Three Books All Animators Should Read

18 Feb 2016

Are you an aspiring animator looking for books to guide you on your way to greatness? Here are three important books for animators.

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas (1981)


“Man always has had a compelling urge to make representations of the things he sees in the world around him… ultimately; he seeks to portray the very spirit of his subject. For some presumptuous reason, man feels the need to create something of his own that appears to be living, that has an inner strength, a vitality, a separate identity – something that speaks out with authority – a creation that gives the illusion of life.”

This 576 page tome is widely considered to be the Bible of animation.  Written by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, two of Disney’s famous Nine Old Men, the book traces the history of the Disney animation studios and the innovations in animation that occurred there.  Although it isn’t a specific ‘how-to’ guide the book does cover many technical topics such as camera techniques and styles of background paintings.  It also covers the Twelve Principles of Animation which are still highly relevant to any aspiring animator even today.  Although it looks intimidatingly huge, the inclusion of lots of photos, paintings, storyboards and sketches help to make the book a magically enthralling read for aspiring animators.

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (Disney Editions Deluxe)


The Animator’s Survival Kit, Richard Williams (1957)


“I remember once saying to Emery Hawkins (a wonderful, unsung animator), “I’m afraid my brains are in my hand.” Emery said, “Where else would they be? It’s a language of drawing. It’s not a language of tongue.””

The book’s title tells you pretty much everything you need to know about it.  The Animator’s Survival Kit teaches you all the basics of spacing, timing, walks, runs, weight, anticipation, overlapping action, takes, stagger, dialogue, animal animation and much more.  The author, award-winning animator Richard Williams, studied animation and learned from individuals like Art Babbitt and Ken Harris. In this book, Williams shares the tips, tricks and secrets he’s collected over the years. The Animator’s Survival Kit is the ideal book for learning the intricacies of animation.

The Animator’s Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators

(You can also buy an animated version of the book here)


Cartoon Animation, Preston Blair (1988)


“An animator must consider a number of things when planning and creating animated movement. First, he or she must devise a plan for the action the character is supposed to perform. Once the plan is set, the actual movements of the character can be designed and rough sketches of the movements drawn. .. Next, key (or “extreme”) poses are drawn; then the key poses are used as guides to draw the in-between movements.”

This book focuses on the five key areas of animation: character development, animation, dialogue, camera synchronization and sound. Preston Blair, the author, worked on Fantasia, Pinnochio and Bambi during his time at Disney.  Cartoon Animation’s significance is demonstrated in its presence as a textbook on many animation coursesThis book is perfect for aspiring animators looking for an informative and instructive book written by a master of animation.

Cartoon Animation (Collectors)