Jerry Beck – The 50 Greatest Cartoons

Title: The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals
Author: Jerry Beck
Genre: History, animation

When I heard that it was YAM’s unofficial week of animation, I had no idea if I could recall any relevant book to review. Then I remembered this.

The premise of this book is explained at the beginning:  some time before 1994, a thousand people in the animation industry were polled about the greatest cartoons ever made. Cartoons selected had to be under 30 minutes in length, and the selections were more or less restricted to works produced in the United States.

Arranged from 50th to 1st choice, the book has full-page stills from each cartoon accompanying one or two pages of writing on each selection. Choices range from classic Warner Brothers shorts to independent works such as “Bambi vs. Godzilla.” The prose is accessible and concise, yet packed with knowledge of technique, history, and cultural impact. There are also additional short articles about animators, specific characters, and topics such as controversial cartoons.

I’ve reread this book countless times. Even though my copy is currently in storage, I still recall parts of the descriptions when I happen to watch one of the selected cartoons. The layout is clear, and it’s fun to flip through and find favorites.

This book was published in 1994 and focuses on traditional cel-shaded animation. I do not recall whether it mentioned anything about computer animation — or traditional animation from outside North America. However, the book does mention the list’s limitations at the start. DVDs and sites like YouTube have also made it much easier to watch and re-watch the cartoons listed.

This is an excellent guide for anyone who enjoys animation, from casual fans to industry experts. Though it might be hard to locate a copy, it’s worth the effort to find.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Part of YAM’s Unofficial Animation Week.

Get it on Amazon

Diandra Rodriguez

Proudly Latinasian NorCal American.

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