Thursday, May 27, 2010

Animated Thoughts: Resources

I get a lot of questions from people who are starting out in their animation careers and parents whose kids are interested in studying animation. As most of these questions are about different resources that they can use to get ahead or get started, here is a list of the most useful books that I have found over my career. Additionally, I've included some the websites that I visit on a weekly and daily basis in order to keep an eye on the animation industry as well as help keep my career on track.

These are the books that I have gotten the most use out of in my career. In my opinion, these are the books that every animator MUST have in their library:

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas 

The Animator's Survival Kit--Revised Edition: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators by Richard Williams

The Animation Book: A Complete Guide to Animated Filmmaking--From Flip-Books to Sound Cartoons to 3- D Animation by Kit Laybourne and John Canemaker

Timing for Animation, Second Edition by Tom Sito

Cartoon Animation (The Collector's Series) by Preston Blair

Character Animation Crash Course! by Eric Goldberg

Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes: Volume 1: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures ~ Walt Stanchfield (Author), Don Hahn (Editor)

Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes: Volume 2: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures ~ Walt Stanchfield (Author), Don Hahn (Editor)

Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts ~ Nancy Beiman

I'm still looking for the "quintessential" books regarding the nuts-and-bolts of scriptwriting for animation and directing/editing your films--the ones I use are from college and they are out of print. Am currently reading "How to Write for Animation" by Jeffrey Scott and "Directing the Story: Professional Storytelling and Storyboarding Techniques for Live Action and Animation" by Francis Glebas so we'll see if they are worth recommending. David Levy has an upcoming book on directing animation that I'm looking forward to, but that won't be out until November. You'll also notice that these books are either geared towards 2d animation or general principles. That's on purpose, partially because most of my experience is in 2d animation and partially because the lessons in these books are also applicable to stop-motion and 3d computer animation.


Animation Meat
Contains ready-to-print templates for storyboarding and dope sheets/exposure sheets. Also has some model sheets from classic animations for self study.

David Levy's Animonday blog
Current president of ASIFA/East, animator and director David Levy has written two very solid books on a career in animation ("Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive" and "Animation Development: From Pitch to Production"). Both are pretty solid reads where David discusses his career as well as the careers of prominent animators and weaves it into advice on managing your career in animation. His weekly blog is published every Monday and usually contains pithy stories with lots of advice that I personally find very encouraging. The man is pretty honest about his mistakes and doesn't shy away from using them as cautionary tales.

Joe Murray Studio
The creator of Rocko's Modern Life and Camp Lazlo has a good book that is due to be (re)released in print very shortly (Creating Animated Characters with Character). It started out as an e-book and is all about how to produce an animated series--and it's getting an information upgrade/update before being released in dead-tree format this summer. Joe is also getting ready to start a creator-driven animation channel (KaboingTV) where independants can create their series outside of the mainstream television networks and actually get paid for their work! Worth keeping an eye on.

Cartoon Brew
The site of Animation Historian Jerry Beck and author Amid Amidi, Cartoon Brew is a collection of animations, animation history, and current events in the worldwide animation scene. Jerry Beck is always a prince and a fountain of useful information. Amid Amidi is rather caustic. However, to his credit, Amid is very good at finding obscure animated films that are usually worth a look.

Scribble Junkies
This site is a partnership between animators Bill Plympton and Patrick Smith. It's basically a site where they discuss their take on the animation scene--posts usually fall in one of two camps. It's either Bill and Patrick expounding upon their inspirations and deconstructing their work or showcasing films that they're currently working on.


National Film Board of Canada
Just released the majority of their library online for free viewing--lots of classic animations as well as videos of their masterclass animators discussing their films and filmmaking techniques.


Animation World Network and Animation Magazine
Both of these websites basically do the same thing, however there are two major differences. On AWN, you'll see a lot of info on the independent animation scene and worldwide animation scene. And on Animation Magazine, you get more of a pulse of the big studio animation industry (Hollywood and worldwide). Worth reading both because there's a lot of good information that you won't get from the other.


