One of the benefits of being an animator in today’s world is the availability of great material on character animation.  I’ve compiled a list of the ten best books for character animators to study.  Click on the pictures to buy the book at Amazon.ca (Canada).

1. The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation

This book is the bible of animation written by the legendary Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.  These guys helped define charater animation as an artform.

2. The Animator’s Survival Kit

Richard Williams masterful volume on the nuts and bolts of animation is one of the most immediately practical helps for character animators.

3. Character Animation Crash Course

Written by Disney’s lead animator Eric Golberg.

4. Cartoon Animation

This book is the classic book written by Preston Blair.

5 & 6. Drawn to Life: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures Vol. 1 & Vol. 2

Walt Stanchfield taught weekly classes in gesture drawing geared for character animators, and he also produced type written hand outs filled with sketches that were copied and smuggled out of the studio like contraband and circulated among professionals all over the world.  Now they are available in 2 volumes, and are worth every cent.  These books will become trusted friends that you will read over and over again.

7. The Nine Old Men

Who are the “nine old men”? They are Walt Disney’s team of lead animators who elevated charater animation to the standard that we know it today.

8. Timing for Animation

A classic work on character animation that provided the kind of book that Richard Williams’ Animator’s Survival Kit now fills.  This book was a workhorse and still pulls it’s weight in the midst of newer works.

9. Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life

It’s hard to measure the importance Bridgman’s book played in animation. While not a book on animation, Bridgman provided a structural and mechanical perspective of drawing the human figure that is unsurpassed in it’s value for the 2D character animator. In 3D animation this work should be required reading for modelers, riggers and animators who have to test and tweak rigged models to get life-like structure, weighting and deformations.

10. Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators

Mattesi brings a unique perspective to drawing for animation that considers movement and energy in posing the human body.

Books on Acting

A character animator is an actor.  We are not just moving things around in space, though unfortunately for many of us, that’s all we can seem to do.  If you are animating a character you are an actor, and as such, you should be reading books on acting, especially if you don’t draw, keep a sketchbook, and study gestures.  There are many acting books and methods of acting, and you should read across the field.  Here are some to start with.

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