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The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation
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The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  3,286 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
The most complete book ever written on the subject, this is the fascinating inside story, told by two long-term Disney animators, of the gradual perfection of a relatively young and particularly American art form--which no other movie studio has been able to equal.
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published October 5th 1995 by Disney Editions (first published 1981)
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Ewoks This site has nothing to do with piracy mate. Sorry but nobody will give you book here, we just write about reviews, our opinions and how we like some…moreThis site has nothing to do with piracy mate. Sorry but nobody will give you book here, we just write about reviews, our opinions and how we like some book. Better buy this one, own it. You will thank us later :)(less)

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Dec 04, 2012 Parka rated it it was amazing

(More pictures at

Of the many books on animation and Disney, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation is probably the best. Written by two of Disney's famous Nine Old Men, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, this book goes back to where animation was born, made and enjoyed by people all over the world.

At 576 pages, this huge volume probably covers lots of ground on animation except the how-to-do-it part since this isn't really a tutorial book. There are plenty of illustrious stories o
Aug 08, 2015 Daniel rated it it was amazing
This is probably the most important book written in the subject of animation, even though familiarity with the subject has grown since its writing.

It chronicles two top Disney animators' impressions on how the Disney studio studied and codified its approach to animated film in the 1930s, which is almost certainly the most formative period of the medium.

They set up a list of basic animation principles and focus on each one in turn. They go through each of the different departments, explaining wha
Herman Litt
Apr 28, 2011 Herman Litt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animation-books
“We seem to know when to ‘tap the heart.’ Others have hit the intellect. We can hit them in an emotional way. Those who appeal to the intellect only appeal to a very limited group. The real thing behind this is: we are in the motion picture business, only we are drawing them instead of photographing them.” - Walt Disney

Wonderful and informative. From Walt's Nine Old Men, basic principles, the many glimpses into the workings of the animators at Disney's during the Golden Age and more. 5/5!!

"The A
Feb 13, 2009 Rob rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves animation.
Although this book is not a quick read, it doesn't make it a dull book by any means. In fact, the book is filled with inspiration for anyone who is creative. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston take you into the heart of the "Disney magic" by giving history lessons and animation lessons on every page. I look forward to reading this book every night.

I recently bought a blu-ray player and have been picking up the few Disney classics that are available. The discs are feature rich and have documentaries
Oct 20, 2007 Varmint rated it it was amazing
every year the mouse cranks out a dozen bland management approved histories of the early films. this is not one of them.

i paid way too much for a first edition, a year before the reprint. but i had to have it. this bookis a real insight into the minds of disney's nine old men. and served as a primer for a generation of animators.

indespensible with my blair and muybridge.

Aug 08, 2009 Krystal rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, disney, art
This is a fabulous read for anyone interested in animation, not just Disney animation. Two of the greats look at how animation developed into the art form it is today from the beginnings of Mickey up to The Rescuers. Full of great drawings and art from the films, it also gives you an inside look at how Walt ran the studio and how some of the most beautiful animation scenes were filmed.
Nina Harp
Sep 17, 2012 Nina Harp rated it really liked it
I took this book up mainly because of the writers themselves, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, founding fathers of hand drawn animation. Thought it may be more of a tutorial book but is more of the history of animation and principles behind Disney's early years. Loved it very much.
Kristen Cummings
Aug 15, 2016 Kristen Cummings rated it it was amazing
This is without a doubt the animator's bible. Reads like a novel, but full of priceless information on the craft.
Mar 31, 2016 Matea rated it it was amazing
It's a very well-writen and interesting read. I found it both fascinating and educational, and therefore enjoyed it very much.
I even read more than I needed for my classes :D
Jul 16, 2009 Fes rated it really liked it
I don't can ever finish this book. As an animator, it's your bible. A book that you always reference when you're in a bind.
Liston Morris
Mar 20, 2008 Liston Morris rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books that an animator can own. It is a detailed account of the development of the Disney animation process.
Regina Hunter
Jan 28, 2011 Regina Hunter rated it really liked it
Had to read it, since it is a miracle when I see my bf reading things... 15 books in his life!
Mar 25, 2010 Jie added it
It's a great book,from it I found my caricature dream!
Araz Kelian
Sep 13, 2016 Araz Kelian rated it really liked it
Insightful and interesting to hear about all the problems / solutions of the early animators.
I believe it's "good to have read" for anyone in the industry.

And chapeau bas for all the artists back then.
Gijs Grob
Aug 16, 2012 Gijs Grob rated it really liked it
Rijkelijk geïllustreerd boek over de animatietechnieken, die bij Disney ontwikkeld en gebruikt werden tussen ca. 1934 en 1980, door twee van Disney's grootste animatoren, Frank Thomas en Ollie Johnston.

Het boek is noch een historisch overzicht noch een leerboek, maar heeft iets van beide. Het zit vol met tips & tricks, uitleg en voorbeelden, maar het bevat ook portretten van animators en veel anekdoten.

