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Creating Animated Shorts (recommended reading?)


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Hi Guys,

I was curious if you had any favourite books and recommended reading on animation / creating shorts?

Been reading more about screenwriting lately also wondering if there are good books specifically about writing for animation?

 

:)

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It's probably too late to warn you but don't bother with Robert McKee's "Story."

He was quite the rage 15 years ago.

He is spoken of as if he is one of the screenwriting gurus of Hollywood and yet the apex of his career seems to have been writing one episode of "Spencer for Hire."

He taught screenwriting at USC? How did that happen?

 

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Hahaha.. too late for that, already listened to the audiobook by Mckee.

I got the sense his book became popular because a lot of productions were lacking
good story development,  so many movies were wowing audiences with VFX
it was like they forgot to actually write a story. 

Been reading Screenwriting for Dummies and enjoying it more than "Story"

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I have "SfD" but haven't gotten to it yet. Likewise for "Save the Cat"

There are a plethora of animation books available now but I'm not sure their studio world advice scales down well to the single animator.

"Prepare to Board" by Nancy Beiman wasn't bad. I thought it would be about storyboarding but it's mostly about everything you have to do before that. The first edition can be had used inexpensively.

"Directing the Story" by Francis Glebas I would rate lower but it is about story development (feature, not short). I'd wait for a used copy to come up for $10.

 

The most fascinating animation-related book I've read is (famous Disney instructor) Don Graham's "Composing Pictures". It's not about story nor about animation really but about arranging elements within the frame. Just about every page is something I didn't know people though much about but it turned out there was lots to think about that thing. Better than any class I've taken. Unfortunately it is out of print again and very expensive, even used.

 

 

 

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you know my daughter keeps wanting to get into screen writing and asking for "how to's". I keep telling her to just write..write the story get it on paper, tell it feel it. When the characters are doing the talking then you have the story.

Then and only then should you format it into script form.

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4 hours ago, robcat2075 said:

I have "SfD" but haven't gotten to it yet. Likewise for "Save the Cat"

There are a plethora of animation books available now but I'm not sure their studio world advice scales down well to the single animator.

"Prepare to Board" by Nancy Beiman wasn't bad. I thought it would be about storyboarding but it's mostly about everything you have to do before that. The first edition can be had used inexpensively.

"Directing the Story" by Francis Glebas I would rate lower but it is about story development (feature, not short). I'd wait for a used copy to come up for $10.

 

The most fascinating animation-related book I've read is (famous Disney instructor) Don Graham's "Composing Pictures". It's not about story nor about animation really but about arranging elements within the frame. Just about every page is something I didn't know people though much about but it turned out there was lots to think about that thing. Better than any class I've taken. Unfortunately it is out of print again and very expensive, even used.

 

 

 

Thanks Robert, everything you mentioned sounds really interesting,  Will be looking into them.

 

3 hours ago, fae_alba said:

you know my daughter keeps wanting to get into screen writing and asking for "how to's". I keep telling her to just write..write the story get it on paper, tell it feel it. When the characters are doing the talking then you have the story.

Then and only then should you format it into script form.

Thank you Paul!   Good old elbow grease sounds like one of the best teachers one can ask for :D

 

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Also... Unless you've just emerged from underneath a rock which was underneath yet another rock you are already familiar with "The Animator's Survival Kit" by Richard Williams. It is full of essential nuts and bolts character animation advice although I have noticed computer animators seem to have trouble transferring its lessons to 3D CG workflow. There are many cheap used copies out there but it is hard to know if they are selling the 1st edition or the expanded edition.

 

"The Disney Villain" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston is not a landmark of animation literature like their "Illusion of Life" was but it gives their insider appraisal of just about every bad guy (turns out, they are not all women and cats) ever to appear in Disney animation, mostly with a "what went wrong" analysis.  These are available cheaply used.

 

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Like most animation blogs there hasn't been much activity on it lately, but Mark Kennedy's

Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

Everything I know about the art of storyboarding.

 

...contains many useful essays about storyboarding and layout and related concerns. He can often distill it all down to a simple aphorism like

 

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1 hour ago, robcat2075 said:

Like most animation blogs there hasn't been much activity on it lately, but Mark Kennedy's

Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

Everything I know about the art of storyboarding.

 

...contains many useful essays about storyboarding and layout and related concerns. He can often distill it all down to a simple aphorism like

 

Excellent resource Robert.
favourite quote I've seen on there so far:

"The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder"
- Alfred Hitchcock

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Robert mentions the book on Villains by Thomas and Johnston (and their 'Illusion of LIfe' of course is well known to animators) but their other book 'Too Funny For Words:  Disney's Greatest Sight Gags' provides good insight into how to 'write' animated sequences without words.

 

The concept of 'the gag' has largely fallen out of favor but the underlying idea of entertainment and humor is still just as popular.

Something I find interesting is how Disney got the entire staff involved in coming up with good storytelling visuals and some even made some extra income by submitting gags that were used in their films.  I'm sure it led to more than a few promotions as well.

In part 2 Frank and Ollie break gags down into the following basic categories.

  • The Spot Gag
  • The Running Gag
  • The Gag-That-Builds
  • The Action Gag
  • The Tableau Gag
  • The Inanimate Character Gag
  • The Funny Drawing
  • Specialized Gags (Color, Effects and Caricature)

It is also very interesting to me how this approach to 'writing' pulls in aspects of thumbnailing, brainstorming, storyboards, etc.

The whole idea being that while dialogue and other elements of story are important it is essential to tell the story through visuals; pantomime, character, performance, mood, etc. to the point where the story can be told without them but then is plussed up even more through their inclusion.

The Disney approach was of course heavily influenced by silent film and that carries through well into caricatured performances.

Most of the illustrations in the book have been posted online in some form or fashion over the years but the book is unique in it's collecting of the story gags into general categories.  This not to present a formulaic approach so much as to explore what makes visual storytelling work.  This thought and theory then can be applied to the creation of shorts and films in animation or live action.

 

Note:  There are several books with the title 'Too Funny for Words' out there so if purchasing online make sure it's the right one.  

 

Too funny for words.png

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34 minutes ago, Rodney said:

... 'Too Funny For Words:  Disney's Greatest Sight Gags' provides good insight into how to 'write' animated sequences without words.

The concept of 'the gag' has largely fallen out of favor...

 

I'm reminded of a network exec's explanation of why the Leslie Nielsen comedy, "Police Squad" had failed on television.

"The problem was, you had to watch it."

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Leslie Nielsen.... who carried fart machine around the set to lighten things up...

his tombstone reads

 

"Let Er Rip"

 

 

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hahaha good one.


I remember being confused watching his older stuff, waiting for him to crack a joke that never came.  Most comedians these days get into drama later in their career he was the opposite.

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