of Acting for Animators
by Linda Kudzmas
Acting for Animators
Author: Ed Hooks
Foreword: by Brad Bird
Illustrations: by Mike Caputo
dFX Review Rating: 7 out of 10
Info from Amazon.com
1. Seven Essential Action Concepts
2. The Audience
4. The Scene
5. Movement and Body Language
7. The Camera
9. The Form
10. The Medium
11. Classroom Exercises
12. The Iron Giant: An Acting Analysis
Animators by Ed Hooks is not a book filled with illustrations
of emotions, no drawings of happy, sad or mad faces or poses.
This is a book about theory; about how to breathe life into your
character, not just stamping a preconceived cookie cutter facial
expression on him. This is not a how-to-animate or a beginner's
book; you should know how to animate either at professional level
or advanced student.
Ed Hooks is
a veteran acting instructor, teaching acting on the professional
level for over twenty years and the author of three books. He
was hired in 1996 by Pacific Data Images to teach acting to the
character animators working on ANTZ. He freely admits he
had no knowledge of the animation process at the time; squash
and stretch were foreign terms, but he was ready for the challenge.
Since then, he is more familiar with the technical process and
conducts acting workshops for animators (including on site instruction)
I was surprised
at the length of Acting for Animators. At a mere 125 pages, plus
a interactive CD, I figured it would be a light read; maybe a
day or two on the train as I commuted to work. I couldn't have
been more wrong.
Animators is crammed full of techniques, examples, and theories.
It took me almost a month to read it cover to cover. Ed would
give so many examples of the point he was trying to make, I would
have to go back and read what point he was trying to make in the
first place. I would read a section, then set the book down to
digest the information, and find myself having to read over the
same section, sometimes multiple times, and still not grasp the
concept Hooks was trying to explain. A colleague of mine, who
had also ordered the book, had the same problem and she gave up,
never finishing it.
some suggestions, that when I read them the first time I almost
became outraged; concepts that went against very grain of how
I learned to animate. At one point, he called anticipation 'cheap'
animation. When I read this, I closed the book in disgust. It
was a few days before I could continue reading, and when I did
Hook's intent became clearer. It is better to project the emotion
rather than the action. More subtle movements that illustrate
what the character is thinking have more impact rather than large,
In one section,
the author writes that animators who use mirrors for facial expressions
are doing half the work, and in another he advises animators to
abandon mirrors and use video. I shook my head in contempt. Give
up my mirror? Never. Reading further I began to understand
his reasoning. Using a mirror is mimicry; you're not drawing the
acting, but what the acting looks like. I'm not ready to throw
away my mirror, but I did understand the limitations as he explained
One of the
hardest sections for me to comprehend was Chapter 5: Movement
and Body Language. Hooks uses Laban Movement Theory for dancing,
based on movement and space. He sights eight basic Movements,
each having six Changes of Effort. Any character can have one
or a combination of Movements, along with one of the rhythmic
Changes of Effort. In the interactive CD-ROM that is included
with the book, it has a segment on the Laban Movement Theory that
complements the chapter, along with showing an example of each
Movement. (I do have to warn you not to view the CD until you
read this section. The actor demonstrating 'Wring' is quite a
sight unless you understand why and what he's illustrating). I
suggest readers take Hook's advice and acquire Laban for Action
and Dancers by Jean Newlove to help understand this theory in
one of the bright spots in the book included Chapter 3: Character.
He concentrates on personality animation, guiding you through
creating a character's profile. Even though the information you
assign to a character might never make it to a scene, it is still
quite valuable. He compares a character to an iceberg, there is
much more under the surface than what we see. Although character
analysis is not a new concept, Hooks brings creating character
personalities to a new level.
One of the
most helpful sections I found to be was Chapter 12: An Acting
Analysis. It takes selected scenes from the Brad Bird's The
Iron Giant and gives a concise explanation of character movement,
making it an excellent study of animation acting.
Also on the
CD is a segment covering Chapter 1: Seven Essential Acting Concepts.
Hook's has included three scenes as examples, acted with the same
two actors and using the exact same script. Each scene is quite
different than the others, a great study of body language and
in the book (by Mike Caputo) although not obtrusive, were uninspired.
Some were drawn as roughs and although have good line of action,
have skeletal structure problems, arms would protrude from the
chest cavity. Detailed drawings had little or no line quality.
When I finished
the book and set it aside, there was more I didn't understand
than did. It was an exhausting task. I found it extremely difficult
to follow. I felt Hooks had taken one of his Acting for Animator
workshops and documented it. My first impression that it was written
for someone taking the workshop rather than replacing it.
until several weeks later, as I was revising my own character
design for an independent project, things I had read and didn't
understand fell into place. I picked the book up again and this
time, when I read it, I started applying it to my characters.
I had a better grasp of the theories and concepts when I applied
them rather than just reading about them. My characters started
to take on personality traits and a depth I would have never imagined
if I hadn't persevered and finished the book.
when you read this book, have a character and scene ready on the
sidelines to implement the theories. Treat each chapter as an
exercise and put your character through its paces.
Like an iceberg,
this book has much more beneath the surface than you first see.
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Acting for Animators by clicking
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