Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation

Not much is known about the pioneer animators. Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation sheds light on early animation. Meet the movers of the halcyon days of animation. They were breaking ground and paving the future for all to come. Reid Mitenbuler unearths the courageous animators who dared to dream. Meet the early characters that went to be the stuff of legend and others who disappeared into obscurity.

Fortunes and empires spawned from Winsor McCay’s creativity. He became a footnote in both film and comic strips. He inspired countless animators and cartoonists who to this day still profit from his ideas. Reid brings us a world long gone but still important to the workings of animation and why things are what they are today. This is the foundation that was built to hold for many generations.

I am truly wild about this book by Reid Mitenbuler, you do not have to be into animation to read this book. It is a human interest story on creativity and endeavours to follow a new dream.

In 1911, famed cartoonist Winsor McCay debuted one of the first animated cartoons, based on his sophisticated newspaper strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” itself inspired by Freud’s recent research on dreams. McCay is largely forgotten today, but he unleashed an art form, and the creative energy of artists from Otto Messmer and Max Fleischer to Walt Disney and Warner Bros.’ Chuck Jones. Their origin stories, rivalries, and sheer genius, as Reid Mitenbuler skillfully relates, were as colourful and subversive as their creations―from Felix the Cat to Bugs Bunny to feature films such as Fantasia―which became an integral part and reflection of American culture over the next five decades.

Pre-television, animated cartoons were aimed squarely at adults; comic preludes to movies, they were often “little hand grenades of social and political satire.” Early Betty Boop cartoons included nudity; Popeye stories contained sly references to the injustices of unchecked capitalism. “During its first half-century,” Mitenbuler writes, “animation was an important part of the culture wars about free speech, censorship, the appropriate boundaries of humour, and the influence of art and media on society.” During WWII it also played a significant role in propaganda. The Golden Age of animation ended with the advent of television when cartoons were sanitized to appeal to children and help advertisers sell sugary breakfast cereals.

Wild Minds assembles its history with love and a sense of occasion . . . The book’s governing idea lies in its heroes’ collective intuition that animated films could be a vehicle for grownup expression—erotic, political, and even scientific—rather than the trailing diminutive form they mostly became . . . All art aspires to the condition of music, a wise man said once, and perhaps all cultural history aspires to the condition of a cartoon: a seeming fluidity of movement, made up of countless small stops and starts.”—Adam Gopnik, New Yorker

Wild Minds is a colorful chronology of the first 50 years of American animated film. Juicy tales abound about the films and the wildly imaginative people who made them. Mr. Mitenbuler tells their stories with relish and clarity.”—John Canemaker, Wall Street Journal

Fun Fact:

In 1944, Snow White became the first film to ever release a soundtrack.