First, via Mark Mayerson there was historian Paul Johnson trying to write a chapter about Walt Disney, and coming up with stuff like this:
As he employed a good many intellectuals, artists, and writers who at that period leaned overwhelmingly toward the left, this produced tension at the Disney Studios and, in 1940, led to a strike aimed either at forcing Disney to make pro-Communist propaganda cartoons or at shutting the studio down. Disney defeated the strike, with some help from J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, and pursued his own individual way until his death.
As Mark points out: "The quote above is demonstrably false on several counts. Disney lost the strike as the company had to recognize the union. The strike was about issues like wages and had nothing to do with the content of the films. Nobody, including the strikers, wanted the studio shut down." But apart from that, Johnson's accuracy cannot be faulted. Johnson claims in a footnote that he's relying on the book Hollywood's Dark Prince as his source for that passage, but a commenter at Mark's blog says that book doesn't make any such claims. This means that Johnson just made it all up to fit a storyline (Disney vs. the Commies) and then mis-attributed it to another book. This may be something you should keep in mind if you read one of Paul Johnson's books.
Next, Amid rips into film critic Mick LaSalle for claiming that motion-capture animation (i.e. animation with minimal involvement from those pesky artist types) is a new and superior advance over anything that has come before:
[Animation] never had the ability to show the human face. There was never any point to a close-up in an animated film -- there was never really anything to see. But with the motion-capture process, real actors give their performances with computer sensors attached to their face and body, and that recorded information becomes the template for the computer animation... Imagine what Disney might have done with this in the creation of the Seven Dwarfs. Imagine all the things that will be done with this in the future. "Monster House" looks like the ground floor of something important.
Amid, Jenny Lerew, and Thad Komorowski all have something to say about LaSalle's assumption that mimicking a real actor produces more and better animated acting than the actual creative work of an artist. Thad gives us a clip of Rod Scribner animating Bugs Bunny, where the facial expressions are more imaginative and expressive than anything you could "capture" from an actor. The whole point of drawing something, as opposed to just taking a photograph, is that the imaginative evocation of life can show things that a simple facsimile of life cannot; a real person couldn't stretch and crumple his face to express emotion the way Bugs Bunny can. But instead we get James Lipton saying that rotoscoping "ought to be more effective than an animated performance", when decades of onscreen evidence has shown that rotoscoping generally produces performances that are less expressive than animated performances. It's like saying that the Mona Lisa would have been more effective if Leonardo had had a Polaroid handy.
Seeing how lazy or inaccurate critics and commentators can be when talking about animation, you have to ask yourself: do they just not take the art form seriously enough to make sure they have their facts right? Sometimes I think that's true; some critics feel a need to understand live-action cinema but not a corresponding need to understand animated cinema, which means that they don't really do a very good job of judging the physical acting in an animated movie, or even understanding that there is such a thing as animated acting. (This explains why many reviews of animated films are fixated on the backgrounds and voice work, these being easier to evaluate.) It's also why some critics use lower standards for animated movies; I've seen Roger Ebert and Richard Corliss and others give animated movies a free pass for story and structure weaknesses that they would never tolerate in a live-action film.
But we shouldn't overlook the possibility that some people are just sloppy in general, but make a pretense of knowing what they're talking about, a pretense that doesn't hold up if you check their facts on any particular subject. That seems to be the case with Paul Johnson, since he's not only making sloppy factual errors but inventing stories out of whole cloth to fit his story.
It reminds me of something Bill James said when he was pointing out all the factual errors in a baseball book by historian David Halberstam.
There are two possibilities, one frightening and one irritating. It is frightening to think that Halberstam, one of the nation's most respected journalists, is this sloppy in writing about war and politics, yet has still been able to build a reputation simply because nobody has noticed.
What seems more likely is that Halberstam, writing about baseball, just didn't take the subject seriously. He just didn't figure it mattered whether he got the facts right or not, as long as he was just writing about baseball.
And that, to me as a baseball fan, is just irritating as hell.
Replace baseball with animation, Halberstam with the name of one of the above commentators, pick one or the other possibility, and you've got a very similar situation. And animation fans are certainly irritated as hell.
*Quoting a Gordon Korman book there.