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Saturday Book Review

Here’s a roundup of few new books that several publishers and authors were kind enough to send my way:

ANIMATED PERFORMANCE (Ava Publishing) by Nancy Beiman is an instant classic. There have been many many “how-to” books written by current and past animation masters in recent years, many of them quite good (Richard Williams and Eric Goldberg’s books come to mind first). Beiman’s new book concentrates solely on character animation and she knocks it out of the park. It is a thorough, step by step examination of the art, aimed at the advanced student or professional animator who already knows the basics. The principles she discusses can apply to any technique (CG, Flash, stop motion, etc.) and she has packed the book with ample examples of her own animation, as well as classic comic strips, commercial art and movie stills to illustrate her points. She’s also peppered the book with inspiring quotes (such as this neat one from Kaj Pindal: “Animation begins where live action gives up.”). What’s most important is the book is a joy to read – even a non-animator such as myself can get a lot out of it. It’s 232 oversized pages, loaded with solid information based on a lifetime of professional experience. I highly recommend this book to anyone doing, or attempting to do, character animation on any level.

THE ADVANCED ART OF ANIMATION (Course Technology) by Ken A. Priebe is a sequel to Preibe’s 2006 book, The Art of Stop Motion Animation. This time Preibe takes a closer look at some the techniques touched upon in his earlier volume, as well as covering advances in the techniques during the last five years. The book contains a more thorough history of the stop-mo technique, extensive interviews with visual effects supervisor Pete Kozachik, clay animator Marc Spess, Screen Novelties’ Mark Caballero & Seamus Walsh, as well as expanded chapters on building puppets, character animation and visual effects. There are several books out there on stop motion, off hand I’d say Priebe’s new book is possibly the best.

SID THE SQUID (Immedium) by David Derrick is part of the trend of animators writing and illustrating children’s books. Derrick is a story artist at Dreamworks, and this charming book reads like a classic animated feature that never was. Sid leaves the ocean, and with the help of a little girl, he searches the city in hopes of finding the right job for his particular talents. Fun, and with an inspiring message. Perfect for kids of all ages.

Last but not least, CHRISTMAS WISHES (Stackpole Books) by Tim Hollis (co-author of Mouse Tracks, The Story of Walt Disney Records) is one to pick up for purely inspirational purposes. It’s Tim’s nostalgic recollections of Christmas past, lavishly illustrated with images of vintage toys, comic books, records, TV specials, sheet music, toy catalogs and advertisements from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Cool stuff, nicely compiled, and fun to browse.