Nancy offers her own take on the bouncing ball and flour sack animation exercises common to new 2D animators. Many chapters include custom illustrations from Disney animators who share their process creating lifelike characters from scratch. This naturally requires a graphics tablet and plenty of experience constructing objects from imagination. Author Tony White covers all the basics of animation starting with foundational knowledge and moving through classical techniques showing how they work in a digital environment. The disc also has a few clips of White explaining the differences and techniques of pencil-drawn animation compared to digital 2D animation.
All-in-all a really cool book that can help traditional artists move their 2D animation work to the computer screen. Great animation can always be simplified and reduced down to smaller parts. Author Wayne Gilbert has years of experience animating including commercials, video games, and even the Star Wars films. In this book he shares tips for designing with simplicity. These ideas apply to animation but carry over to character designers, illustrators, and comic artists.
Every animation can be studied to break down the fundamentals like balance, pose, composition, and structure. The newest version of this book has info on character design and planning out the structure of a custom animated sequence. Human animation is some of the toughest work but also the most rewarding.
Action Analysis for Animators by Chris Webster
Character Animation Fundamentals is a massive tome with pages full of exercises, tips, and techniques for animating realistic characters. This book is written for both 2D and 3D animation so it works well for anyone. Early chapters introduce the concept of animation explaining how it works and how you should think about sequential movement.
Many of the later chapters delve into 3D rigging and animation software which is fairly pointless for someone who only wants to do 2D. And the tips in this guide still apply to all forms of animation so you can learn a lot about movement and motion just by reading through these chapters. Note you will need solid drawing fundamentals before you even pick up this book.
If your drawing skills need improvement then pick up some beginner books first and get your fundamentals down. Most animation books focus on movement which involve characters and creatures moving between frames. But backgrounds and layouts play a huge role in every animated scene. Layout and Composition for Animation is a detailed book focusing solely on background designs and compositions. I do not think this book is the perfect guide to background painting there is no such guide. But I do think this book offers clarity for animators who want to learn more about the background design process.
The Nine Old Men is a book spotlighting all nine animators, their history, and their unique skills in the field. This book is not a how-to book nor will it cover specific features of animation. Instead it offers a deeper look into these nine incredible animators that radically improved a growing art form. But if you want to learn more about animation history and how these guys made an impact then this is the book to get.
Disney's Tangled • Film Animation Analysis • Senses of Cinema
This might seem like a weird book to suggest since Pixar is a 3D-only studio. But Designing with Pixar gazes into the character design work and methodologies that typically start with 2D sketching and brainstorming. Each chapter covers a different principle of design including shape, form, and color among others. Overall these chapters blend together to create a guide for aspiring character designers and animators.
The sketches are not very detailed but they do provide enough to help you capture the vision of a character. I only recommend this book to animators who want to delve further into character design. This is both a philosophical book along with a more book discussing animation cels, frames, keys, and poses. However much of the book is focused on the art of animation itself. It uses plenty of examples from film history to demonstrate what makes a great animated scene and what grabs attention from viewers. There is no perfect solution to animation. Most of it is about testing and trying new ideas to see what works.
But thankfully many animators in recent history have already tried this and made it work. Upcoming animators can now study the classics and learn from the old masters. I know this list is huge and it can be overwhelming. Start small by organizing your current goals. Do you want to learn more about animation from the classic masters? Then a book like The Illusion of Life is a great read.
Or maybe you want to dive right in and start animating. Learning 2D animation by yourself is tough but completely possible. If you put in the work, follow these resources, and just keep practicing then you will make steady progress. Resources Animation Books Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you buy something we get a small commission at no extra cost to you learn more. Everything the virtual character does is controlled by you. As an animator you're essentially an actor with a computer and some software.
Being an animator really adds a whole new level of complexity to traditional movie acting because not only do you need to create a performance for this character but you also have to think about every little action they take. If your character is scratching their head, how is the arm going to travel up?
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Does the shoulder move first? And how fast should the action be? With traditional acting the actor doesn't need to think about how their arm should move in order to scratch their head, it's just natural; they only need to ensure their performance is believable.
Action Analysis for Animators by Chris Webster
You must make the audience feel like your character is alive and not alive because they're moving around on screen but because they're thinking and have a personality that makes them unique. In short, the audience should forget this character is fake. The same way you watch your favorite movie and feel attached to the characters, when watching the movie you probably don't consider them an actor just playing a part. If a character dies you feel sadness or hatred toward the antagonist.
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Your animations should evoke these same feelings toward the audience, even if it is just a cartoon. Some excellent examples of acting for animation are in a lot of the 2D Disney movies. The scene in Tarzan when the Gorilla king Kerchak was shot by the main antagonist you felt empathy toward him. Even though for the most part leading up to that moment he was not very likeable, but you were able to see his real character show through. You forget these characters are just a series of drawings played over a certain amount of frames. What Makes Good Acting?
The two most important elements you should be thinking about when animating performances is that the acting should be believable and appealing. These two principles are key to a successful acting shot. If you watch a movie with a bad actor it takes you out of the story and the world, what's happening in the movie is not believable. Whatever type of character this actor is trying to portray is not convincing, bad acting can potentially ruin a movie. In the same way bad acting means bad animation, this can mean a bad movie, short film or game.
Sure, technically you're animation might be spot on, weight and movements is right, but if the acting is not believable it can ruin the entire shot. How to Have Better Acting in Your Animation Having better acting in your animations is actually a pretty simple step; you yourself must become a better actor. OK, so maybe that's easier said than done. You may have heard before it's a good idea to take acting classes as an animator and that's true, it can really help create more believable and appealing performances for your animations.
But being an animator it's likely you're not one to enjoy getting up on stage and acting things out, in fact, drama class may have been your least favorite subject in school. Even so, you have the acting genes in you and animation is your way of being able to share your performances with the world without ever having to step in front of the camera yourself.
You can watch your favorite movies and study the acting, what made their performances so believable and well done? You can try to incorporate these feelings into your own animations. Get into the head of your character; understand who they are, where they're from and what their personality is. Are they shy or outgoing, do they have a short temper?
Timing for Animation
These questions can help determine the performances you create. These things will most likely be established in the story and script department but even then you may only get a storyboard with a few slides to go off of. For instance, the script might say the character walks into a room and is happy to see the other character. It's up to you to ask important questions like were they excited and bust through the door?
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Or did they casually walk in, notice the other character and then become happy? Maybe they opened the door very carefully because they wanted to surprise the other character. Try to make your characters think.
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They shouldn't just react or act on immediate instinct.