Animation

by Andrew Selby

animation

Animation (Amazon)

N.B. Animation Mentor students can get a 35% discount on the Publisher’s website by registering for a Student Account at checkout.  (According to this Animation Mentor blogpost.)

In a nutshell

This book gives a thorough overview of animation, and everything that goes into it.  It starts with the history of the artform, continues through the different stages of animation production, and finishes with advice on getting started in the industry

Rating

Entertainment
Inspiration
Instruction
Technical

Key quotes

“…animation proves that it is a medium that has the ability to entertain, inform, educate and inspire.”

“Be committed, enthusiastic and capable, accept others’ ideas and offer some of your own in the spirit of professional teamwork and an ethos of collective ambition.”

“Animation needs new pioneers: those who can bring their talents, questions and answers to the field, examining, challenging and redefining the boundaries of the medium and thereby encouraging a whole new audience to become enthralled by the wonders of the form.”

My thoughts

When I read the description of this book as being “for students”, I wrongly assumed that the information contained within would probably be mostly stuff I would already know – a general overview of animation aimed at people who didn’t know a great deal about it.  As soon as I looked at the detailed contents page however (see below), I realised that it covered a lot more than I was expecting.  Once I began reading, I realised that the content was actually quite detailed, and contained a lot of information that was new to me, or that I only had a very vague idea about.

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Disney Archives: Story

by Disney Editions

The Disney Archive Series: Story (Amazon)

In a nutshell

Part of the Disney Archives series of books, this focuses on Story, and showcases a number of storyboards taken from Disney films over the years.  At the back is an index of credits for all the drawings, and a short synopsis for each film.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  
 Instruction  n/a
 Technical  n/a

Key quotes

“There are literally thousands of story sketches made for each feature film, none of which will ever make it into the finished product.  But the spirit of the storyboard artist’s work is just as present and just as visible in the final film as the work of the animators and background artists.” – John Lasseter

My thoughts

I was lucky enough to hear Matt Luhn, a Pixar story artist, talk a few years ago in London, and since then I’ve really taken an interest in what goes into creating a story for a film.  These artists have to come up with hundreds of ideas for plot points and gags, and draw thousands and thousands of images, only to watch most of them get binned.  But ultimately, the very best get used and they are responsible for all those great little moments in the films that stay with you.  So I loved that Disney did a Story version as part of their Archive series and you get a glimpse at what went into the making of some animation classics.

It’s great seeing drawings here that are well known scenes from the movies, many that I watched as a kid.  I love knowing that these are the original drawings – this is where that idea was explored first, and these are the images used as a foundation for the film.  Things like Dopey with diamonds in his eyes, Dumbo sneezing to reveal his giant ears, Bambi struggling to stay upright on the ice and Cruella De Vil’s spectacular entrance.  There’s something special about seeing the very first pencil drawings that created these memorable scenes.

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Bottom of the Ninth

by Ryan Woodward

*EDIT 19 Aug 2012*

Unfortunately the Kickstarter project didn’t gain very much support, so Ryan has cancelled it early.  The 1st issue has now returned to the original price of $3.99.  I would still recommend it, as it’s an interesting concept, and as I mentioned before, it’s got some great artwork and animation in it.  I’m really sad to see the Kickstarter project cancelled, as it means we won’t get to see issue 2 for a long time – if ever.  I’m a big fan of Ryan Woodward’s work, so I’m hoping he’ll manage to find a way to keep this project going.

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This is a slightly different post, just to quickly draw your attention to a nice app.

Ryan Woodward animated a beautiful short film – Thought of You and he has now turned his considerable talent to producing an animated graphic novel about baseball in the future.  The first issue has been available as an app on iTunes for a month or so now – I bought it when it first came out and really enjoyed it. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, there are some amazing poses and appealing animation.

