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Cartoon Classes and Recommended Reading for Animators

Recommended Reading:

StylusaurusWell, the secret is out! Mark has jam-packed a book full of information on how you can work with the greatest animation device since the WACOM tablet, a software package called Flash! The title is The Art of Flash Animation: Creative Cartooning, and is now available on Amazon.com, or directly from the publisher, Wordware.com, a software publisher in Texas.

And don't think it's ONLY about Flash. Mark set out to write the manual not only on Flash Animation that he wished he had to begin with, but also a primer on animation from script to storyboards and layout, from character design to inking, scanning, and/or digitizing your drawings with a WACOM tablet.

Mark even goes in-depth to talk about getting a job in animation! In the last chapter, he interviews animators from Turner Studios' Cartoon Network. They talk about the importance of career networking, figure drawing, favorite Disney animators, and more!

And if all THAT wasn't enough, Mark even has a bunch of Tales from Tangent Man, nice little anecdotes about his own experiences getting started in animation. (For instance, can you believe at age 16, he made his now infamously sarcastic remark: "Animation? That's for children!" Find out why, by reading his book... and better yet, what film changed his mind!) He even includes a personal wish list of great animated films STILL not available on DVD!

Hey! What's wrong with you? You STILL haven't ordered a copy of his book? Get to it! (Poor guy's gotta make his car payment somehow! Seriously...)

How to Draw Cartoon Animation
by Preston Blair

In this comprehensive, definitive book, acclaimed cartoon animator Preston Blair shares his vast practical knowledge to explain and demonstrate the magic of cartoon animation as well as many of his extraordinary techniques. Blair shows you how to develop a cartoon character’s shape, personality, features, and mannerisms; how to create movements such as walking, running, stretching, and dancing; and how to construct dialogue and coordinate it with movement. Full of familiar and famous sketches, drawings, and other artwork, cartoon Animation is a book no cartoon animation enthusiast should be without!

Animator's Survival Kit
A Manual of Methods, Principles, and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion, and Internet Animators
by Richard Williams
The definitive book on animation, from the Academy Award-winning animator Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (available at Amazon.com).

Cartoon Classes - Introduction:
In response to the question, how do you work?

I have to work in silence. Ever since I took the Animation MasterClass from Richard Williams (Roger Rabbit's Animation Director), I've had to work in silence. In his book, the Animator's Survival Kit, Richard's got a terrific caricature of the incident between himself and Disney's Milt Kahl, explaining--at the top of his lungs--the importance of working in silence. (I'll let you look for yourself; this terrific book is available on Amazon.com) The members of his class get a hysterical performance recreating the "incident" from Mr. Williams himself.

In summary, a photo of himself after the "incident" shows Mr. Williams wearing a shirt reading (on the back, to discourage interruptions), "Animation is concentration."

Up until the time I took the class (in San Francisco, 1997), I liked working with instrumental music (usually movie scores, or classical) playing. But after receiving this groundbreaking revelation, I noticed that I worked better in silence. I could focus, and do better work, and more productive work, in a shorter amount of time.

Oddly enough, when I got back to my job (at KinderCare, where I was a Multimedia specialist) working on a Kinderoo informational CD with animation, I found even the most casual conversations between my coworkers were highly distracting. I solved the problem by a pair of ear protectors I had bought for working with noisy power tools. (Sorry, folks, but it's true. I hope my former co-workers don't read this...)

I've used The Animator's Survival Kit as an unofficial secondary textbook in my Character Animation Class I teach at Auburn University Montgomery; I'm requiring it next semester (The official textbook is currently Preston Blair's Cartoon Animation book from Walter Foster.) So naturally, I tell my students the same advice. Rule #1: Unplug! Turn off the radio, the CD player, the TV, yank those earphones off your head!

Oh, sure I cheat. I'll admit that. But only after I've done my planning work. I'll usually do my thumbnails (if any) or work straight with my light blue Col-Erase pencils onto Bristol, with no sound.

Once I'm done PLANNING, after my staging, layout, or character drawings are done, THEN I'll cheat. When I start inking (with a brush or my favorite Pilot Precise V7 pens, which make for nice line art scans/photocopies), I'll usually allow myself some classical music, or a nice music score like Jerry Goldsmith's Legend, or Marc Shaiman's The Addams Family. Or maybe even Alan Silvestri's Roger Rabbit music. The point is, I MUST have silence to plan, but I'll ALLOW myself music to ink.

Mark S. Smith

Character Animation
Tiger TeacherMark has taught Character Animation at Auburn University Montgomery's Fine Arts Department since 1995. Character Animation is one of the requirements for Graphic Design majors, and can be repeated for credit. In the class, it is the responsibility of each student to produce a 20-30 second animated cartoon. That may sound simple enough, but when one discovers that animation for video requires 30 frames or drawings per second (in film, it takes 24 frames per second), a student begins to realize all the work ahead. The student has to draw storyboards, record, mix and break down the soundtrack into frames, and then draw, ink, scan and color the characters and backgrounds. Think that's all? Not quite. The student then has to arrange the characters' many drawings (in registration, in order) in MacroMedia Director, the multimedia animation program used to teach the class since Mark first took it in 1990.

Youth College Classes
Desktop Animation Students And Their InstructorDebbie Dahl of AUM's Continuing Education Division got word of Mark's animation class and thought it might be interesting to offer a week-long workshop of the college-level class to high school students in AUM's Youth College program. Mark called this workshop the Desktop Animation class, and has since taught four Desktop Animation workshops over the past three summers.

Student Thank YouSince 1998, Mark has added Flipbook Animation, Cartoon Construction, and Drawing Comics to his Youth College duties.

Pictured at left is a Thank-You card from one of his most attentive students, a talented young lady who shows a lot of promise.

When any teacher wonders if they're doing any good to their students, all it takes is a sweet card like the one pictured here to calm any doubts.

Anyone interested in taking any of these or other classes at AUM's Youth College can contact AUM's Continuing Education Division at www.conedweb.aum.edu

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