Voor historici is het boek uiteindelijk frustrerend, omdat Thomas & Johnston stelselma
Oct 16, 2016 Dean rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference, animation
I got lucky and found this book for a mere $5 at an antique mall, but it is worth far more than that. Written by two of Disney's legendary Nine Old Men, this book tells the story of Disney animation, from the early experiments of Walt and Ub Iwerks all the way up to Disney becoming the animation powerhouse we know it as today. But it isn't just the history that this book gives. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston go into amazing depth in discussing all the basic techniques of animation and how they ...more
Robert Fritz
Jan 05, 2016 Robert Fritz rated it it was amazing
I first read this book about a decade ago. At Savannah College of Art & Design, I was told it was a must read for animators... and yes it truly is. I recently purchased the HUGE hard-bound copy to share with my animation students and once again enjoyed both the organization and the voice(s) of the book.
If this is your cup of tea, you simply MUST watch the movie "Frank and Ollie" available on DVD. It's a great movie about the two authors of the book and very engaging. (It is a "kind of" docu
Bob Szesnat
I got this book when I was around ten. I wanted to be a Disney Animator more then life its self growing up. My aunt bought me this book one Christmas.
Through the years I devoured it. Teaching the fundamentals of traditional animation it is a most have for any one interested in the subject.
Though it doesn't deal with the digital age, lots have changed, I still recommend it. The basics have not changed and the wisdom and history of the animation process is something any animator or animation stu
Aug 25, 2015 Annie rated it it was amazing
This is THE book on animation. The others may imitate it, there's no replacement. The best part of this book is the breakdown it gives of exactly how the Disney animators did what they did during the Golden Age of animation. This may be the book that saved animation. If you want to do animation or you're just very passionate about it, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on a copy. Ollie Johnson
Dec 29, 2016 Ian rated it liked it
A tease of a book. Thomas and Johnston's experience and insights are invaluable, and they're brave enough to write about the definitive aesthetics of a medium, and they're great at explaining a subject's surface, but whenever they try to go deeper than that, they wander off into platitudes.

There's a lot of wasted real estate. Daydreaming about what the book would be like if they'd worked with a writer is very frustrating.
May 07, 2015 Shopgirl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a Christmas present from my mom when I was about 12. She got it on the discount rack at Kmart and I used this book so much that both the front and back cover have fallen off. I just took it out and looked through it again last night, to find something to stretch my drawing muscles on since I haven't done any drawing in 15 years now. It's every bit as wonderful and full of inspiration as I remember it being. My daughter loves looking through it too.
Zee Risek
May 01, 2015 Zee Risek rated it it was amazing
This is the Bible of classical animation. It's as much a autobiography of Disney's Nine Old Men, as it is an educational book on the principals of animation. The Illusion of Life is an inspiration, a resource manual, an autobiography, and a collective work of art, all rolled into one. It contains tons of artwork from the best in the business. This book is a must have for anyone in the animation industry.
Nate Berna
Mar 15, 2016 Nate Berna rated it it was amazing
This is a first hand account of the history of animation from two of the men who helped invent it. This book is a monster and packed from corner to corner with useful information and methods.

After animator's survival kit I'd put this at the second most valuable book an animator could learn from, maybe tied with Drawn to Life. If you are at all interested in animation as a hobby or career, those three books are the place to start.
Apr 30, 2012 Amanda rated it really liked it
This book is not for anyone with weak arms, a compulsion to not finish what they start, or fear of papercuts. The Illusion of Life is a monster, but so detailed and interesting that true Disney Animation fans overlook its age and weight.

Written by two of the nine old men, this book encompasses Disney Animation through The Rescuers.

Proud to say I read every chapter cover to cover. Solid 4.25 stars.
May 08, 2016 WaferBiscuits rated it it was amazing
Incredibly valuable, informative, and fascinating. This is a must-read for any fan of animation, and it really drives home just how much the art form has evolved over such a short time. It has something for any reader, from the student who can find essential technical advice, the enthusiast who can appreciate all that goes into such a painstaking art, and the Disney-lover who wants to know more about the studio's early history and influential artists.
Rubaiat Habib
Sep 27, 2015 Rubaiat Habib rated it it was amazing
This book opened by eyes about all the subtleties and insights about the classical 2D animation. To me, the key take away is how a complex, stylized animation style can be decomposed into smaller, understandable chunks (i.e., the 12 principles of animation). this helps an animator to think, learn and execute 2D classical animation in new ways.
Tim Hodge
Excellent volume on the art form of animation. The book is nearly 40 years old and is unequaled in the information that it contains. My copy is nearly worn out from re-reading. It not only contains secrets about how the past Disney masters created those beloved films, it is also chock full of anecdote about life in the Disney studio from the 1930s thru to the 1980s.
Katherine (Kat) Cohn
Mar 09, 2007 Katherine (Kat) Cohn rated it really liked it
I don't really admire Disney: when I read that Maurice Sendak wanted to emulate Mickey Mouse in his book "In the Night Kitchen," I was temporarily disappointed in him. This book was really well written, however, and gives some very enjoyable stories and interesting perspectives on the life the animators lived throughout the very beginning of what later became the famous Disney studio.
Kimberley Cornell
Dec 05, 2015 Kimberley Cornell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, art-books
This book was very insightful and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in animation. Two of Walt's "Nine Old Men", Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson discuss some of the history and pioneering that went into making Disney the successful animation studio it has come to be. As an aspiring animator, it has given me a lot of useful advice to "draw from". :D
Aug 11, 2015 Danny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animation
The Bible of traditional (Disney) animation. This is the ultimate book about Disney animation if you want to know all ins-and outs of how the countless animated features and shorts were made by the Walt Disney studios as described by Disney veterans Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston - two of Disney's famed Nine Old Men.
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Franklin M. "Frank" Thomas was an American animator.

Frank Thomas attended Stanford University, where he worked on the campus humor magazine The Stanford Chaparral with Ollie Johnston.

After graduating from Stanford, he attended Chouinard Art Institute.

Frank Thomas joined The Walt Disney Company on September 24, 1934 as employee number 224. There he animated dozens of feature films and shorts.

More about Frank Thomas...

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