The Animator’s Survival Kit

by Richard Williams

The Animator’s Survival Kit Expanded edition (Amazon)

(n.b. that is the link to the updated version, and there is also a set of DVDs.  I haven’t read or seen either of those, so am just reviewing the 2001 Edition.)

In a nutshell

You should own this book.  I hope that this doesn’t need any introduction.  If you’re an animator and you don’t have this book – get it!  Still the most useful animation book to own.



Key Quotes

Our animation differs from anyone else’s because it is believable.  Things have weight and the characters have muscles and we’re giving the illusion of reality. – Milt Kahl”

“… if we know and understand all the basics – then we’ve got the tools to create.  Only then we can give the performance!”

My thoughts

The book starts with a mini biography of how Richard Williams learnt the craft of animation from the masters, and the advice they gave him.  It’s fascinating stuff, with all kinds of great little insights and tips.  He then goes on to demonstrate, illustrated with hundreds of drawings, how to animate.  He demonstrates how to plan – often offering two or more, different approaches.  He highlights common mistakes that beginners make.  He shows key poses and breakdowns for a variety of different types of movement.  It’s all done from the perspective of 2D animation, but it is all still very, very relevant to the Computer animator.  Every point that he makes is illustrated with numerous examples, as well as detailed explanations.

This was one of the first books that I read when I was starting to learn animation, and it was very helpful to me.  I find that as I learn more and more advanced stuff, I start to forget some of the basics.  But if I get stuck on something, I’ll often refer back to this book to see how it should be done.  And often my eye will catch something else that I had forgotten all about, and I’ll have a lightbulb moment – “Oh yeah, I should be doing my head turns like THAT!” even when I was actually looking up a run.

There’s really not much I can say about this book that’s not already been said before.  It should be read cover to cover regularly, and referred to frequently.

Essential reading.


1 Why this book?

2 Drawing in Time

3 Time to Draw

4 It’s all in the Timing and the Spacing

5 Lesson 1

6 Advancing Backwards to 1940

7 More on Spacing

8 Walks

9 Runs, Jumps and Skips

10 Flexibility

11 Weight

12 Anticipation

13 Takes and Accents

14 Timing, Staggers, Wave and Whip

15 Dialogue

16 Acting

17 Animal Action

18 Directing

19 Review

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