Paging through Scrambled Ink (Dark Horse Books), the handsomely constructed hardback anthology of illustrated stories by a group of DreamWorks cartoonists, I can't help wondering what a comparable collection featuring the Grand Old Men of Animation might've looked like if the leading lights at Disney, Warner, or Fleischer had been given similar book space to let their imaginations flow. What would they have shown us?
Difficult to say, though I doubt that the early animation craftsmen would've fallen so strongly on the illustrated picture book format. Three of Ink's selections (David G. Derrick's "Kadago: The Next Big Thing," Ken Morrissey & Keith Baxter's "Greedy Grizzly," and Jenny Lerew's "Point and Shoot") tell their tales in this fashion. Each entry is lovingly rendered in a Disney-esque style, with expressively eyed animals, though the only one to take us any place beyond the typical kid-tale-with-a-moral (Little Things Have Their Place in the World, Too! Greed is Not Good!) is Lerew's elegantly sketchy tour of the City of Lights. Her art has a moodily retro flair that evokes both fifties-era children's books and the Paris of Vincent Minnelli.
Ink's other DreamWorkers head into more cartoonish territory, working in a panel-to-panel format rather than an illustrative one. David Pimentel's "Burger Run" is an energetically animated piece – so full of racing imagery you can practically hear the skids screeching off the page, even if you don't quite accept its improbably presented ending. Ennio Torresan's "The Guy from Ipanema" is an engagingly nonsensical comic detailing the hyperactive misadventures of a Speedo-wearing South American on his first visit to the U.S. Torresan peppers his strip with amusing Hollywood caricatures – as well as the image of Jennifer Lopez' legs – and if the results prove more frantic than funny, you can definitely see the man's animation experience informing the work.
Even further out, though, is J.J. Villard's "Dig Dig Die Die," the book's concluding entry. A punkish blend of art and horror comics, Villard's dark work centers on a ghoulish gravedigger who tells us of the games "the bats play." Rendered with calculated crudeness that looks twice as raw placed alongside the more traditionally playful cartooning of his peers, it's arguably the most contemporary of this collection's works – and far from the safe-as-milk parameters that the rest of these gifted Hollywood craftsfolk inhabit. Sure don't see any of the Grand Old Men drawing anything like it.