Holiday Book Guide: CG Animation and Fairy Tales

Two must-own, complementary histories of CG animation, a Roy Disney remembrance, and a Taschen treat comprise my book recommendations.

The CG Story by Christopher Finch (The Monachelli Press)

This is a lavishly illustrated and invaluable coffee table book about the evolution of CG by the author of The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms. Today CG is an integral part of visual storytelling in animation, live-action, and the virtual production hybrid that blurs the distinctions. Finch covers personal vision, technological innovation, directorial imprint, and individual challenges. From Star Wars through Life of Pi, and from Toy Story through Wreck-It Ralph (and most everything in between), the experience has become more realistic, more tactile, and more immersive. Indeed, live-action has become more like animation and animation more like live-action.

Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation by Tom Sito (MIT Press)

Sito, an animator who teaches the history of CG at USC, takes a more academic and linear approach in exploring its evolution. Seven years in the making, he interviewed 75 innovators; therefore, Sito emphasizes the individual, regional, and collective personalities that created this medium: scientists, engineers, and would be artists (beginning with Ivan Sutherland, Dave Evans, Ed Catmull, Alan Kay, Jim Blinn, Alvy Ray Smith, Bob Abel, among many others). From there he charts a through line in academia, military research and application, VFX, gaming, experimental films, corporate research, and commercial animation. “Like the plot lines of an old Russian novel, these threads developed along parallel paths, socially isolated from each other, until the vertically integrated media conglomerates of the 1990s compelled them all to converge,” Sito writes. It’s a fascinating story.

Remembering Roy E. Disney by David A. Bossert (Disney Editions)

The late Roy Disney left his mark at Disney with his passion, generosity, and love of animation and nature. There wouldn’t have been a second renaissance without him. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing him about Uncle Walt, his work on True-Life Adventures, and the shorts he spearheaded (including the completion of Destino and Lorenzo). Bossert, an animator and creative director of  Walt Disney Animation Studios Special Projects, has compiled a lovely scrapbook full of remembrances, photos, and emails from Roy. “I’d never met anyone like him,” recalls John Lasseter. “You never felt he was ‘Roy Disney.’ He was just this funny, quick-witted, laid back guy named Roy…. And by the way, he did turn out to have very good story sense. Thank goodness he couldn’t draw or we would all have been fired. He could have done it alone.”

The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen edited by Noel Daniel (Taschen)

This indispensable volume of Denmark’s cherished author coincides with the release of Disney’s brilliant Frozen (loosely adapted from The Snow Queen). There are nearly two dozen stories (including The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Thumbelina, The Little Match Girl, and The Snow Queen) beautifully illustrated by Andy Disl and Daniel. Andersen elevated the superstitious peasant folk tales he heard as a child in the Odense lunatic asylum. Scholars have suggested that Andersen’s early tales of the unconscious eventually found their way into Surrealism: “the pain and pleasure of subjectivity” that leads to imaginative fulfillment and personal failure. Remember: the mermaid does not acquire an immortal soul through love;  a ballerina is paired with a one-legged toy soldier; but the ugly duckling discovers that he is a beautiful swan after being mistreated.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Books, Movies, performance capture, previs, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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