Books We Love: Summer Reading Edition

British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor

By Clare Kitson

[Indiana University Press, $29.95]

Although indie British animators will tell you that it’s always been tough to put financing together for their projects, it wasn’t always as bad as today! Beginning in the ’80s, the country’s innovative Channel 4 played a key role in financing sophisticated animated projects by artists such as the Quay Brothers, Joanna Quinn and Nick Park. Clare Kitson, a former programmer for the National Film Theater and for Channel 4 in London, is our brilliant guide in this must-read look at some of the influential projects that have been produced in the country, specifically between 1982 and 2006. You’ll find fascinating details about the development of some of our favorite toons. TVC’s The Snowman and When the Wind Blows, the Quay Brothers’ Street of Crocodiles, Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, Joanna Quinn’s Girls Night Out, Nick Park’s Creature Comforts, Barry Purves’ Screenplay, Snowden/Fine’s Bob’s Birthday, Run Wrake’s Rabbit and Suzie Templeton’s Peter and the Wolf are some of the great works detailed in this informative collection. The admiration one feels for Kitson’s wealth of insider knowledge and detailed accounts of each film’s creative process is only matched by a certain sadness about the vanishing support of organizations like Channel 4 in the world today.

The Art of Walt Disney World

By Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon

[Disney Editions, $49.95]

If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World this summer, there’s one magnificent art book that has your name written all over it. The knock-your-socks-off illustrations, sketches, layout drawings and paintings included in this handsome art book were used to develop the Magic Kingdom’s landmarks, attractions and architecture. Even if you’re too busy or broke to visit the theme park, you’ll experience a certain sense of wonder as you leaf through the 140 pages of this collection. Da Vinci and Michelangelo had nothing on Mouse House artists such as Herbert Ryman, Mary Blair, Marc Davis and Collin Campbell.

Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941

By Greg Sadowski

[Fantagraphics Books, $24.99]

Not all the superheroes invented during the early years of the Golden Age of comic books were as timeless as Superman and Krazy Kat. This month a wonderful collection by Fantagraphics brings back hundreds of these oddball crime-fighters in one remarkable collection. We get a nice sampling of some of these fascinating creations’Yarko the Great, Cosmic Carson, Planet Detective, Skyman, Stardust the Super Wizard, Blue Bolt and the Clock, to name a few. The whole experience feels like jumping into a time machine for a heady trip back to the late ’30s, where you can come face to face with the artistry of Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Basil Wolverton and Jack Cole, who were delivering entertaining adventures, brimming with gusto, creativity and an undeniable primal beauty. In other words, Bam, Pow, Alakazam, indeed!

Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters

By M. L. Dunham and Lara Bergen

[Disney Press, $12.99]

You can tell cynics that you’re buying this colorful junior encyclopedia of Disney and Pixar’s animated characters for your nephews and nieces, but we know you’re actually going to keep it by your bedside, right next to that sophisticated reading club book you haven’t even cracked open! After all, this is the book that’s going to tell you where to find the dentist in Finding Nemo or who said the famous quote, ‘Temptations are the wrong things that seem right at the time!’ (Jiminy Cricket). Not only are there lots of great illustrations, the authors have provided toon lovers with a killer collection of trivia with which you can torment your friends and family members alike. (Example: How can you tell Chip and Dale apart? Chip has a small black nose and one buck tooth, while Dale has a big red nose and two gap teeth!) Seriously, this is a page-turner you can cherish all summer long, from A (Abu, Aladdin’s monkey) to Z (for Zazu, Mufasa’s nervous adviser).