Monday, April 6, 2009...10:22 pm

The best animation books (and DVDs)

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animationbibleI see my friend Jessica highly recommends Maureen Furniss’s Animation Bible on her animation blog. It got me thinking about the most useful and/or inspirational animation books and resources available. So – here’s my first ‘best of’ blog list. It’s biased somewhat towards stopframe animation – even where the book is really aimed at drawn 2D animation, it’s heavy on principles. But this stuff is useful whatever kind of you do [even though computer animation newbies seem to think if it doesn’t tell you how to use Maya, it’s not actually about animation].
I personally hate a lot of the books that get written by academics, mainly to sell to their own animation students. They tend to offer a bit of tutorial, a bit of animation history and a bit of animation principles, but do none of it very well (though I won’t point the finger here). What you want is solid information about how to do a walk cycle, or a lavishly illustrated insight into how the greats did it back in the day. So here we go…

The Animation Survival Kit – Richard Williams.

  • Every animator has this, and rightly so. Richard Williams (director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit) spent the 1970s diligently siphoning off the animation knowledge of the greats who worked at Disney, such as Milt Kahl and Art Babbitt, and some of the knowledge is distilled in this book. Lots and lots of stuff about walk cycles that you really need to know. He turned it into a series of lectures, and if you have a few hundred pounds to spare, splash out on The Animator’s Survival Kit Animated – a 16-DVD collection of the lectures, plus loads of animated exercises and examples. Expensive? Yes, but not as much as an animation degree will set you back, and probably more useful. Click through to see lots of clips – great stuff.

The Human Figure in Motion/Animals in Motion – Edweard Muybridge.

  • Yes – it’s that Victorian bloke who can’t spell his own name right. To answer the hotly debated question of whether all four of a horse’s hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop, photographic pioneer Eadweard Muybridge (pr: Edward Mybridge) figured out a way to capture horses in freeze frame as they galloped round a race track and the rest is history. These volumes collect a whole series of men and women doing various things, from hitting baseballs to climbing stairs, and animals walking, galloping and jumping. Absolutely invaluable.

The Do-it-yourself Film Animation Book – Bob Godfrey

  • A classic from the early 1970s, this book, which accompanied the BBC TV show, was a fantastic beginner’s guide to animation. And, yes, it was what got me started, which is why it’s here. No – I haven’t seen a copy for 30 years (though you can still pick them up on Amazon), but its 5-star Amazon review is a good guide to its value for kids.

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation – Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston

  • Exhaustive, lavish evocation of the early years of Disney, full of insight into how the studio achieved its creative dominance in the 1930s and 1940s. Not a manual of animation techniques as such, more a rich slice of history crammed full of beauty and wisdom. Ask for it for Christmas – you won’t be disappointed.

A Century of Model Animation – Ray Harryhausen


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