Ottawa International Animation Festival
Located in Ottawa, Ontario, this is the largest animation festival in the Western Hemisphere, second largest festival in the world. One of the best places to network with animators, see films you won't see elsewhere, and interview for jobs.

Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema
Located in Waterloo/Kitchener, this is the only festival in the world that is solely dedicated to feature length animated films from around the world. Joe Chen and his people put on a solid show that also includes retrospectives with shorter films. Last year's retrospective was a history of Russian animation. Joe also had several North American premieres including the latest Evangelion relaunch film and the Secret of Kells.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Animated Inspiration: Lutas

Here's one of those foreign animations that I'm hoping they show at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema this November. Lutas is a Brazilian production from LightStar Studios. According to the LightStar website, this story is the "Brazilian tale of an immortal 500 year old hero who is destined for the same woman through the ages, although he finds himself in troubled moments throughout Brazil's colorful history."

I'm always intrigued when watching foreign animated films because, while the animated medium may be the same (along with the principles of animation), each people group interprets film and story through their own cultural lens and (usually) creates a unique visual style. As the costs of software and equipment go down, I'm hoping that we'll see more foreign animated feature films like Triplets of Belleville, Secret of Kells, Technotise: Edit & I, and Metropia. One of the reasons why I make the trek every November to Waterloo Ontario is that Joe Chen (and crew) does a masterful job of finding animated feature films from around  the world to show at his festival. Here in the midwest United States, the opportunity to view these films on the big screen just isn't there yet--whether that's due to a lack of money or a lack of mainstream appreciation for the cinema from other cultures, I guess that's up to the reader to decide. For now, I'll just be thankful that I'm within driving distance of Waterloo, Toronto, and Ottawa for my yearly animation festival fix.

NOTE: Due to some nudity and violent images, this trailer is NSFW.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Animated Inspiration: Frank Frazetta (1928 - 2010)

For those of you who may not have heard yet, Frank Frazetta died of a stroke on Monday, May 10th at the age of 82.

Mr. Frazetta's work was an entry point into the art world for generations of people like myself. I remember being a little kid in the '70's and staring in awe at the covers of my mom's Conan and John Carter of Mars paperback novels--just marveling at the light and shadow, the posing, the definition of the characters, even if I lacked the artistic background at that age to verbalize what made his work so hypnotic. But while producing art of his quality has been a lifelong goal of mine, I must admit that it's the strength of Mr. Frazetta's character when facing adversity which is far more inspiring to my soul than his vast artistic skills. According to his documentary Frank Frazetta: Painting with Fire, Mr. Frazetta suffered a stroke in his later years which left him unable to paint or draw with his (preferred) right hand. Rather than hang up his brushes and retire, Mr. Frazetta trained himself to paint with his left hand and continued to create art. It is that determination that I find most inspiring. At a time when most people would take it as a sign that it's time to retire and rest upon a lifetime of achievements, Frank Frazetta fought both the odds and his infirmity to show the world that he wasn't finished creating art.

The following are links to two articles online that discuss Mr. Frazetta's work: Animation Magazine, Cartoon Brew.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Animated Inspiration: City Park

A while back, I posted an animation by Courtland Lomax called 'House of Cats' (created for Swarovski Crystal). Here's the follow up, using the same visual style, titled 'City Park.'

City Park from Courtland Lomax on Vimeo.

One of the things that attracts me to this animation (and House of Cats) is how they use geometric shapes and color cycling to simulate crystal. Last year, I spent the better part of two days at the Royal Ontario Museum taking photographs of different gems and crystals. The purpose was to build up my photo reference library for an art piece I've been mulling over in my head. While my art piece isn't animation, per se, it does involve crystalline structures. So animations like this are always handy to give me that little nudge back to the drawing table--a nice patient little reminder that it's okay to work on the billable projects, but I still need to spend some time feeding the artistic side of my nature.