Monday 29 May 2006


As a ten year old, my one driving ambition in life, my utterly passionate desire, was to be a cartoonist. I spent hours making drawings of my favourite cartoon characters: the new generation of critters currently being exhibited on TV such as Top Cat, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo as well as the ubiquitous Mouse and the other fabulous animals in the Disney bestiary.

My mother would watch me labouring over a sketch of Dumbo or Pixie and Dixie and demand to know how I thought that was ever going to help me get a job. And, as mothers so often are, she was right! I never did become a cartoonist or an animator. But then I also never lost my love of cartoons or the miracle of animation that makes us laugh and cry with characters who exist only in the flat, celluloid, world of ink-and-paint.

Happily my mother lived long enough to at least see me writing books about the people who brought cartoons to life and, I guess, forgave me all those wasted hours with paper and crayons!

What amazed me when I first began to explore various cities, towns and villages of Toonworld - and what amazes me still - is that most people have only a very limited perception of ‘animation’. To some it is ‘The Lion King’ and the like, to others, ‘Toy Story’ and the cgi marvels of Pixar; while, for a legion of loyal Brits, it is the antics of those Plasticine heroes, Wallace and Gromit.

But the truth is that whilst animation is a genre of filmmaking, it is as rich in its diversity as cinema itself. Everyone knows that a ‘movie’ may be a western, a thriller, a romance or a musical; that it might be a slapstick comedy, a psychological drama or blood-spattered gore-fest. Similarly, animation is itself capable of being anything and everything: funny, sentimental, powerfully dramatic, frothily trivial or deeply profound. And, unlike the rest of cinema, it can conjure its magic through many different disciplines and techniques: drawings, models and puppets, stop-motion photography, silhouettes, paintings on glass, drawings in sand... The forms are as limitless and the subjects they portray.

Imagine my delight on discovering Cartoon Brew, a fascinating web-site, edited by the outrageously knowledgeable Jerry Beck - and I’m not simply saying that because he mentioned me as one of the contributors to a new Disney publication! Cartoon Brew is devoted to celebrating and exploring the breadth and scope of animation and comic art: the popular and esoteric, the contemporary and historic.

So, “That’s All (from me) Folks!” Go take a swig of the Cartoon brew!

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