Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation
by Amid Amidi
The Atom Age… the Jet Age… almost the Space Age, but the 1950s were not the Information Age. Computers churned out data. Cartooning was done by hand. Texture, weight of color and line were entirely handbuilt.
There were no analog dreams of digital sunsets. There was sugary plastic heat.
As always, the future was undefined.
Sure, that seems obvious, but to try and get definition after worldwide upheaval is difficult. Postwar animation chopped human experience into rapidly passing frames of daydream.
The era that spawned these tableaux was a unique one, a heady mix of innocence, arrogance and fear. A horrible war had just ended, and ended with blasts so powerful that a new category of war had to be invented.
That’s heavy shit.
Yet the power of the atom was new, and though way scary, held great promise. The idea of a nuclear-powered airplane was not considered ludicrous and unfathomably dangerous. That kind of optimism for technology didn’t seem ridiculous in the fifties. And the depictions in this book have a haunting persistence.
Mixed with this bright perspective is an arrogance just as unfathomable. America drinks gasoline for breakfast. Garden vegetables dance. Cigarettes are advertised on television.
But the fear was as palpable as biscuits and gravy. The people are blocky and stand on thin legs. The animals are bulbous and stand like humans… with martinis in their paws. Battleship guns. Fred Flintstone.
There’s a four letter word for all of that.
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