to HOME pageThe images on this page are presented with the firm belief that the "Quotation" clause of copyright law allows it - publisher of book is probably copyright holder of image, unless otherwise noted. If a publisher or copyright holder disagrees, please inform the author of this page; Copyright credit will be corrected, or the image will be removed, if so requested. The text of this review is copyright © 1999 by J-E Nyström.


Recommended Books

The following is a list of books I can recommend, having personally read them. Some of the older books may be out of print, available only in libraries, or secondhand. Whenever possible, I have included an approximate price and ISBN number. If you have more exact details regarding price or availability, please email me, so I can make corrections to this list.

I have "awarded" the books 1 to 3 icons the following three categories according to their content and usefulness:
Animating and drawing technique get "ears": , Film technology gets "cameras": , Historical content gets "frames":


Disney Animation - The Illusion of Life
Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston
Abbeville Press, 1981, ISBN 0-89659-232-4, possibly reprinted in paperback (?)
Approx. $ 80 - mostly sold out, may be hard to get in some areas.

Definitely the ONE book to take with you to the proverbial desert island. This book contains hundreds of illustrations, from storyboard sketches to entire animation sequences, all of which illustrate the exquisite art of animation, Disney style. The text gives many glimpses into the workings of the animation masters at Disney's. This book has been my inspiration many, many times, when I've got stuck in my animation. Browsing this book, even just for a while, seems to re-vitalize my energy and willpower, and gets me going again...

One of the numerous animation sequences presented in this book. An invaluable educational source for any animator. © Disney


Too Funny for Words
Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston
Abbeville Press, 1987, ISBN 0-89659-747-4

Almost a continuation of the previous book, but concentrating on the GAG in all its different forms. This book is also a great source for inspiration. Great drawings again, the animation sequences shown are hilarious even as still images.


Animation - Learn how to draw animated cartoons
Preston Blair
Walter T. Foster, no. 26 in series of "How to Draw" books
Just $ 1.00 when I bought it back in the 1960's. May be available in reprint at "slightly" higher price...

One in the large series of "how to" art books published by Foster, only 40 (albeit large) pages, but filled with hints on character design, animation and motion paths. An invaluable resource for the beginning animator.

The very basics, clearly presented, helps a beginning animator on the way.


Timing for Animation
Harold Whitaker & John Halas
Focal Press, ISBN 0 240 50871 8, probably in print (?)

Another "basics" book, concentrating, as the title implies, on the timing aspects of the art. Detailed examples are given, but this book has less to give to an already experienced animator. The character designs presented here are pretty basic, without the 1940's charm that characterizes the previous, Preston Blair book.


Handbook of Animation Techniques
Eli L. Levitan
Van Norstrand Reinhold, 1973, ISBN 0 442 26115 2

Reprint of a book from the 1950's or 60's (I remember finding the "original" in a library in the late '60s). Mainly a case study of the production of an animated TV commercial, with many details about the mechancial & photographic techniques used back then, now quickly becoming obsolete in our digital age.


The Art of Walt Disney
Robert D. Field
Collins, UK, 1947 (a few years earlier in USA)

A hard-to-get book with high antiquarian value. Concentrates too much on the abstract aspectof "art" to be really useful for an animator, but gives an inside look into the Disney studio during the pre-war production of Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi and a few shorts. However, all the Disney artists are referred to as an anonymous workforce - only Walt is mentioned by name, in an almost adulatory way.


Before the Animation Begins
John Canemaker
Hyperion, 1996, ISBN 0 7868 6152 5
$ 60
The Disney that Never Was
Charles Solomon
Hyperion, 1995, ISBN 0 7868 6037 5
$ 40

Two great books for those involved in pre-production. Both books show the "brainstorming" stages of many Disney films, with wonderful conceptual sketches and inspirational drawings by the great Disney designers, such as Albert Hurter, Mary Blair, Eywind Earle and Ken Anderson, each given their own chapter in the first book. The second book includes many unique, never before published sketches of planned, but never produced films.


