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Now, ﬁnally classical effects animation gets its day in the sun with
Joseph Gilland’s fascinating new book. It’s a revelation of the amazing blend of the art and craft behind the magic of this wonderful
—Don Hahn, Academy Award-nominated Producer of Beauty and
the Beast and The Lion King
Veteran Disney animator Joe Gilland’s informative book delivers,
for the ﬁrst time, the real nitty-gritty on the art of hand-drawn special
effects. The mysteries of how to believably animate abstract forms
representing rain, ﬁre, smoke, etc. are revealed in articulate prose,
revelatory graphs and elegantly beautiful sequential imagery.
A must-have guide for animation pros, teachers and students!
—John Canemaker, Academy Award-winning animator, internationally-renowned animation historian and teacher.
Joseph Gilland will excite any artist with the prospect of animating
a water splash. And that is just for starters. Elemental Magic is an
essential reference not only for special effects artists, but for character animators. An excellent performance sparkles all the more when
the special effects are right. Animated applause for Joseph Gilland
and his wonderful book, Elemental Magic.
—Ed Hooks, author, Acting for Animators
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The Art of Special Effects Animation
With a Foreword by Michel Gagne
Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier
30 Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Burlington, MA 01803, USA
Linacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP, UK
© 2009 Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording,
or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Permissions may be sought directly from Elsevier’s Science & Technology Rights
Department in Oxford, UK: phone: (⫹44) 1865 843830, fax: (⫹44) 1865 853333,
E-mail: [email protected] You may also complete your request online
via the Elsevier homepage (http://elsevier.com), by selecting “Support & Contact”
then “Copyright and Permission” and then “Obtaining Permissions.”
Recognizing the importance of preserving what has been written, Elsevier prints
its books on acid-free paper whenever possible.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Elemental magic : the classical art of special effects animation / Joseph Gilland.
ISBN 978-0-240-81163-5 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Animated ﬁlms—Technique.
2. Drawing—Technique. I. Title.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
For information on all Focal Press publications
visit our website at www.books.elsevier.com
09 10 11 12 13
5 4 3 2 1
Printed in China
Dedicated to my parents, Frank and Tommy
Foreword by Michel Gagne XI
Chapter 1 - A Brief History of Classical Animated Special Effects
Chapter 2 - The Art of Drawing and Animating Special Effects
Chapter 3 - The Speciﬁc Effects Categories
Chapter 4 - Liquids
Chapter 5 - Fire, Smoke, and Explosions 161
Chapter 6 - Magic
Chapter 7 - Props and Everything 249
Chapter 8 - The Last Element 293
I was the luckiest man alive when I landed the job of my dreams
and started working for Don Bluth as a character animator in 1986.
Somehow though, right from the start, I felt miscast. I watched
my ﬁnished work move on to the effects department, where all the
cool stuff was being added: ﬁre, water, mud, lava … you name it!
So, after three difﬁcult years in character animation, I asked to be
transferred to the effects department. By far, one of the best decisions I have ever made!
Effects animation was like my newfound freedom. While staying within the stylistic boundaries of the movie, I could design
my drawings without having to stick to the strict character model
sheets. I could stylize the timing and motion without having to
adhere to the conﬁnes of a dialogue track. I felt like a scientiﬁc
magician, moving water molecules, creating lightning, and conjuring ﬁery whirlpools, all from the tip of my pencil.
I remember the ﬁrst time I saw a scene animated by Joe Gilland.
I was watching a pencil test of a duck splashing around in a
pond. I was mesmerized by the intricacy of the water animation
and the attention to every detail.
My ﬁrst exposure to Joe’s work left an indelible impression on me.
Through the years, while I’ve drifted onto other mediums, Joe has
remained dedicated to the craft of effects animation, creating wonderful work for many feature ﬁlms and teaching new generations of
Many animators and students have asked me to write a volume
such as the one you now hold. Although I saw the necessity for
such a project, I never felt the calling to create it. I love doing
effects animation, but I have never really tried to understand it
beyond what comes to me instinctively. Joe, on the other hand, is a
true scholar on the subject. When he told me of his intention to
write this book, I breathed a sigh of relief and felt great enthusiasm
for Joe. I knew the subject matter was in the most capable hands.
As I’ve said, I truly love the art of effects animation. To me, it is
poetry in motion, inspired by the most primal forces in creation.
