Two Must-Have Cartoon Collections

Today I just want to add my two cents to the rave reviews for two recent products – one a blu-ray video collection and the other a compilation of classic comics. Both are completely different; and treasure troves of classic entertainment. Both would not be what they are without the contributions and editorial oversight of David Gerstein (Oswald-Mickey-Flip historian supreme). Both are on sale now – and I urge you buy them while the getting is good.

Disney Comics: Around The World in One Hundred Years Edited by David Gerstein (Fantagraphics).

First up, a beautiful book, carefully curated by editor Gerstein that is both a spectacular keepsake of the finest Disney character comics stories – and/or the text book of sequential panel storytelling perfection for the Disney Comics novice (like me). As much as I consumed comics literature – all of it – from age eight forward, I had a mental block against Disney comics when I was a kid. To me, Disney’s standard characters (Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto) existed in animated cartoons. I just couldn’t “buy” the Western/Dell/Gold Key universe. I didn’t devour Carl Barks (and company) like my fellow comics buffs… I was late to that particular feast.

Thanks to David Gerstein’s efforts throughout the years, I’ve caught up – and then some. And rest assured, this beautiful oversized book, published by Fantagraphics Books, for Disney’s 100 Years celebration – and seemingly only available exclusively at Target Stores (or Target online) – is up to the usual Gerstein standard: It’s great!

It’s divided into ten sections – one for each decade of Disney.

“1923-32” of course begins in 1930 when Ub Iwerks first drew the daily Mickey Mouse newspaper strip (Gerstein cleverly re-lays out an Iwerks excerpt in ‘comic book page’ format). The international scope of the book begins here with the earliest examples of Mickey comics from Great Britain and Italy. Bucky Bug (by Earl Duvall and Al Taliaferro) is also displayed.

“1933-1942” allows us to indulge a complete Mickey comic strip story from the newspaper strip’s golden age – with 40 pages devoted to “The Crazy Crime Wave” (10/9/33-1/9/34), laid out in comic book form and in vivid colors by Disney Italia. The “1943-1952” section brings in Carl Barks – with a choice 1945 story “Mystery of The Swamp”; and in the Mickey strip, the introduction of a genius Mynah bird named Ellsworth.

Panels from “Seven Dwarfs and the Captive Fairy’s Quest” – drawn by Romano Scarpa

“1953-1962” is represented by the Italian adventure epic – set in the “Snow White” universe – entitled Seven Dwarfs and the Captive Fairy’s Quest – drawn by the magnificent Romano Scarpa. This is quite an incredible tale (written by Guido Martina) that really gets started when the Dwarfs encounter a captured blonde beauty – Fairy Fawn – chained to a pillar, in the nude!

A panel by Ivan Saidenbery.

“1963-1972” brings us into the Superhero craze with Super Goof (by Del Connell and Bob Ogle); and Uncle Scrooge’s new role as newspaper publisher (by Dick Kinney and Tony Strobel).

“1973-1982” introduced me to the very cool modernistic art stylings of Brazilian cartoonist Ivan Saidenbery, whose Jose Caricoa story “The Great Josedini” is a personal highlight in this tome (one of many). Daan Jippes and Freddy Milton, as well as Bob Foster and and Frank Smith, join the ranks o Disney comics greats during this decade.

“1983-1992” begins the reign of Don Rosa on the Duckburg comics; and the Gummi Bears (to represent the Disney Afternoon era of television animation). “1993-2002” displays prime examples from Germany and Poland, as well as gem based on Lilo and Stich. “2003-2012” and “2013-2022” cover amazing ground as the current generation of Disney Comics creators take the baton and continue to deliver in such strips as DuckTales, Darkwing Duck and the leader of the club, Mickey Mouse

Gerstein writes informative intros for each section (occasionally co-writing them with experts Francesco Stajano, Leonardo Gori, Alberto Becattini and Fernando Ventura). The sheer amount of great Disney comics produced over the decades may be too much for one mere 256 page volume – but this one is curated with loving care, providing a smart overview touching on all the names (artists, writers and characters) and places you need to know. I hereby declare it a “must-have” and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Flip The Frog: The Complete Series (Thunderbean Animation)

Regular readers of this website are well-aware of Steve Stanchfield’s Flip The Frog: The Complete Series blu-ray. Steve’s been on this project for at least 5 years – and has teased us all that time with his slow-but-steady progress on the set. We never had any doubts that Steve wouldn’t come through – but the final package (released this past month) surpasses our wildest expectations. This – AND The Puppetoon Movie Vol. 3 – are the animation videos of the year.

It’s an instant classic – a total justification for those those of us who have stuck with physical media, especially during its current down-turn in consumer popularity. I’m assuming most of you reading this have it – and I would love to get your opinions in the comment section below. But if you haven’t ordered this baby – let me assure you this is the real deal. Buy it now.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways (in no particular order): 1. Alex Kirwan’s cover art. 2. Leslie Iwerks’ introduction. 3. J.B. Kaufman’s informative liner notes. 4. Chris Buchman’s article on the music in Iwerks cartoons. 5. David Gerstein’s bonus material compilations of (what looks like) every surviving piece of production art, cue sheets, production memos, merchandising… hundreds of pages, a treasure trove, a master class in all things Iwerks and Flip.

Numbers 6 through 43: the thirty-eight Flip The Frog cartoons themselves. Restored from the original camera negs, or best prints available – as we have never seen them before. The Lord’s work.

Numbers 44 through 61: The eighteen informative and entertaining audio commentaries (including the one by me!) recorded by the likes of Leonard Maltin, Mark Kausler, Mike Kazaleh, J.B. Kaufman, David Gerstein, Chris Buchman, Devon Baxter, Thad Komorowski, Alex Kirwan and Steve Stanchfield himself.

62. The alternate European sound track on Puppy Love, The revised reissue version of Funny Face, the reconstructed storyboard for Techno-Cracked and Fire-Fire, and the unreleased version of Puddle Pranks.

There is so much more not listed here. It will take you a few days to watch all the cartoons, read all the bonus material and booklet and admire the art. Heck you’ll take as long as Steve took in getting this produced if you start looking at the films frame-by-frame. There is so much here. Did I mention this would make a great Christmas gift for any youngster in your orbit aspiring to become an animator – or players of Cuphead who might be wondering what inspired that game. (Throw in Steve’s Willie Whopper set while your at it).

Unseen by the general public for decades, Flip the Frog was the most “pre-Code” of all the pre-code cartoons. Even moreso than Betty Boop’s sexual innuendo… Here we have Flip giving the finger, cursing, voyeurism, spitting and spittoons, diaphanous gowns, female nudity… not to mention politically incorrect gags involving women’s bodies, and offending racial caricatures. Everything forbidden by the Hays Code… here it is.

Next up from Steve – Iwerk’s ComiColor Collection. That might take a few more years, but we’ve got Flip to keep us busy till then.

This is one of a dozen other goodies as bonus features on this set that I didn’t mention above.