Book of the week

The book of the week this week is called The illusion of life: Disney animation and can be found at shelfmark 791.44 THO on Level 5 of the library.

The illusion of life

The world of digital technologies has created all sorts of fantastic possibilities for the representations of real and imagined phenomena, environments and characters. The opportunities for using these technologies is continuing to expand though film and TV, computer games, internet and mobile media and many other aspects of creative business.

The world of digital technologies has created all sorts of fantastic possibilities for the representations of real and imagined phenomena, environments and characters. The opportunities for using these technologies is continuing to expand though film and TV, computer games, internet and mobile media and many other aspects of creative business.

The skills and knowledge involved using such technologies cross many disciplinary boundaries. For example, imbuing a character with believable movement, body language, expression and emotion, involves computing expertise, mathematics, visual arts, storytelling and acting, behavioural sciences and some understanding of how the physics and mechanics of movement work. A character that walks in a way that counters the mechanics of their joints, or that does not show their weight interacting with ground, will immediately distract an audience. The wrong expressions or body-language queues can destroy the meaning of a scene.

The talents and expertise of a digital media professional take years to learn and hone. It is a lifelong process in which there will always be something new to learn and to improve upon. An essential part of personal and professional development is to review and reflect upon the foundations of a subject area or profession, and to look back at the way in which people worked and found solutions to their problems in the past.

Thomas and Johnston wrote this book after careers as Disney animators that ran from the mid-1930s until their retirement in 1978. They worked on many of the most successful films of Disney’s golden period. More importantly they were from a generation of media professionals that found ways to overcome the fundamental challenges of creating successful animation and developed techniques and workflows that can still be related to today.

The illusion of life

This book introduces you to some of the most talented and capable animators at Disney,and looks at their working methods, their achievements and the successful creative work culture they engendered. There is explanation of the principles and techniques that were developed in the production of the feature length animated movies along with plenty of illustrations and diagrams. The 14 principles of animation relating to movement, expression, dialogue, physics and characterisation (p47) are as relevant now as they were when they were drawn up and put  on to celluloid. They should still be known by anyone seeking to visualise and represent characters and objects moving on a digital screen. This book has some luxurious colour images from Disney movies, but they should be viewed as supplementary to the illustrative drawings in the book that show the development of stories and characters from concept sketch through to completed scene.

If you’d like to join in with our book of the week feature you can add a comment about this book, or tell us your own recommendation and who knows, maybe they’ll feature in a future book of the week post!

 

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