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Review: The Animator's Survival Kit iPad App

How could you possibly improve on Richard William’s groundbreaking Animator’s Survival Kit book? Make it into an iPad app.

For over a decade Richard Williams’ best-selling book "The Animator’s Survival Kit" has been an essential part of any animator’s library. Now in its second edition, the book has inspired a generation of young animators and received the highest praise from every area of our industry. Williams' 16-set DVD collection "The Animator's Survival Kit Animated" has received similar acclaim. It is priced at just under $1,000 (arguably it is worth every penny), and although this may be affordable for the professional animator looking to tap into Williams' vast array of knowledge and expertise, the high cost does potentially put the collection out of reach of the average animation student. However there is now good news for those who fall into the latter group - Mr. Williams has released The Animators Survival Kit as an iPad app. And it is priced at a mere $35.

I dipped my toe into the app with some trepidation - it's really hard to do these things right. When publishers launch existing content in app form, the question is always whether or not they have brought anything new to the table. I'm pleased to report that the The Animator’s Survival Kit app is a not only put together beautifully, but it does indeed contain new content for those who already own the book. The app contains everything you'll find in the extended edition book, along with over 100 animated examples and a few bits of bonus content.

The app is beautifully put together and contains everything you'll find in the extended edition book and more.

Throughout 17 chapters Williams takes readers on a journey through the animation process, starting with the basics such as life drawing, squash and stretch and timing, then working through to more advanced concepts such as lip syncing, acting, and animating animals. There's a video intro to each section, along with plenty of illustrations and animated examples. Many of the video examples are broken down and can be skipped through frame-by-frame - this is a really clever use of the app and really helps the reader get a clear understanding of the concepts Williams delves into. This is a really nice use of the iPad app format, and provides clear advantages over learning from a book.

The app allows readers to to skip through animation examples frame-by-frame.

One of the things that makes The Animator’s Survival Kit such an enjoyable read is the fact that this book is not only a gold mine of information on how to improve your animations, but it is also packed to the brim with anecdotes from Williams’ life. Not only do we get exposure to Richard Williams’ decades of experience and vast expertise, but we also gain insight into where that expertise came from. Williams is meticulous in crediting those who taught and inspired him over the years in a way that is rarely seen in these kinds of teaching materials.

There are also a few extra bonus items included on the app, such as "Circus Drawings," a 9 minute film featuring Williams' drawings from as far back as 1953 that you're unlikely to find anywhere else. There are also a couple of other short pieces of animation by Williams that are worth checking out.

Naturally there is always room for improvement with these things. The ability to perform a keyword search and return relevant content would be useful. It would also be nice if the app remembered which exact page you were last on, instead of just the section. But these are minor criticisms of an otherwise perfect product. And the fantastic thing about the book now being in iPad format is that these kind of improvements can be made and rolled out to everyone fairly easily.

Whether you're just starting out in animation, or if you're a seasoned pro, and no matter if you work in 2D, 3D or stop motion, this iPad app will make you a better animator. Those who will benefit most from the app are readers who at least have an understanding of the basics, as much of the content is dedicated to improving the animator, not necessarily training one from scratch. But I personally believe that anyone with even as much as a passing interest in animation will enjoy The Animator’s Survival Kit iPad app. Even for the non-animator, this is a fascinating insight into the life, mind, and process of arguably the greatest living animator of our time. But for the animators among us this is quite literally a treasure trove of information the likes of which you absolutely will not find anywhere else. I can't recommend it enough.


Paul Younghusband previously served as editor of Visual Magic Magazine and has contributed to publications such as Animation World Magazine and VFX PRO.