Now Ryan is offering it as a free download, so I highly recommend you check it out: Download Bottom of the Ninth free from iTunes

He has now started a Kickstarter project to finance issue 2: Bottom of the Ninth Issue 2 on Kickstarter

So if you like issue 1, take a look at the project.  Also, if like me, you paid full price for issue 1 and are feeling slightly hard done by now that it’s free, Ryan has offered to automatically add you in at the $25 reward level.

Not a proper review, but as the first issue is now free, I thought I’d bring it to your attention!

Enjoy!

In the Blink of an Eye

by Walter Murch

In the Blink of an Eye (Amazon)

In a nutshell

This book is based on a lecture given by Academy Award winning film editor and sound designer, Walter Murch, examining the processes that he employs when editing films.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  n/a
 Instruction  
 Technical

Key quotes

“Editing is structure, color, dynamics, manipulation of time”

“Always try to do the most with the least … Because you want to do only what is necessary to engage the imagination of the audience – suggestion is always more effective than exposition.”

“If they [the audience] are feeling what you want them to feel all the way through the film, you’ve done about as much as you can ever do.”

My thoughts

As an animator, you play an integral part in bringing a story to life, so it helps to have some knowledge of the language of film and this book has been recommended on several different “further reading” lists for animators, so that’s why I am reviewing it.  Although I love watching films, I know very little about the filmmaking process itself, so I found it fascinating to gain some insight into how an editor works.

This book is short and easy to read, so it makes a great introduction to the editing process.  It really got me thinking about film in a new way.  Murch makes the point that for millions of years humans experienced life as a continuous stream of linked images.  Then suddenly at the start of the 20th century we were confronted by edited film – an “instantaneous discontinuity of the field of vision”.  Why were we able to accept this?  There is every reason to suppose that we would find the sudden cuts jarring and disorientating but we didn’t.  Murch believes that the explanation for this may lie partly in blinking.  Whenever we make a large shift in the direction we are looking in, we blink.  This breaks up the otherwise continuous stream of images that make up our vision (similar to a cut).  Murch then goes on to examine in detail the reasons why we blink (emotional as well as biological) which is also very helpful from an acting and animating point of view, and how an editor can use blinks to determine where and when they make cuts.

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The Daily Zoo

by Chris Ayers

               

The Daily Zoo 1 (Amazon)            The Daily Zoo 2 (Amazon)

I own both of these as paperbacks, but Amazon is currently saying that Daily Zoo 2 paperback is only available to pre-order – so maybe it’s a reprint or something.  The links above lead to the currently available versions.

Chris also has a website with artwork and information, as well as a store.

In a nutshell

Character designer Chris Ayers was diagnosed with leukemia on 1st April 2005.  Exactly one year later, he decided to “commemorate” this and celebrate the fact that he had made it through, by drawing one animal a day for a year.  He then did it again the next year.  These books contain the results.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  
 Instruction  n/a
 Technical  n/a

Key quotes

“I looked forward to challenging both my creativity and self-discipline.  But most importantly it would be an opportunity to celebrate the gift of each healthy day.

“Life is Short. Life is Precious. Do what you love and love what you do.”

“The more people are pursuing their passions with determination and enthusiasm, the more it can inspire others to do the same.”

My thoughts

I find these books pretty inspirational.  Not only with the quality and variety of work on display, but the circumstances in which these books were conceived.  Each picture is a celebration of another day alive, which is a very special thing when you stop and think about it.

The actual, physical, quality of these book is great – they’re a nice compact size, and I love the details on the cover of the embossed/slightly raised pictures.  The pages inside are nicely designed and laid out with images and text in various layouts.

