15 Animation Books Every Animator Should Read

If you were to ask experienced animators which book they consider the number one must-have for up-and-coming animators, they would most likely have different opinions.

That’s because there are so many great animation books out there breaching all the topics an animator could ever need. From 3D animation, 2D animation, motion graphics, and more, there are tons of books available on this field of work.

In this list, we take you through the 15 books every animator should read, regardless of the kind of animation they do.

1) The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams

The Animator's Survival Kit book

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This comprehensive book is an absolute essential for every animator!

It touches on everything you need to know about animation, such as the concepts of timing, spacing, runs, walks, weight, anticipation, dialogue, character animation, overlaps, and even more.

The Animator’s Survival Kit’s author, Richard Williams, definitely knows what he’s talking about. He is the Academy Award-winning director of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and underwent training from great animators such as Milt Kahl and other Disney animators.

2) The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

The Illusion of Life book

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The Illusion of Life started as an animation guide and later evolved into a book about the whole animation world.

The book explains the steps it took the original Disney animators to discover and research the best methods of animation. It also covers the history of animation as well as other things everyone should learn about animation.

The authors of the book, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, are animation legends. They were two of the nine animators who defined the Disney animation style. You might recognize some of the work in films such as Snow White, The Jungle Book, and Pinocchio.

3) Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair

Cartoon Animation book

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Cartoon Animation was originally released in 1994. Since then, it has been an excellent reference for cartoon-style animation, especially animal animation.

The book teaches animators how to create unique cartoon characters with dialogue and movements. It also touches on character development, dialogue, making lines of action, and timing.

The writer of the book, Preston Blair, was a well-known animator who worked in big animation studios such as Disney and Hanna Barbera. He worked on famous scenes in Fantasia and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

4) Character Animation Crash Course by Eric Goldberg

Character Animation Crash Course book

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Eric Goldberg puts together details and drawings about how to create characters with strong personalities in his book, Character Animation Crash Course, which comes with a CD. He analyses classic animation techniques and tells you how to bring them to life.

Whether you are animating characters in 2D or 3D, the book will give you a lot of helpful information, including observations, tips, and examples of animations from the animator’s 30 plus years of animation experience.

5) Animation for Beginners by Morr Meroz

Animation for Beginners book

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Animation for Beginners is the perfect guide for those who would like to become animators and are still new to the business. This book is a comprehensive guide made palatable for true beginners.

From chapters on the different animation types and principles to tips on making a showreel, building a portfolio, and getting an animation job, this book has it all.

It comes with a hardware and software guide for 2D, 3D, and stop motion, a list of the world’s best animation schools, and animation books that every animator should read.

The author of the book, Morr Meroz, is an animator/filmmaker based in NYC. He started a YouTube tutorial channel, which quickly led to the creation of Bloop Animation Studios, where he shares his work with a huge audience of animators.

6) Timing for Animation by Harold Whitaker and John Halas

Timing for Animation book

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Timing for Animation was originally written in 1981 by Harold Whitaker, and John Halas, then revised in 2009 by Tom Sito. This book contains a detailed analysis of character animation issues related to timing.

It includes well-written explanations of the techniques used by animators around the world.

The chapters cover movement and caricature, timing charts, objects thrown in the air, timing a slow action, Newton’s Laws of Motion, timing to suggest weight and force, and anything else an animator could possibly need to know about timing.

7) The Nine Old Men by Andreas Deja

The Nine Old Men book

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The Nine Old Men takes animators inside the minds and works of the famous first few animators of Disney.

Deja focuses on each animator and gives a detailed analysis of their animation techniques, which include acting, drawing, story structure, and execution. The analysis of every work of those nine animators will help you refine your character animation.

8) Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes by Walt Stanchfield

Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes book

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There are thousands of animation books out there, but this book, Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes, that comes in two volumes, is one of the best for animators looking to truly hone their craft.

It’s a collection of lectures from Disney animator Walt Stanchfield. In the two books, Walt teaches the most important lessons about drawing characters with vitality and gestures.

