The Sunday Book Review
Animation Unleashed: 100 Principles Every Animator, Comic Book Writers, Filmmakers, Video Artist, and Game Developer Should Know
By Ellen Besen, illustrated by Bryce Hallett
Published by Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN-10: 1932907491 / ISBN-13: 978-1932907490
I commence an occasional series of book reviews with Ellen Besen’s 280 page paperback, illustrated by Bryce Hallett in which the reader is guided though the principles and practice of animation. Unleashed, I guess, refers to the oomph the reader will possess after having studied the text.
The layout is straight-forward enough. On one side is the text, with the illustrations broadly speaking on the right hand side of the page. Ellen divides her observations into Basic and Advanced, with frequent Example, Rule Beaker or Value Added Point. Such logical delineation generally works well enough though occasionally I found the divisions artificial in that I was as stimulated by the Basic as the Advanced. What Ellen has to say brooks no complaint however. To take one of her 100 principles: in Human Characters she uses all her knowledge borne of many years in the industry. She suggests realistic characters are the hardest to create whilst attracting the most acute scrutiny from an audience moved to compare live action footage with animated make believe. Solution? Stay away from realism, go stylised or at least introduce some form of caricature. Movie references are made to various Disney productions and Ryan for exemplification. Bryce’s accompanying sketches emphasise this with a sequence of realistic poses in which the character, albeit well drawn, appears wooden, certainly compared with the same guy presented by way of comparison in exaggerated, caricatured form. One sequence attracts, the other leaves one cold, a point well made by writer and illustrator, as they always are in a fairly comprehensive series of short chapters.
Sometimes Ellen draws attention to production points that are intuitive to many, but still illuminate with her rigorous analysis. I like her style of writing. Her voice is direct without being academically cold. Bryce’s black and white illustrations, whilst not the rich colour of the cover, are usually humorous in tone, always beautifully drawn, always apposite, with an accompanying note from Ellen that neatly encapsulates the issue.
Obviously, with an eye to sales, the publishers target beginners as well as the more experienced animator. Fair enough though it is the latter who will most benefit. I have read the book in short bursts rather than cover to cover in one go. I found that I needed to digest the points and my poor brain is only capable of bite-size nuggets these days. Animation Unleashed is well suited for this. Value for money/ worth buying? Indisputably, and worth its place on every animator’s bookshelf.
Finally, should you desire to hear Ellen’s eight minute presentation on Placement as well as enjoy Bryce’s drawing in motion, download their podcast released on YouTube yesterday and the first, I believe, of what promises to be an excellent series, The two images below are taken from this.