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The Pixar Treasures

by Tim Hauser

The Pixar Treasures (Amazon)

In a nutshell

A brief history of Pixar, illustrated with numerous photos and pull-out reproductions of memorabilia.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  
 Instruction  n/a
 Technical  n/a

Key quotes

“He gave me the impression that it wasn’t just talent that made good animators great.  It was that they didn’t quit.  He believed that if his animation was better than anyone else’s, it was because he worked harder.” – Brad Bird on Milt Kahl

“Animation is the most collaborative art form there is.  And never more so than here.” – John Lasseter

“One thing we see other studios do, and what we each try not to do here, is to merely illustrate dialogue.  We try to get beneath that and animate what the character is thinking, not what they are saying.” – Dylan Brown

My thoughts

The Pixar Treasures is like a grown up pop-up book for Pixar fans.  It comes in a box and almost every other page has some kind of pullout piece of memorabilia or artwork – see below for a full list.  There’s a real sense of playful fun throughout the book – in the numerous photos, caricatures, movie posters, artwork and all the little extra pullouts each in a specially designed pouch.  It’s great to get a closer look at some of the details that go by so quickly in the films – like the posters in Sid’s room, the Roundup gang collectibles or monster classifieds from Monster’s Inc.

The book documents the history of the studio, from the earliest beginnings of eager students at CalArts, through to their feature films, ending with Up and their hopes to inspire future generations.  Each Chapter is a double page spread, and has lots of photos. Some of the chapters are about obvious things, like the feature films, but there are also chapters about things that there are less well documented, such as the Pixar University, Exhibitions, Rides inspired by Pixar films and the Pixar Living Archive.

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The Art of Ratatouille

by Karen Paik

The Art of Ratatouille (Amazon)

In a nutshell

A collection of artwork that went into the production of Disney Pixar’s film Ratatouille, as well as quotes from the artists and filmmakers.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  
 Instruction  n/a
 Technical  n/a

Key quotes

“I found myself relating to Remy, a character that sees the seeming impossibility of his dreams and pushes forward anyway, believing that he’ll find a way past all the obstacles.” – Brad Bird, Director

“These images may illustrate a moment you’ll never see in the film, but they give you a moment of insight into the character.” – Brad Lewis, Producer

“I’m so happy Pixar takes the time to pay attention to the little details, right down to the floor of the kitchen.  We tweaked the tile pattern so the tiles were slightly irregular, and then shading made sure it was worn unevenly, like a real floor.” – Robert Kondo, Set Designer

My thoughts

Ratatouille is one of my favourite films.  I love the style – the lighting, colours, and the characters and animation are wonderful, and I identify with the story.  The line by critic Anton Ego “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” always resonates with me.  So I love that this book is a chance to delve a bit deeper behind the scenes, and really get an idea of all (or at least more of!) the thought and effort that went into making such a great film.

As you know, you don’t get anything for free in an animated movie.  Every set, every prop, every cobblestone, and every ray of light, patch of fog, or gust of wind has been carefully designed and placed for a purpose.  But even when you are aware of that, I think it’s still easy to overlook just how much work went into a film like this.  Because when it all works, you barely even notice it.  You just accept it, and focus on the story and characters.  So it’s great to take a look at all of the research, and planning, and testing, and exploration, and the thought processes behind all of these decisions about what to include and how it should look.  For example, different designs of the rats’ boats, using all kinds of household items like pins, ashtrays, eggboxes, cheese graters, bottles and paper clips.  Or the research that went into designing the street lamps and signs.  While you may not notice every single little detail while watching the film, you are certainly aware of some of the elements as a whole, which really adds to the richness of the film, and it’s great to get a second look here.

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The Disney Archive Series: Animation

by Disney Editions

The Disney Archive Series: Animation (Amazon)

In a nutshell

A collection of animation drawings from the Disney archives.  There is a short introduction by John Lasseter, and the rest of the book is pure artwork.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  
 Instruction  n/a
 Technical  n/a

Key quotes

“Every animator is really an actor performing in slow motion, living the character a drawing at a time.” – John Lasseter

My thoughts

This is a beautiful book to own.  As you would expect from the Disney greats, the artwork is superb.  Each image is given plenty of space, so they don’t feel too crowded – often there will only be one or two images per page.  Going through this book you really get a sense of the history of animation.  It starts with images from the 1920s, and ends with 2009’s The Princess and the Frog.  It covers the majority of Disney’s feature films (notable exceptions that I would have loved to see are The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood and Tarzan).  Sometimes there are notes or spacing charts on the pages, which I really like.  It’s so interesting to see the thought process behind the animation, and the things that the artists wanted to draw the attention of the inbetweeners to.  According to the blurb on the back, many of these drawings have never been published before.  I’m not sure whether this means in a book, or made public, as more and more pencil tests etc. are emerging on the internet these days (check out Pencil Test Depot and Andreas Deja’s blog if you haven’t already!).  Either way, I’m sure there’ll still be plenty here that you haven’t seen before.