Walt Stanchfield worked for Disney since the 1950s and made a training program aimed at new animators at the Disney animation studio.

9) Animated Performance by Nancy Beiman

Animated Performance book

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Animated Performance focuses on character animation and is for advanced animation students and professional animators who already have a significant grasp on the art of animation. 

It includes a step-by-step examination of animating characters and other solid information based on the lessons that the author learned from her mentors.

Nancy Beiman has been a producer, designer, director, storyboard artist, and lead animator at several major animation studios in six countries, which includes Disney Television, Disney Features, and Warner Brothers Animation.

10) Animation: From Script to Screen by Shamus Culhane

Animation: From Script to Screen book

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This book, Animation: From Script to Screen, is one of the best animation books you can include on your bookshelf. It covers the entire process, production, and business of animation.

It also describes various animation techniques with thorough explanations about the animation production process and anecdotes that make the book a must-read.

Shamus Culhane was an award-winning animator from the 1930s until the 1980s. In this book, he shares with his readers his experience and knowledge from the Golden Age of Animation.

11) How to Make Animated Films by Tony White

How to Make Animated Films book

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How to Make Animated Films is a perfect guide to the entire process of animation. In the book, you will learn the many teaching techniques of the golden age animators from Disney and Warner Brothers studios and beyond.

It includes hands-on tutorials, sample animations, demonstrations, and more. Tony White’s teachings help anyone get closer to their goal of becoming an animator in 2D, 3D, or any kind of animation. It also includes a DVD where the author teaches concepts and principles.

Tony White is an English veteran in animation and has worked with Richard Williams on various films, cartoons, and commercials for over 30+ years. He is also one of the most lauded teachers in the animation industry and has tutored thousands of animators.

12) Animation Methods: Rigging Made Easy by David Rodriguez

Animation Methods: Rigging Made Easy book

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Animation Methods is one of the best books you can get about rigging for animation. This book teaches animators the basics of character rigging using the Maya software.

If you want to work on 3D animation, then we highly recommend this easy-to-follow book.. Rigging is often a difficult subject, especially for beginners, but this book makes it super easy to understand without the technical terms.

You also will be given exercises and instructions to help gain a better grasp of rigging characters from scratch.

David Rodriguez is a 3D character animator whose works include: Star Wars: Unleashed the Force II, Piranha, Star Wars Kinect, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and many more.

13) Directing the Story by Francis Glebas

Directing the Story book

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If you are interested in directing or storyboarding, then this book is for you. Directing the Story goes through many storytelling techniques such as pacing and cutscenes. It also introduces themes and story structure and how to create relatable characters.

Francis Glebas is an award-winning live-action filmmaker and was the story artist for Disney’s famous movies Aladdin, Lion King, Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Treasure Planet, Dinosaur, and Hercules. 

14) Animating Your Career by Steve Hickner

Animating Your Career book

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Animating Your Career contains chapters about marketing principles and soft skills about how to make yourself a valuable asset to your company as an animator and later on as a manager.

Steve Hickner began shooting pencil tests at Filmation and showed his hard work and ambition. When he gained a solid understanding of studio politics, he was able to produce famous films such as Balto and co-direct Prince of Egypt and Bee Movie.

15) The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto book

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The Win Without Pitching Manifesto’s teachings make animators rethink their business practices and focus their efforts. It covers twelve steps that animation business owners can take to rise above the competition and gain animation clients.

This book aims to inspire owners of creative firms and advertising agencies to strategize how their animation services are bought and sold.

Blair Enns is the founder and CEO of Win Without Pitching, where he coaches and trains creative professionals. Since founding the program in 2001, Blair has advised hundreds of advertising agencies and design firms on six ways to deprogram themselves from the usual approach to winning new businesses.

Wrapping It Up

There you have it! Our top 15 animation books that every animator should have on their shelf.

These books, all written by the best animation experts, present not only skills and techniques to animators, but also the mindsets and inspirations of top animators.

Reading these books will definitely help you gain more knowledge and skills and make you a better animator.

If you find this list helpful, share it with your colleagues in the animation industry!

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