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The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  4,515 ratings  ·  96 reviews
The most complete book on the subject ever written, this is the fascinating inside story by two long-term Disney animators of the gradual perfecting of a relatively young and particularly American art from, which no other move studio has ever been able to equal.
The authors, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, worked with Walt Disney himself as well as other leading figures i
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published October 19th 1995 by Disney Editions (first published 1981)
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Vladi 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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Jun 29, 2010 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 storie
Jan 01, 2015 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
Robert Fritz
Jan 05, 2016 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" document
Nina Harp
Sep 17, 2012 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. ...more
Alec Longstreth
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animation
When I was a kid, I checked this book out from the library over and over and over again until my parents finally bought me my own copy. I looked through it constantly, and many of the pages still have depressions along the edges of the characters where I traced them. I loved the continuous flip book in the upper right hand corner of this tome, and I spent countless hours of my childhood looking at images of the Disney films I loved, and photographs of the people who made them....

But I never actu
Feb 13, 2009 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 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.

Jul 16, 2009 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. ...more
Kristen Cummings
Jan 04, 2011 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. ...more
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: university-books
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
May 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the history of animation
The Illusion of Life is the most massive, formidable-looking book I have ever seen about classic Disney animation. But the text is so readable and there are so many fantastic visual aids that you can get through a decent chunk of the book in one or two days.
I loved reading about Disney's animation from the viewpoint of two veteran Disney animators, as there were so many great anecdotes and in-jokes to be found here. The descriptions of animation and storytelling processes are both lively and
Olivia Selbee
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thomas, F., & Johnson, O. (1981). The illusion of life: Disney animation. Walt Disney Productions.

Reviewed by:
Olivia Selbee
Ferris State University

Although biased towards only Disney’s experience, the hefty, eighteen chapter book, titled, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson greatly expresses animation’s history, tips and tricks, and engages the reader throughout with appealing imagery. Each chapter includes carefully worded information that helps guide the re
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thought at first the book was too expensive (by my standards), and I waited so long before buying it; but what I got is one of the most wonderful book one could imagine. Every time I read this Bible of Animation is like living a parallel life in a Disney world; a world of a true genius man and his talented artists, surely among the greatest to ever grace the screen. It's a deep charming journey in their creativeness, their ideas, their vision, and their powerful, simple, poetic aesthetic art; ...more
Herman Litt
Apr 20, 2011 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
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 08, 2009 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.
Rubaiat Habib
May 11, 2015 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.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Bought this when I was deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up... cartoonist, vet, lawyer or tbd. It's pretty much THE BOOK on classic Disney animation. It's earned a place on the shelf as one of my favorites. ...more
Liston Morris
Mar 20, 2008 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.
Mar 25, 2010 added it
It's a great book,from it I found my caricature dream! ...more
Akiko Ashley
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you work in the animation industry or are considering a career in animation this book is a "must read". Traditional animation techniques are discussed in depths from legendary animators. ...more
Mary Shyne
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A marvelous resource for animators, but racist at times.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it
It took me 6 years to finish this.
Regina Hunter
Jan 28, 2011 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!
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, cinema
Well, it looks like it took me eight months to slowly pick through this book, but it’s definitely worth soaking in all the details. The Walt worship of the early chapters gets to be a bit much, and I wish that just a little room had been given for alternate perspectives about the medium’s history. Of course, this was written by two of the Nine Old Men, so what did I expect? It’s just that the move toward realism wasn’t an inevitable upgrade for the form. Those early, “primitive” cartoons could h ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an unbelievable book about Disney animation. There’s a huge amount of material here, and the book is not up to date. It would be at least twice the size if it had been written today and included recent Disney movies and computer animation.

Even so, this is the best book I’ve ever read that deals with this subject. I will re-read it and refer to it many times in the future. It is an incredibly beautiful book. An absolute treasure.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent collection on disney animation and essential to anyone looking to delve deeper into the style of animation. It is full of amazing imagery that jumps right off the stage. It also goes into the history of some essential animators in disney's early career. There are pictures on every page and chock full of information. It's a great book to read and a great book to flip through. ...more
Lycoris Radiatta
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’ve found some nice sketches of posible storyboards from old iconic Disney movies. Also, the book explains the use of life action in drawing (bonus point). Even though it’s outdated, you got the idea of the whole process: how much time, effort, money does animation need to get ready. It’d be wonderful if the next version could incorporate the new animation themes.
Gvantsa Tandilashvili
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great book for Disney lovers and animators. It's an inside look into the history of Disney, animation and its principles, the early days in the studio and how things were done with beautiful drawings and photographs of various Disney characters and the artists. One of my favorites. ...more
Morgan Kail-Ackerman
Beautiful book. Love all the drawings. I wish it wasn’t so technical because I skimmed a lot of the actual animation stuff because I don’t want to learn all the technique of animation, instead wanna learn about Disney.
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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.


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