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'Creating 3D Animation' by Aardman Studios | Stop-Motion Book Review

Updated on October 28, 2013

Stop-motion animation is the longest-lasting interest of my life, and it all started with the 'Wallace & Gromit' series of claymation films which were created by Aardman Animations.

At the time of watching the feature length films, I don't think I understood how they were made, and I probably didn't think about it either. And then when I was 12 years old I received this book as a gift and it absolutely caught my imagination.

I don't remember how many times I read this book when I first got it (I'm sure it was a lot), but what I do know is that it gave me a career goal for most of my teens, until I eventually decided against doing animation at university :-( However, I still have the ambition to make my own film one day, complete with miniature sets and detailed puppets since it is definitely the model making part of the process that has always appealed to me most.

So if you already harbor an interest in stop-motion animation, or you know a kid who might be interested, you won't regret buying this book.

So what's in the book?

Peter Lord is one of the founders of Aardman Animations and has written this book alongside Brian Sibley, with a foreword by the creator Wallace & Gromit; Nick Park.

The first edition of this book (released in 1998) was called 'Cracking Animation' and this is the version that I own. The newer revised addition shown here (published 2004) is the exact same book except it contains 32 more pages - bringing it up to a total of 224 - which adds information about CGI and the advances in computer graphics that have been made in the film-making industry.

The book is packed with hundreds of illustrations and photographs, with many images showing behind-the-scenes shots of stop-motion movies being made as well as original storyboards, drawings, plans and other fascinating details.

It provides a fantastic overview of the art form, including an in-depth look at the history of stop-motion animation, and plenty of information on all of the individual aspects of making a film. The main chapters of the book are listed as:

- Basic Needs: Cameras, computers, studios and lighting.

- Simple Techniques: Clay animation, object animation and other techniques.

- Models & Modelmaking: The basic principles involved in making models, such as what an armature is and how it is used, plus photos showing the construction of a sheep (my favorite bit!), as well as Gromit and other characters Wat & Rex.

- Set Design & Making: All about the planning and building of a set - including photos of amazing examples such as a derelict theater which is a big inspiration for me and I hope to recreate something similar one day - it looks so awesome! There is also info on props and special effects in this section.

- Animation & Performance: Studying and analysing movement; how to produce realistic motion, facial expressions, actions and speech using stop-motion models.

- Making a Film: Tips about creating a storyboard to plan your scenes out beforehand, as well as a guide to music, sound, editing, characterization and writing a script. Specific examples are used to explain some of these points (e.g. an example of a storyboard used in The Wrong Trousers film) which really makes it clear.

I do find that a lot of other animation guides can be a bit dry and short on photos, but this book is crammed full of images and inspiration. The other point that sets it apart is that it is suitable for older kids and teens too, whereas others are focussed purely at adults and often don't explain the basics like this one does.

This book is just the best introduction to stop-motion animation you can buy, and would be a visual treat for any fans of this type of film making, or those who want to pursue animation as a career.

Here are 3 more highly-rated animation books; one focussing more on model making, one being a comprehensive guide on the entire subject, and one being a great starter book for younger kids:

Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Here is my 1998 copy of the book. You can see the sun damage on the spine it's been on my shelf that long!An example page, with the famous Gromit :)This is one of my favorite bits of the book because it focusses on the area of puppet-making; specifically how Shaun the Sheep is made.Looking at 'action and reaction' in film sequences.
Here is my 1998 copy of the book. You can see the sun damage on the spine it's been on my shelf that long!
Here is my 1998 copy of the book. You can see the sun damage on the spine it's been on my shelf that long!
An example page, with the famous Gromit :)
An example page, with the famous Gromit :)
This is one of my favorite bits of the book because it focusses on the area of puppet-making; specifically how Shaun the Sheep is made.
This is one of my favorite bits of the book because it focusses on the area of puppet-making; specifically how Shaun the Sheep is made.
Looking at 'action and reaction' in film sequences.
Looking at 'action and reaction' in film sequences.

Here is a collection of interesting interviews which detail the beginnings of Aardman Animations, with examples of their early work and some behind-the-scenes clips:

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