Mitenbuler's real target is a quintessentially American story of daring ambition, personal re-invention and the eternal tug-of-war of between art and business ... Mitenbuler peppers the stories of these hard-scrabble years with well-drawn characters ... Mitenbuler's book is a gem for anyone wanting to understand animation's origin story.
In his prologue, Mitenbuler suggests the story he’s about to tell will go from rude to rarefied, but one of the most fascinating things about the history he recounts is that animation, like so much of American culture, continually scrambled all sorts of categories and expectations. The arc of Wild Minds is appropriately weird, full of high-flown aspirations and zany anecdotes ... The cartoons discussed in Wild Minds often contained misogyny and racism that veered from casual to grotesque — after all, a 'wild mind' could also be a sexist and bigoted one. And then there were the systemic prejudices that structured the entire industry.
Mitenbuler goes wide and deep in surveying the talented, sometimes eccentric, and often irascible artists who developed, nurtured, and transformed the medium ... masterful ... The book follows animation’s evolution from a novelty to a bona fide industry ... Yet Wild Minds never gets bogged down in technical details. Mitenbuler keeps his eye on the ball, detailing the origin stories of a swath of beloved cartoon creations, from Betty Boop to Bugs Bunny. A gifted cultural historian, Mitenbuler devotes an entire chapter to an improbable court case in which a singer named Helen Kane claimed to have been the uncredited source of inspiration for Betty Boop, a trial in which the phrase 'boop-boop-a-doop' became a major issue ... Whatever an animation fan’s taste, Mitenbuler’s book provides fascinating stories and nuggets. For the uninitiated, it certainly can aid in the formation of viewing lists to keep both children and adults occupied while riding out the pandemic.