From the Archive – Comments on “The Animation Book” (2nd edition, 2000)

The Animation Book, by Kit Laybourne, Second edition, 2000, $24.95

     I love this book. In fact, I love this book in ways that are probably being investigated by Ashcroft. For years it was considered fashionable to toss a copy of the first edition my way at any gift exchange (pharmacist-animators being so hard to buy for); after a dozen copies piled up, I saved a pair for personal use and gradually dispersed the remainder. Now a new edition has been made available, considerably expanded and updated, and it is just as wonderful for the 21st century as its first pressing was for the late 1970s. A preface by George Griffin (whose video everyone needs), an introduction by John Canemaker (whose biography on McCay remains the ultimate coffee table book) just add to the aura that emanates from this 426 page work (and holy cow, it has a flip book on the even pages, too–is there no end to this tome’s entertainment value?!) When The Animation Book‘s first edition appeared in 1979, the craft was largely self-taught. And for one growing up in the suburbs of a town populated by beings more bovine than human, it offered comfort in demonstrating techniques that seemed inherently correct, but never completely discussed in a single published source–just what super 8mm camera was the best? How many frames-to-image delay could you deal with and maintain synchronization? What kind of exposure sheet is the best–or in my case, just what does an exposure sheet look like in the first place? 
The 2000 edition discusses the digital challenges with just the same approach, offering case studies that duplicate the general challenges every new animator faces when confronted with a computer, a belligerent scanner, and several types of software that don’t necessarily speak the same language. Photoshop is dissected, pixels are explored, everything is explained in a calm, soothing fashion as if to say, “yes, you’re actually doing it right, and yes, it’s normal for everything to crash and burn, and no, it isn’t happening only to you.” 
Traditional film techniques are also discussed, if for nothing more than to impress upon the new student how easy a computer has made many functions of animation, not the least of which is the budgetary disparity between the two media. And speaking of budgets, it even offers a discussion on how to create one for a particular project. 
The Animation Book is great. Whenever I am asked to direct someone for a book on the subject, this is the first one I pull from the shelf. But it never leaves the house. I make people buy their own. And then buy a backup. I want Kit Laybourne to grow rich from selling this book. He’s put a quarter century of his life into it and deserves every nickel.
- Jim Middleton
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