There are a LOT of animation books out there. In almost all of them you’ll find the standard walk cycle, an explanation of keys and in-betweens, and many animation staples that any beginner needs to know. Eric Goldberg’s Character Animation Crash Course is quite different than those books.
Eric Goldberg is perhaps best known for his supervising role on the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin. His career before and after, though, has produced dozens of memorable performances that rival the big blue sidekick. Reading through Character Animation Crash Course it’s absolutely apparent that what drives Mr. Goldberg’s animation is just that: Performance and character. While many animation books will guide you through the timing of a walk cycle, that walk cycle will be generally devoid of personality and life. Yes it will move, and be well timed and spaced, but we at Animator Island believe animation is about so much more than movement, timing and spacing. It’s about LIFE. It is about living, breathing characters who you feel a personal connection do. Eric Goldberg lives that belief.
Inside the book you’ll find chapters full of examples that take you from those “standard guides” to the real magic that the best animations display. He is a master of the pencil, and truly even the “dull, boring, what-not-to-do” example drawings leap off the page and make an aspiring draftsman like myself envious. The IMPROVED examples, what-TO-do, are even more spectacular.
Since Eric is a traditional animator, all the examples and explanations are wholly rooted in 2D traditional animation, but the principals being explained would be beautifully applied to 3D and stop motion as well. Composition, timing, and animation tricks and gimmicks are all touched on masterfully.
And really, “masterfully” is a good term to use in this case. This is not a book for beginners (though beginners could gain much from it as well) but more of a “masterclass” of animation. Inside this book are bits of wisdom for after you’ve already done some bouncing balls and lifeless, standard walk cycles. Though an index explains the lingo of animation in the front, it really isn’t for people who are just getting their feet wet. (Which, as an aside, is very good news for those of us with a little more experience since the number of “beginner” books FAR outweigh the ones like this. If you’re looking for the best of the best for beginner animators, look no further than this book here!)
Also included are some fully animated videos on a CD of many of the examples written about. This is invaluable, because even though all of Eric’s drawings seem to move on the page without video, studying the motions as they actually move takes things to a whole new level. If it were up to me, all animation books would come with such a disc. It’s necessary when talking about a moving art form. (Animation with consecutive frames making motion is just illustration.)
If I had one complaint regarding Character Animation Crash Course it would be that it only lasts 200 pages. That may seem like a lot, but the information is so valuable it would be terrific to have another 200 pages beyond that detailing all of the wisdom Eric has acquired. Mr. Goldberg if you’re reading this, please consider a sequel to this book!
The Verdict: A book for animators moving beyond the basics, Character Animation Crash Course should absolutely not be missed. If you’ve ever wondered why some animations have that “certain something” and others don’t, this book will lay it out for you and leave you craving more.