Acting For Animators

by Ed Hooks

Routledge, 2011 (rev. 3rd ed.)

This book is the basis for Ed's' widely taught masterclass. In it, Ed codifies how animators can learn and apply classic acting theory, not as stage actors do, but in a way that pertains directly to the task of the animator as storyteller.

"By intelligently and thoughtfully examining character animation from an actor's perspective, Mr. Hooks has made a valuable contribution toward deepening our understanding of it."

-- from the Foreword by Brad Bird


( *click cover images to order or to learn more)

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

Disney Editions, 1995

The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation is essential reading for any aspiring animator. (It is also beautiful to look at fascinating to explore.) Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston were two of the famous “Nine Old Men” and worked on such famous movies as "Snow White" and "Pinocchio.” They provide not only a guided tour through Disney animation -- which in many ways, is the history of American animation itself -- they painstakingly explain how animation is done, how lines on a page are endowed with that magical illusion of life.

Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes

Walter Stanchfield

Focal Press, 2009

This is a two-volume compilation of notes from Walt Stanchfield's gesture-analysis classes at Disney. These lectures are not only entertaining to read, they are important. The books, edited by Don Hahn in association with Walt Stanchfield's widow, Dee, are in the same must-have league as The Illusion of Life (above). See the Craft Notes from my Acting for Animators newsletters of May and June 2009 for some excerpts and a perspective on how Walt's teachings and my Acting for Animators workshops mesh.

Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation

Helen McCarthy

Stone Bridge Press, 1999

Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation presents an excellent overview of -- and introduction to -- this legendary animator's work. Miyazaki is the creator of the epic "Princess Mononoke," "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," among other outstanding works. He is to animation and manga what Shakespeare is to drama. Read the book, and then go see "Princess Mononoke." Prepare to be awestruck.

Starting Point: 1979-1996

Hayao Miyazaki

VIZ Media LLC, 2009

The animation legend talks about his personal philosophy, his religion, his approach to animation and more. A compilation of individual essays, directorial notes, interviews, etc., with very little illustration. Highly recommended.

Setting the Scene: The Art & Evolution of Animation Layout

Fraser MacLean

Chronicle Books, 2011

This lushly illustrated book would be worth having even if it did not contain Fraser MacLean’s wise observations about layout. The subject deserves more coverage than it has been receiving since the evolution of CGI. Lovely, insightful book.

Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age

Michael Barrier

Oxford University Press USA, 2003

This book, almost 30 years in the writing, is an awesome, thoroughly researched and vastly entertaining history of American animation. The author, Michael Barrier, former publisher and editor of the highly respected periodical Funnyworld, has a deep understanding of what makes animation work for the audience. His book is chock-full of intelligent observations about acting in animation, complete with references to the theories of Constantin Stanislavsky. For my money, this is maybe the best book of its sort I have ever read. It's a major achievement, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in animation or American entertainment history.

Creating 3-D Animation

Peter Lord and Brian Sibley

Abrams, 1998

Fans of Wallace and Gromit will love this book, which takes the reader behind the scenes at the world-famous Aardman Studios in Bristol, England. Peter Lord, co-founder of Aardman, takes the new animator by the hand and gently escorts him through the stages of puppet-making and stop-motion animation. Beginning with model-making and planning sets, and moving on through the nuts-and-bolts of editing and the addition of sound, Creating 3-D Animation is a must-read for serious animators and would make an excellent gift. The book is full of interesting illustrations and photographs.

Basics Animation: Stop-Motion

Barry Purves

AVA Publishing, 2010

Barry is one of the most knowledgeable animators I know, a true artist and born teacher. This book is a wonderful primer on stop motion as well as being exquisitely illustrated in color. Highly recommended.

The Animator’s Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas

for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators

Richard Williams

Faber & Faber, 2009

Every professional animator and animation teacher will tell you that this book is essential. Richard Williams is a celebrated lecturer, and this is the substance of what he teaches.

In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing

Walter Murch

Revised 2nd ed., Silman-James Press, 2001

If you want to understand human blinks and how they are used in film editing, this book is essential. It is a classic of its sort.


Tell Me A Story: Narrative and Intelligence

Roger C. Schank

Northwestern University Press, 1995

This book has nothing at to do with animation, but I am including it because Mr. Schank’s work has deeply influenced my personal understanding of story. He ties story to intelligence in a sublime fashion.




These titles are Ed's "recom-mended reading" and are good candidates for an animator's core library collection. To order any of these books – or just to learn more – click on the cover image.

Have a favorite book not listed here? Let Ed know by going to the Contact page and sending him a message.


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