Why Your Bookshelf Was Made To Hold “Directing Animation” By David B. Levy

Bill Plympton's Cover giving Mona ideas.

They say God created the earth in seven days although I have a sneaking feeling that if he hired David Levy, he would have got the job done in five, and still found time to write a book about it.

Theological jokes aside, David really is that hard working. Besides being an animator, he’s also a teacher, President of ASIFA-East and if that wasn’t enough, he’s also managed to find the hours in the day to write three, count ’em, three books over the last couple of years. Suffice to say, he puts those of us who take a full 8 hours of sleep to shame!

Directing Animation the third part of the Holy Trinity installment of animation books written by him, the previous two being Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive and Animation Development: From Pitch to Production. If you haven’t already read those, they are an absolute must, even if, like me, you don’t work in animation on a day-to-day basis.

With those two successful and critically acclaimed books under his belt (and under my bed), David has unleashed his third masterpiece where he zeroes in on a very important position in the animation process.

As a seasoned director on [Adult Swim]’s Assy McGee and numerous shows before that, David is well placed to write this book. Sure there are the technical aspects to the job like laying out a scene, timing shots, etc. but there was definitely a gap on the bookshelf when it came to managing the human element of the process.

Thankfully, that gap has been filled thanks to Directing Animation. Chock full of sage, professional advice from the best in the industry and plenty of tales of both the good and not so good side of the job (but mostly the good side).

With a focus on what it takes to be a director, being dropped in at the deep and and devoting a chapter each to indie films, commercials, TV series, feature films and the internet, Directing Animation covers all the bases you could expect to meet as an animation director and then some!

With such a broad range of topics to cover, one might think the books skims over one or two of them. Not so! The utmost attention has been paid to every aspect of the book and with such a broad range of folks interviewed, there is no doubt that you will be thoroughly prepared to direct once you have finished reading it.

As I was reading the book, I realised that when it comes to animation, there is much more to it than just TV shows and films from the big boys. The prevalence of indie shorts and flash animation on the web has made it so that anyone can become a director, even if you’re only just out of school! Directing Animation is excellent in its coverage of these slightly less well known areas of the animation landscape.

David’s conversational writing style makes the 240 pages fly by with ease and yet everything he has to say is easily absorbed. Add in to the mix his impeccable sense of humour and wit and you have an altogether excellent read from start to finish.

Directing Animation is not a book to be glossed over, even if you don’t think of yourself as a director, you will realise you are taking away much more than you expect. It is thoroughly recommended for anyone even remotely involved in the animation scene.

Directing Animation can be purchased over on Amazon.com.

 

Animation Art: A Review Of The Book That Changed My Life

OK, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It didn’t so much change my life as pop up in a pretty unusual place (a Borders in Bowie, Maryland). I like to think that a certain amount of fate was involved with that occasion.

I’m not a writer. In fact if you’ve read anything at all on this blog, it should be fairly obvious that my writing skills are, I suppose, not very good. I was a perennial ‘C’ student in English throughout school, except that one essay I wrote on Sylvia Plath. Where my vitriol managed to impress the teacher enough to earn me a very rare ‘B’.

I therefore have a lot of respect for people who write books. Not necessarily fiction mind you, that’s a skill in and of itself. I’m talking about non-fiction, in particular the type of book that covers a wide range of topics and time periods but depends on a bit of commentary to keep everything flowing along.

It should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoy the book pictured above. Edited by the supremely capable Jerry Beck and with a variety of contributors ranging from Chris Robinson to Mark Mayerson, Animation Art is a fantastic tome on the artform that is animation.

The book itself is filled with plenty of pictures, but of course, that is only part of the story. The text itself is a joy to read. It never preaches and is organized on a two-page spread layout, i.e. every two pages is a different topic, and there are a lot of topics.

As explained on the cover, the book covers “From Pencil to Pixel, the World of Cartoon, Anime, and CGI”. With animation having been around for almost a century, that’s a pretty tall order, which I am pleased to say the book delivers on. Literally everything is covered at some point, from George Pal’s Puppetoons, to the first animation made in Japan, to the wobbles Disney went through in the 1970s, from Hanna-Barbera to The Powerpuff Girls and so on.

Amazon is listing a delivery date of about several months down the line. In my opinion, this is a book that is well worth the wait, especially if you are not as well versed in the background of animation as you would like. Even now, five years later, I continue to thumb through it fairly regularly.

Now I enjoy a lot of things in life, like Gaelic football, In The Mood: The Best of the Big Bands with Ken Jackson and of course, that feeling at 5 o’clock on a Friday evening. This book, in a way, confirmed for me that animation really is a passion of mine and after reading it, I felt renewed enthusiasm for the artform. Since then, I’ve joined ASIFA-East and have met many, many fine animators in addition to the usual famous faces.

After all that, I can safely say that the 1 to 3 month wait for shipping on Amazon.com is well worth it. No other book is put together as beautifully or with the passion that the writers and editor have for the artform.