I hope that the wealth of knowledge and gorgeous artwork contained within these pages will ignite the same passion in the hearts
of young animators, and will encourage a whole new generation
to carry on the swirling, smoking and sparkling torch of classical
Michel Gagne July 2008
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In the spring of 2004, at the Annecy International Animation Festival
in France, a dear friend and I had a conversation about animation
books. Interesting, we noted, that there is not a single book dedicated
to classical hand-drawn special effects animation, even though it is an
enormously important aspect of the animation business, and a very
specialized and speciﬁc art form in its own right. While there is a
proliferation of books dealing with various kinds of visual effects work,
most of these are focused purely on the kinds of polished photorealistic
visual effects that we are used to seeing in Hollywood action and
science ﬁction ﬁlms, using optical live-action ﬁlm techniques, and
more recently, computer-generated techniques.
Yet the ﬁne art of animating special effects—like
water, ﬁre, smoke, pixie dust, and every imaginable
kind of magic—by hand with a pencil and paper,
has never really been documented thoroughly
(much less broken down and analyzed, explained
and discussed in depth). On that fateful day, in
the picturesque alpine village of Annecy, my dear
friend uttered the words, “YOU should write that book
Joseph!” After that, I realized that I really didn’t have
any choice: This book simply had to happen.
So here I sit, late at night, staring into my laptop and pondering the
inﬁnite world of hand-drawn animated special effects, and the almost
thirty years of my life that I have devoted to animating them. What kind
of book should this be? A handbook? A textbook? A “how to” book? A
pretty coffee table book? A historical document? Maybe it will be a bit
of each of those things. I’ll leave that for you to decide.
First and foremost, I hope this will be a book which pays homage to the
men and women who have created special effects for animated ﬁlms
spanning the last 70 years. Most of them have worked thanklessly in
the trenches, often in complete artistic obscurity, fueled only by their
intense dedication to their craft. Considering the insane pencil mileage
and the technical difﬁculties required by such work, one must have true
passion to draw effects.
Keep in mind, too, that this has never been a path to great recognition
or ﬁlthy lucre. For all of the countless animated ﬁlms that we have all
watched over the past seven decades, there is a universe of gorgeous
artwork that is largely unknown to the average viewer. It is my goal to
honor both the artisans and the craft with this book, to bring to the fore
what has often been treated as a secondary, less vital part of the animation process.
Our planet is an inﬁnite source of design perfection!
Regardless of your interest, whether you are a student of 2D or 3D animation or a casual moviegoer, I hope you will ﬁnd this volume informative, entertaining, and somehow imbued with the magic that initially
drew me into this mysterious world. Since September of 2003, I have
been involved in teaching animation to both classical animation students and CGI animation students for the ﬁrst time in my long animation career. Students often bring their special effects questions to me,
and I frequently will make a series of thumbnail sketches to best explain
a particular technique or idea. I have accumulated an interesting collection of research material and lecture notes through the years, and I often
make copies of these for the students, but again and again it becomes
apparent that a special effects handbook would be an extremely valuable
companion to other animation books such as “The Illusion of Life” and
the “The Animation Survival Kit.” For my students, and anyone out
there starting a career in animation, I hope that this book will delight
you and inspire you to keep on drawing, and pushing the effects
envelope. For those of you moving into the wonderful world of 3D
visual effects, I hope this book will pique your interest and get you to
try drawing these effects, and help you understand them more deeply,
before using the fantastic digital tools that you have at your disposal.
An enormous aspect of learning to be an
effects animator has to do with learning how to see, how to observe
and soak in the phenomenon
of pure energy and life all
Never a dull moment conducting effects research!
around us. As with “art” in
general, and every form of
it—be it acting, or writing, or dance, or painting
or sculpting—we need to
learn to be observers of life,
to be the antennae of society, the ﬁrst ones out there,
inquisitive, probing, observing,
questioning, examining and interpreting life.
It is that inquisitive spirit that the best
teachers are able to imbue in their students. When we are successful
as art teachers, our students are infected for life, and incapable of ever
seeing this world as anything but magical, mysterious and inﬁnite. The
dedicated effects artist will never know boredom. One never needs to
stop learning on this journey.
Author Joseph Gilland Isbn 9780240811635 File size 30 Mb Year 2009 Pages 328 Language English File format PDF Category Drawing Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Create amazing animated effects such as fiery blazes, rippling water, and magical transformations. Animation guru Joseph Gilland breaks down the world of special effects animation with clear step-by-step diagrams and explanations on how to create the amazing and compelling images you see on the big screen. ‘Elemental Magic’ is jam-packed with rich, original illustrations from the author himself which help explain and illuminate the technique, philosophy, and approach behind classical hand drawn animated effects and how to apply these skills to your digital projects. Download (30 Mb) Manga: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Digital Painting Techniques The Artists Guide To Drawing Animals: How To Draw Cats, Dogs, And Other Favorite Pets How To Draw Manga Anime For Beginner Force: Animal Drawing: Animal locomotion and design concepts for animators Botanical Painting with Watercolour Load more posts