The Animator's Survival Kit (Faber & Faber) has been around for almost a decade and is one of the must-have animation books in any animator's collection. It is the result of numerous live Masterclasses that Richard Williams, a veteran animator and animation director (Who Framed Roger Rabbit), has been delivering since the early '90s. In 1995, Williams had recently lost control of his life's work, the animated feature, The Thief and the Cobbler. He had retreated to a small island off the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. Not wanting to go back into the industry, he decided to take his years of experience and lessons learned and develop a lecture, the first of which was held in Vancouver. Fortunately for me, I had just moved to Vancouver to develop a classical animation program at a local community college. At $850, the lecture wasn't cheap, but it was worth every penny. The energy that Williams gave to that first Masterclass was inspiring, not only for the amount of information it delivered but also how an instructor could energize a class. On stage, Williams was bursting with enthusiasm. He would sketch and pantomime his lessons, trying to provide us with as much knowledge as he could in the time he had. After each segment, he would turn to us, panting and dripping with sweat, asking, "So...did you get that?"
The Expanded Edition revisits "flexibility, twinning, silhouettes, animal action and weight." All images courtesy of Faber & Faber and Imogen Sutton.
Although it's not possible for a technical book on animation theory to capture that raw energy of his first Masterclass, The Animator's Survival Kit packs in much more information than you can effectively deliver in a weekend workshop. The first edition of this book, published in 2001, has become an essential part of any character animator's library. From the age of 10, Williams was a student of animation, looking for the answers that would help him create believable and convincing movement of characters; characters that would live and breathe. He sought out the top animators of the day, asking questions, taking notes and absorbing information regarding the mechanics of animation. When he had his own animation studio in London, Williams brought several of these animation masters over to work for him and to serve as artists-in-residence for him and his staff.
There is no one better prepared than Williams to assemble a book like this. He is a living link between the pioneers of the art form and the international animation community of today. Much of the information in the book relates directly to the creation of character animation regardless of the media used to create it.