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The Alchemy of Animation - Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age

General Information:

Media Type: Book
Type: Other
Release Date: 2008-10-07

Geek's Thoughts: The Disney Editions release The Alchemy of Animation, Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age by Don Hahn was an informative read. The author of book is well known to many disneygeeks, Don Hahn is the producer of many recent classics like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The best way to describe this book is a tutorial on the process of making an animated film. It is a guide to what all those people’s names you see when the closing credits scroll by, with titles you do not quite understand, do. I believe the title is a perfect fit and the choice of the word alchemy interesting. I was curious as to the use so I looked it up. According to dictionary.com alchemy is: any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value. This 144 page soft cover book does a great job of describing this process and it is packed with over 400 illustrations and photographs from Disney films. I found it to be a quick read that was easy to understand the roles of the various people and how the film comes together. It is by no means a textbook style or dense book to read. The book is broken into three acts, just as a play would be. The first act looks at the common, starting, elements in animated films, such as the story, voices, or the production team. Act two is the meat of the book and it looks at the process to create the three main type of animated films, computer generated, traditional 2-D hand drawn, and stop motion. The final act wraps it up and talks a little about launching/marketing the film.


Overall I really enjoyed the book and thought it did a great job of going through the animation process and describing some of the differences between the three animation methods. I thought the stop-motion animation section was rather thin and could have been a little more in depth, but maybe the differences just are not that great and after going through the other two techniques already there was not that much new to add, but I still would have liked to have seen more. The computer generated section was by far the longest and was explored to the deepest extent. Being a computer geek I would have liked to have seen/read a bit more about the number crunching power needed to create the films. They hint at it and talk about rooms of computers and the long render times but I think this is extremely interesting and would have liked to have seen a bit more. Also a more in depth look at how computers have really come into play with the other two techniques too. Again this is briefly discussed and hinted at in passing, but not really explored. I am guessing the reason is the book is really about the modern age but having perspective is not a bad thing either.

I found the photos and illustrations used throughout the book to be great illustrations of the points, and great pieces of art to look at. They included selections ranging from old Snow White sketches up through yet to be released films such as the Princess and the Frog, Rapunzel and Bolt. With the quality and selection of shots I am surprised this is not being offered in hard cover.

I thought the glossary in the back to be a nice touch. For reference though I would have liked to have had page numbers for the entries so it would be a combined index/glossary. So you could quickly jump to that section of the book if desired.

If you are interested in animation and the process of making an animated film I think this is a perfect reference and first read. It really gives you a great view of the process that is interesting and easy to follow and the price point is reasonable too, one advantage of a soft cover book.

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