The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol 1, Issue #5
"Stand By For Mars!"
May 2006

Non-Fiction Book Reviews
by Caroline Miniscule

Living Life Inside the Lines:
Tales from the Golden Age of Animation

Martha Sigall
University Press of Mississippi
244 pages including index

Learn more or buy now

How did the character "Bugs" Bunny get his name? What cartoon character was based on W. F. Fields? Who voiced Porky Pig before Mel Blanc? In what cartoon did Bugs Bunny first say, "What's up, Doc?"

These and many more questions are answered in Martha Sigall's delightful memoir, Living Life Inside the Lines.

Martha Goldman went to work for Schlesinger's Studios on July 13, 1936. She began as a cel painter:

I noticed rows and rows of desks, all of which had gooseneck lamps like the type Thelma had used. [Martha's first mentor.] Just as Thelma was set up, rows of shelves were behind the lamp, shelves on which to place the wet cels.

Dozens of young women were standing around talking. Their lighthearted conversations regarding their just-completed vacations were studdenly stopped by the ringing of the bell. Everyone went to her desk and started to work. It soon became so quiet. While I sat there, I grew more nervous at the prospect of not being able to succeed at this new and exciting job.

Martha Goldman certainly did succeed in her career in animation - first as a painter for Schlesinger's Studios, and them moving on to MGM where she received more responsibility, to her later career as a freelancer.

Foreword by Jerry Beck

1. The Beginning, 1932
2. My First Day in Animation
3. The Techniques of Ink and Paint
4. The Cast of Characters
5. Production Terminology
6. The Boys of Termite Terrace
7. Tales From Termite Terrace
8. The Ink and Paint Document
9. The Ink and Paint Gals
10. Working Conditions
11. Studio Romances
12. Strikes
13. World War II
14. Departing Schlesinger's
15. Graphic Films, Here I Came
16. MGM Cartoons
17. Celine Miles Ink and Paint
18. World Events of the 1950s and 1960s
19. Lisberger Productions
20. Kurtz ad Friends
21. Film Fair
22. Bill Melendez Productions
23. Censorship and the Black List
24. Other Happenings
25. Index

"In The Beginning, 1932", the author tells us a bit of her childhood. She grew up in Hollywood, California, right next to Pacific Title and Art Studio - which would become the studios owned by Leon Schlesinger. As a child she ran errands for the workers there...after graduating from high school in 1936, she went to worok there.

"My First Day in Animation" tells of her first day and many subsequent days,at Schlesinger's Studios, and is an insider's look at the day to day work inside one of the most well-known animation studios of all time.

In "The Techniques of Ink and Paint" we learn...well, it's self explanatory - and very interesting!

The first thing a painter has to learn is how to use the paint at the proper consistency. The paint needs to be stirred well and tested by lifting the paint stirrer to see how the paint drops back into the jar. Usually, the painter sitting next to you teaches you how to do this. Betty Hielborn was my teacher. Some painters liked working with thick paint, and some liked it very thin. There were others who liked it somewhere in between. Betty preferred the medium and, as a result, so did I. Those who liked the thin paint claimed they could work faster. As long as the paint looked opaque, the checker didn't mind. The main thing was to flow the paint on so that it didn't appear streaked when dried.

"The Cast of Characters" presents all the famous ones with a bit of background of each: Bosko, Buddy, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Sniffles, Inki, Conrad Cat, Tweety, and the Acme Company.

"Production Terminolgy" is a brief chapter identifying the tools used in the animation business. Then, Chapters 6 and 7 go once more into the people who created these cartoons, from Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Ben Hardaway, Norman McCabe, Frank Tashlin, the McKimsons (brothers Bob and Tom), Virgil Ross, Phil Monroe, Mike Maltese, Arthur Davis, Paul Julian, Mel Blanc, Treg Brown, Carl Stalling, Tee Hee (Thornton Hee), Benny Washsam, and Ken Harris.

Anecdotes fill "The Ink and Paint Gals," "Working Conditions," and "Studio Romances." Then comes "Strikes," in which the Schlesinger employees joined the Screen Cartoon Guild. After a few days the strikers got a raise and went back to work, but "the family atmosphere we had enjoyed for so many years began to change." This was in 1941 - when Disney workers struck, they also succeeded in getting raises. But once back on the job, after a period of 90 days, all those who had struck were let go.

When "World War II" came, most of the men went into the military, and the women's role at the studios increased. The author left Schlesinger's and went to work for a smaller firm. Martha was given the opportunity to be the camera assistant to a man named Danny Miller. It was born out of necessity - but women weren't allowed in the Cameraman's Union. An exception was made during the War, but on the very day the wore ended, Martha's Union card was rescinded.

"MGM Cartoons" was a different experience then Schlesinger's, Martha went to work for them in 1946. We get anecdotes about Preston Blair, Irven Spence, Tex Avery - this time at MGM, and learn of Animantion and Live Action. (Gene Kelly and Jerry. Walt Disney had refused to allow Mickey Mouse to appear in an MGM film.)

The rest of the book is as jam-packed with information as the first half...and there's still not enough there. A sequel - a full-scale biography - is called for!

The book itself is jam-packed full of photos, printed on heavy-weight paper as befitting its subjects...the illustrations almost jump off the page.

Highly recommended.

Return to:

Non-Fiction Book Reviews Index Page

Click an icon for New features in The Thunder Child.
Radiation Theater: 1950s Sci Fi Movies Discussion Boards
The Sand Rock Sentinel: Ripped From the Headlines of 1950s Sci Fi Films

Recommended Viewing

Learn more or
Buy Now

Learn more or
Buy Now

Learn more or
Buy Now

Learn more or
Buy Now

Recommended Reading

Learn more or
Buy Now

Learn more or
Buy Now

Learn more or
Buy Now

Learn more or
Buy Now

All text © 2006 The Thunder Child unless otherwise credited.
All illustrations retain original copyright.
Please contact us with any concerns as to correct attribution.
Any questions, comments or concerns contact The Thunder Child.