Art Books, Reviews

[BOOK REVIEW] Animation Rules!

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They say to survive in the creative industries you need to be at least two of three things: nice, good, and fast. But how do you develop those qualities? In this humble young animator’s opinion, your first step should be picking up a copy of Animation Rules! 52 Ways to Achieve Creative Success

Animation Rules! is both written and illustrated by Steve Hickner of DreamWorks Animation. Having worked 30 years in the animation industry, he’s obviously gathered a lot of valuable wisdom about navigating a successful career in animation. It’s an easy-to-read, yet highly informative compilation of the unwritten “rules” for having a successful creative career.


Fitting into the fast-paced, competitive, and highly collaborative field of animation requires you to be talented, knowledgeable, disciplined, and affable. Hickner’s 52 “rules” will start you on the right track for developing these attributes. While reading Animation Rules!, I was surprised by how much I learned from such a relatively short book. While there are literally hundreds of books on how to start and maintain a creative career, Animation Rules! manages to be all the more to-the-point without losing substance.

Animation Rules! covers everything from portfolios, giving successful pitches and presentations, self-improvement, tips for career longevity, the importance of teamwork, and much more. The rules are divided up into several categories and they lead well into each other. Overall, the book has a good flow.

Each rule is accompanied by a number of personal anecdotes from Mr. Hickner’s life, as well as hypothetical explanations and examples from history. Each rule is also garnished with quirky “Goofus and Gallant”-style illustrations that further support his points. As a visual learner, I appreciated the funny illustrations and it was fun to see “personal” artwork from Mr. Hickner himself.


I finished Animation Rules! within two days of casual reading, although I plan on revisiting the book many times for a refresher. Another idea for internalizing the book’s 52 “rules” is to focus on one every week – a good approach if you’re a student. If you’re hungry for more advice from Steve Hickner, check out his first book, Animating Your CareerI highly recommend reading both books because they go very well together.



Animation Rules! on Amazon
Animating Your Career on Amazon

About the Author


Steve Hickner has worked in the animation industry for over thirty years. He has worked at a number of studios, including Walt Disney Animation Studios and Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation. At Amblimation he was a producer for An American Tail: Fievel Goes West and Balto. He eventually moved to DreamWorks animation, where he directed the films The Prince of Egypt and Bee Movie. He was also a story artist for Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Shrek Forever AfterOver the HedgeMadagascarShark Tale, and Antz. He recently began working on DreamWorks’ theme park projects. He frequently lectures at universities throughout the United States.

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About Mason Smith

Mason is a rigger/animator at Triseum Games. He's also a grad student at Texas A&M working on his Master's thesis. He loves talking about animation, watching old Godzilla flicks, listening to 80s music, and drawing cartoons. Bottom text.