Living Life Inside the Lines: Tales from the Golden Age of Animation
Mike Caputo · June 13, 2005 | There are a number of books covering animation history, and most are excellent. They all, however, seem to fall into two categories: the textbook style history of animation (such as Leonard Maltin's Of Mice and Magic or Giannalberto Bendazzi's Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation) or the view from a specific artist, memoir-style (see Shamus Culhane's Talking Animals and Other People or any of Chuck Jones's books). The former are excellent chronological descriptions, while the latter offer insight into some characters and studios but tend to lack scope.

In contrast, Living Life Inside the Lines by Martha Sigall is both a personal history of an enviable fifty-year career, and a timeline punctuated with glimpses of the industry's luminaries. Ms. Sigall was an inker and painter for almost every major studio, starting in 1936, until her formal retirement in 1989.

Starting her career at Schlesinger's and working just about everywhere in the decades to follow, Ms. Sigall helps readers feel the California sun as she commutes to work, smell the paint from the open jars on her desk, and hear the music as it plays on the radio. Listening to stories of how she met people, and then re-met them as people lost work here and gained it there, is a fascinating view into an industry and career.

Living Life Inside the Lines
Written by Martha Sigall
University of Mississippi Press, 2005
245 pages

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The best thing about this book isn't the sprinkling of humorous anecdotes throughout each chapter, nor is it the photos Ms. Sigall has collected over her five decades. While these are all worthy, they pale when compared to the author's conversational tone, her cadence and the phrases used. If you are familiar with the type of person she sounds like (think Midwest-American Betty White in a floral print dress), you can't help but smile when reading this book. Picture yourself sitting in a favourite coffee shop with your mom's older sister (your favourite aunt) listening to her talk about the old days and all she knew way back when.

As an animator, listening to Ms. Sigall recount her career and tell tales of those she knew is a fascinating glimpse into a past era. As a writer, there is a sincerity and humility to her voice that is calming and endearing.

And that's what makes listening to her life and career in cartoons seem so real: it's like being there, or at least being with someone who was there.
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