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Animation Insiders

by Patrick Beaulieu

Animation Insiders – Workflow Edition (Free ebook)

In a nutshell

This book is a compilation of 13 essays from 13 animators who explain their animation workflow.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  
 Instruction  
 Technical  

Key quotes

“Do not force yourself to follow a particular procedure.  Just do what inspires you – it’s as simple as that!” – Pablo Navarro

“Showing humility and being eager to learn from everyone around you is an important skill.  It’s your job to seek out help and help others.” – Anthea Kerou

“If you make mistakes, do your best to learn from them.  And then go out and approach your next shot with all the ‘vim and vigour’ it deserves!  Stay humble and stay hungry!” – Matt Strangio

My thoughts

Seeing as this is a free ebook download, I don’t think you can go far wrong!  I actually paid for the paperback book, as the ebook wasn’t available at the time but I do still like to read real books.

I think the author/editor of the book asked the animators for a biography and thoughts on workflow and then put in whatever the animators wrote, because the the chapters differ hugely – not just in length, but in content!  The biographies vary from a single paragraph to the 7 page life story of Pablo Navarro.  (That is not a complaint – he has had some very interesting experiences, and there is some good advice in there!).  And then the workflow advice varies from a double page of bullet points, to Pablo’s 9 pages of detailed thoughts on workflow, plus a 4 page analysis of the working partnership and methods for a short film that he worked on with Reno Armanet.  The majority of chapters contain about a page of biography plus 2-5 pages of workflow methods.

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The Perfect Bait

by Bobby Chiu

It’s currently available in several formats:

PaperbackiPhone App and Audio Stream.

I got the app and used it on my iPad, as that was the most convenient for me, and it gives you access to the text as well as the audio.

Bobby has also been releasing parts of it on youtube with art demos – 3 at the time of writing.  I’m not sure if these are just extracts, or if he will release the whole audiobook this way:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 

In a nutshell

The Perfect Bait was written by professional artist Bobby Chiu as a kind of instruction manual for beginning artists.  He wanted to share all of the lessons that he has learnt along the way to becoming a successful artist, both from personal experience, and from advice passed on to him by other artists, to help and inspire upcoming artists.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  
 Instruction  
 Technical  n/a

Key quotes

“Cynicism and skepticism only creates an expectation of failure, which encourages you to give up if you don’t immediately succeed”

“If you want to be exceptional, you have to be comfortable with being out of your comfort zone. – Everett Downing”

“If bad things happen to you when you are trying your hardest, then that means you’re about to reach the next level and good things are on their way.”

My thoughts

When I first heard about this book, I didn’t understand the title, and wasn’t sure if it would be relevant to me as an animator because it’s written from an artist’s perspective – he talks about portfolios and not demo reels. However I took a chance on it, and am very glad I did. “The Perfect Bait” is referring to how you as an artist, want to attract the right clients with your work. You’re the fisherman, your work is the bait, and potential clients are the fish.

Like most creative people, Bobby has had a lot of rejection and discouragement, but I found the ways in which he has overcome setbacks really inspiring, and made me reassess my own attitude towards my work and career.  His advice can mostly be summed up as: always give 100%, believe that you will succeed, never give up and practise, practise, practise.  Nothing new there, but hearing of ways that you can do this, and how he himself has put this to good effect in his career, really inspired me.  I also like the advice that he has included from other artists, including animators, that give insight from people with different experiences.

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