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...


Experience IS the best teacher, and never discount the marketability of being able to draw weird looking fat guys!

Seriously, Jack Hamm's books are my personal favorites. I have never been crazy about the books you mention. They seem a bit too dense and analytical for the beginner. I also recently came across a book I never thought I'd recommend: Chris Hart's "Simplified Anatomy for the Comic Book Artist". Usually, I find Hart's books worthless. Most of the information in them seems copied from other, better cartooning books, but this one is pretty good.

Again, the sum total of just one man's opinion.

January 12, 2010 at 7:28 PM  

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