Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon

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Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon


Norman M. Klein

Date published:



New York:  Verso

ISBN: 0860913961


This is a history of the animated cartoon from the days before Mickey Mouse to the rise of Hanna-Barbera’s animations. The author is interested almost exclusively in how and why the shape of the seven-minute cartoon short changed from Felix the Cat to Disney and Warners to the UPA cartoons like Gerald McBoing-Boing and Mr. Magoo of the 50′s and what modes of space and entertainment have different cartoons drawn their inspiration from. According to the author the earliest cartoons were staged in the  space of vaudeville gags, their jokes typically depending on spatial transformations between foreground characters and background objects, for example Felix using his tail as a crank to start a prop car. The author further argues that What Disney brought to the cartoon short a fascination with the same deep space that marked live-action movies, with a corresponding emphasis on realistic melodrama, full animation, and the artful illusions of the multiplane camera. Even as Disney was turning increasingly to features and merchandising tie-ins, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones at Warners were leading a more formulaic return to the anarchic chases of the earliest animation. The author also shows that UPA pioneered the stripped-down style of “consumer cubism,” inspired not by painting but by advertisements, architecture, and consumer spaces like shopping malls and amusement parks.

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