This isn’t a new book release, but we’ve still received a lot of requests that we review this book. This one has been a long time coming! After all, we can’t call ourselves Animation Addicts without reviewing, recommending, and gushing over The Illusion of Life, by the legendary Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. It’s the most comprehensive book on classic Disney animation in existence!
For the uninitiated, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston are some of the best known of Disney’s Nine Old Men, a group of Disney animators who worked at the Disney studio during what many call “The Golden Age of Animation”. They were there during the production of some of the most memorable and cherished Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Lady and the Tramp. During the Golden Age, Disney sought to elevate animation to an art form. The Illusion of Life reveals how this was accomplished, from the perspective of the artists who were there.
The book recounts the beginning and early rise of Walt Disney Animation, a story that every student of animation should know by heart. But it’s much more than just a history book. In The Illusion of LIfe, Thomas and Johnston reveal the principles and techniques that were discovered and developed by Disney artists, resulting in the creation of truly magical animated films.
This is where you’ll learn all about the Twelve Principles of Animation, which Disney’s Nine Old Men developed. If you’re unfamiliar with the 12 Principles, you will be after reading the book. They’re all explained in detail, not just what each principles is but how Disney animators applied them to their craft.
Almost every other facet and technique of animation production is addressed in the book, from cel painting to syncing animation with a soundtrack. There is also ample coverage of the Disney storytelling method, and how Disney characters were developed. In a nutshell, the book is a detailed encyclopedia on the classic Walt Disney Animation pipeline.
But don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of text you’ll be reading. The Illusion of Life features hundreds of animation drawings, background paintings, animation cels, production charts, memos, and photographs from Disney’s Golden Age. It all sums up to (depending on which edition you have) over 570 pages of animation awesomeness.
You may be wondering how a book like this applies to animation today. Whether you’re a die-hard 2D animation fanatic or a future CG animator, The Illusion of Life is still relevant because the principles of classic animation are still being used today. Art styles and tools for animating may change, but today’s animators are still using the principles of timing, motion arcs, secondary action, and squash and stretch for their films. If you’re a student of animation, you should consider the Illusion of Life as required reading.