Industrial Light and Magic - The art of Special Effects
Thomas G. Smith
Columbus Books, UK, 1986, ISBN 0 86287 142 5
UK Pounds 39.95 (approx $ 70)

A GLITZY presentation of the wizardry of ILM. Lots of behind-the-scenes shots of special effects production, stop-motion and matte work. Much can be learned about the production procedures by studying the exquisite illustrations. For E.T. and Star Wars fans!

How is a matte painting made? Study the pictures in this book carefully, they're worth a thousand words, each.


The Stop-Motion Filmography
Neil Pettigrew
Mc Farland, Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640, 1999, ISBN 0 7864 0446 9
$ 110

In physical appearance, just the opposite of the previous book. But within its drab covers, it contains a treasure-trove of information on stop-motion history, a listing of almost 300 features combining miniature model animation and live action, icluding the sensational King Kong of 1933, to the blockbusters of the last few decades, including Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Terminator etc.
The book is less a technical discussion than a review, or, as the author states, a "critical guide" to the films, most of which can be classified as typical B-movies with the aliens, dinosaurs and other monsters so characteristic of the genre. The most elaborate reviews are on the classical films with stop-motion by such masters as Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen. Illustrations are mostly b&w, but a few color pages are included.
Each of the 297 films gets two "star" ratings, one for the movie in general, one for the stop-motion effects. Many of the B-films listed in the book I've never even heard about (Killer Klowns from Outer Space, 1987, just to mention one outrageous title), but many all-time favorites appear here. The book also contains a short but useful glossary of stop-motion related terms, and a curious price guide of memorabilia relating to the field - would you believe that a King Kong poster from 1933 has been auctioned for $ 90.000? If you are looking for the history - not the technique - of stop-motion, this is the book for you!

"The Lost World", 1925, animation by Willis O'Brien, one of the early masters of stop-motion.


The History of Animation - Enchanted Drawings
Charles Solomon
Wings Books, 1994, ISBN 0 517 11859 9 (revised)
$ 75

One of the better "History of" -books. Includes a wide sampling of the over 100-year history of animation, from Emile Reynaud's Praxinoscope, thru McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur and the silent era, Disney, the other studios, WWII cartoons, through Fritz the Cat & the Simpsons, all the way to the digital miracles in Jurassic Park, all illustrated with fine pictures in b&w and color. A must for anyone interested in the development of animation from its crude beginnings to today's multitude of styles & forms of expression.


Of Mice and Magic
Leonard Maltin
Plume, 1980, ISBN 0 452 25240 7
$ 9.95 (probably more expensive in new edition?)

A wonderful history & filmography of American animation, studio by studio. This has been my trusty reference for many years. Lots of illustrations, but only a few in color.

Ub Iwerks, who left the Disney studio in 1930, produced several series in his own studio, "Flip the Frog" is the one best remembered.


The Disney Films
Leonard Maltin
Crown, 1973, ISBN 0 517 500469

Another book by Maltin, a little aged by now, unless a new, revised edition has appeared. The Disney features are reviewed, credits included. Illustrated in black&white only.


The Disney Studio Story
Richar Holliss, Brian Sibley
Octopus, 1988, ISBN 0 7064 3040 9

This is a bit more modern than the previous one, has many color pictures. It includes a historical part, and a filmography, with short descriptions of the films. For Disney fans!


Before Mickey - The Animated Film 1898-1928
Donald Crafton
MIT Press, 1984, ISBN 0 262 53058 9
$ 9.95 (if available today, probably a bit more...)

A very thorough early history of animation. Includes some interesting patent drawings, illuminating the development of early cel animation technology. Many stills & frame blowups, b&w only, naturally!

Max Fleischer patented his "Rotoscope" in 1915. The term "rotoscoping" has become a synonym for animation that is traced from live-action.


The Making of (insert name of movie here)

Well, every studio seems to be publishing a glitzy book whenever an animated feature is released. These books are often just expensive, glossy ads for the films, but a few real gems can be found in this category. Look for books that show animator's rough drawings, storyboard sketches etc. Those are the books you can learn from.

Here's a link with some other books:

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