Interviews from ‘How to Create Animation’

How To Create Animation

Back around 1990, when I first got seriously interested in animation (this is before I began taking classes at the union or even thinking about working in the industry), I sought out books on the subject. There are a ton of animation books around now, but not so many then. The Illusion of Life was great and useful (I bought literally the last copy the Disneyland bookstore had of the original print run, a slightly beaten display copy), but also pretty overwhelming. Chuck Jones had been busy writing entertaining books that I happily devoured, but these didn’t help with the specifics of the process. Shamus Culhane had written Animation From Script to Screen, which had some really useful ideas, but I couldn’t relate to much of what he wrote. The Preston Blair books were great, but seemed geared towards a type of animation no longer being done, and they also seemed incomplete.* Then I found an unassuming book called How to Create Animation, by John Cawley and Jim Korkis.

It was simply a series of interviews with animation professionals, along with plenty of animator’s ruffs and preproduction art. A few interviews were with major historical figures, like Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones, but the meat of the book was 16 interviews with animation pros in the prime of their careers. I only recognized a couple of names out of that group, like Don Bluth and Glen Keane, and I didn’t take the book too seriously when I picked it up. It was a trade paperback, with what seemed like fairly low production values, on cheap paper and in black and white. I think I bought it because it was on the sale table at a bookstore, and it had some neat drawings and illustrations of animation artwork that was, at that time, rarely seen. I didn’t expect much.

Then I started reading the book. And rereading it. Almost every interview was packed with gold. I started to understand the different animation jobs much better, and the life of a character animator suddenly became real to me. These weren’t retired guys talking about how things were done long ago, with all the glossing and nostalgia that goes with that. They were talking specifically about how they were working currently, and how the animation being released then was actually made.

I thank Mark Kennedy and his fantastic Temple of the Seven Golden Camels blog for alerting me to these interviews being online. Apparently John Cawley originally interviewed the contemporary animation pros, and those are the ones online at Cawley’s website that I linked above. The interviews with the historical figures were by Jim Korkis, and I don’t know if those can be found online. As I said in the comments on Mark’s blog, this book was hugely inspiring and influential in making me see animation as a potential career. As Mark notes, it’s a shame the artwork from the book isn’t online, too, but I recommend you check out these interviews.

*As I became an animator, I began to appreciate some of these books differently, and began to understand just how much was packed into the Preston Blair books put out by Walter T. Foster. But at the time there wasn’t nearly enough about the process of animation itself to be of major help to me. Anyway, at some point I might do a brief survey of the animation books out there, though at this point there may be more than I’m willing to go through.

4 Responses to “Interviews from ‘How to Create Animation’”

  1. DJ Says:

    cool! getting over to that link to catch some gold!!

    May be we should have some contemporary interviews with current animators too. there are a lot of blogs out there but not many with interviews with character animators.

    May be I should do that!! What do you think about that Kevin? I shall try and come up with some questions and request animators to answer them and put them up online. That would be KOOL.


  2. Kevin Says:

    Good idea, DJ. Things are a lot different than they were in 1990, though. There are a fair number of interviews online and in magazines and books and in podcasts, which didn’t used to be the case. Plus, with blogs, any animator can speak for themselves.

    I do think there still aren’t many good, in depth interviews with good rank and file animators talking about their work process and influences and so on, which is what was so great about the interviews in the Cawley-Korkis book. So if you go through with it, DJ, you might use those interviews as something of a template.

  3. Angie B. Says:

    Hi Kevin, your insights and links to these amazing animation sites and people are beyond helpful and inspiring, keep up this great work. If you could I would love to hear some of your insights on clean-up/final line and see some samples of your own work. I came across your imdb profile 🙂

    Keep blogging!
    Angie Beshara

  4. Kevin Says:

    Thanks, Angie! If you want some good insights in clean-up/final line, check out Richard Smitheman’s blog. I worked with Richard at DreamWorks, and his post that I’ve linked to got me thinking about my own transition from clean-up to animation. I’ll keep your suggestion in mind for a future post.

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The animation and animation-related musings of Kevin Koch