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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.

  • Those appear to be very good reads, especialy the Art of Animation, and the first one to. I wonder how they hold up against good old Preston Blair.

    Sid the Squid.? Wasn’t he a character from animaniacs? Oh well, i might just pick those up. Along with Joe Murray’s new book

  • I should like to give my own two cents about Nancy’s book.
    It’s terrific, regardless of my bias.

  • The Gee

    They all seem like interesting books, for sure.

    I just have a dumb question:
    That cover with Yogi Bear on it:
    those are skies he’s carrying, right? I ask because they look unlike any other skies I’ve ever seen. Unless, there’s a gag to the way they are shaped that skibums would get and I don’t…?

  • Last I heard, poor Nancy was just furious with the cover design on this.

  • Nancy Beiman

    The cover isn’t what I originally designed; check the artwork at the head of Chapter 8 to see the original art. But as the saying goes, you should never judge a book by its cover.

  • I have mine ordered and I fully expect that like Nancy’s first book “Prepare to Board” , this one will become essential reading for all students of the craft.

    Also glad to see the good notice of Ken Priebe’s new stop-motion book (I have his previous book, too, and it is very good) .

    (BTW, for anyone who might be interested in studying stop-motion with Ken I should mention that he teaches stop-motion animation classes online for the Academy of Art University. Ken’s classes are ANM 380 Stop Motion 1 and ANM 382 Stop Motion 2. Ken also teaches ANM 180 “Experimental Animation” online , which covers a variety of hand-crafted animation techniques.)

    Thanks for the book recommendations , Jerry !

  • Greg Ehrbar

    Nice work as usual, Tim. But isn’t is a little disturbing to see Yogi in that strange 2-D way? Those eyes.

  • Yeah, creepy, isn’t it? But not as strange as another illustration in the book where Yogi is on the front of a rubber bop bag, with a big red “beep” nose. Maybe someone will be able to explain why kids were expected to punch the funny, friendly characters like Yogi, Fred Flintstone, Bozo, Mister Magoo and the rest. I said in the book that any kid needed psychological analysis if they deliberately chose to hit Superman, Batman or Popeye.