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Elemental Magic, Volume I: The Art of Special Effects Animation [Paperback]

Joseph Gilland
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 18, 2009 0240811631 978-0240811635
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.

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Elemental Magic, Volume I: The Art of Special Effects Animation + Elemental Magic, Volume II: The Technique of Special Effects Animation (Animation Masters Title) + Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes: Volume 1: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures
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Editorial Reviews


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 art form. -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 hos 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 

About the Author

In his 32+ year animation career, he has worked with such studios as Walt Disney Feature Animation, Don Bluth Animation, Productions Pascal Blais and the National Film Board of Canada. At Walt Disney Feature Animation, he served as Supervisor of Visual Effects for the Disney features Lilo & Stitch and Brother Bear. At Disney he also served as Head of Special Effects Units for the Disney features Kingdom of the Sun and Tarzan, and was Special Effects Animator on such notable titles as Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, James and the Giant Peach, Hercules and Mulan. He served as Designer and Supervisor for all 2D and 3D visual effects on the television series Silverwing, and Chaotic at Bardel Animation in Vancouver. He has also designed and directed a wide variety of television commercials. Clients include General Motors, CocaCola, Honda, MacDonald's, Gillette, Players Tobacco, Larrouse Dictionaries, and Radio Quebec. For almost three years, he was the Head of animation, and Digital Character animation at the Vancouver Film School. He lectures at animation schools in Canada, Europe and Asia, and has conducted workshops at animation festivals and schools around the world. he is a professional musician and performer as well. He has been writing professionally for over three years now, and has a bi-monthly column in the online Animation World Magazine, entitled 'The Animated Scene' which has an enormous readership around the world. He has also had articles published in Animation Magazine, the world's foremost industry magazine, as well as well as an article in 'Cartoons' The International Journal of Animation.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press (February 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240811631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240811635
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 10.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joseph Gilland is an artist, animator, author, musician, singer/songwriter and avid motorcycle enthusiast. With over 30 years of experience in the animation industry as one of the world's most sought after special effects artists, Joseph was more than ready to write and illustrate his cornerstone animation book "Elemental Magic" His experience in the field took him to the very top at the Walt Disney Feature Animation Studio, where he was the head of the visual effects department for several years, most notably for the film 'Lilo & Stitch'. 'Elemental Magic' has been an international hit, selling well world-wide. The first book of its kind, it is a beautifully illustrated masterpiece, revealing long kept industry secrets of just how the elements have been animated through history. Based on Vancouver Island now, Joseph is working on an accompanying volume to Elemental Magic. He is in demand around the world of animation, bringing his 'Elemental Magic -An Organic Approach to Special Effects Animation' workshops and lectures to studios, schools and festival, in North America, Europe and Asia.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally! March 18, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been hoping for years that someone would write a comprehensive book on 2D effects animation. Something more than the little "how to draw and flapping flag" or "how to make a fire cycle" bits that get tacked on in other animation books.

Disney veteran Joseph Gilland has finally given us that first book dedicated to 2D effects animation. He's broken down effects into four broad categories (water/liquids, fire/smoke, props/solid objects and magical effects) and laid out the principles needed to bring them to life on paper.

Since every real-world splash and flame is unique, Elemental Magic isn't so much of a "how to draw" type book as it is a "how to approach" book. Gilland breaks down the basic behaviors of different types of matter and the working methods needed for an animator to capture the dynamic essence of an effect without being tied to a hyper-real style or getting bogged down in an unmanageable level of detail.

And this book doesn't solely apply to hand-drawn effects. Each section on a type of matter includes several pages on how to apply these classical animation principles to digital effects work. How to get the most out the computer's ability to do the heavy lifting on effects.

Hopefully this isn't the last book ever published on 2D effects animation. Gilland himself mentions that he's only scratching the surface with this book and that water, smoke or any other element could warrant a full volume treatment.

I hope someone takes him up on that offer, and with Elemental Magic we now have a solid foundation to build on.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
*Aesthetic criticism
*What's inside, Thematic material reviewed
*Secrets of capturing Disney-esque animation revealed
*Who's this book for?

If the old adage, "Never judge a book by its cover," holds true, then Elemental Magic certainly reinforces this notion. If there's any concern, it's that the wonders of this book may be passed up because of this nondescript cover layout. I also feel the author could have come up with a more intriguing sub-title.

When I first opened this soft cover, rectangular book, and I thought "OMG!" Inside, this book looks like an illustrator's private sketch book. Hundreds of beautifully hand-drawn, colored sketches: some segregated from the text, others used as a background (watermarked) with the text overlaid.

Next to each illustration is a brief, but thorough explanation of the process. And, the key to understanding this message is summed up in one word: energy.

Joseph Gilland, the author, is a 30-year animator and has worked on some of the biggest animation features over the past 20+ years including Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Tarzan, Pocohantas and a few others. Some of the sketches that became film cells are reproduced with his notes below the art!

The book is outline with two (2) brief chapters before he introduces the philosophy of animation: The Preface and The History of Classical Animation. The remainder of the book gives step by step analysis not of how to sketch a flame or construct an iceberg, for instance, but of the techniques of how to get in touch with what he refers to as the "energy of the elements." How does one capture the essence of a burning flame? Shattered glass? A wisp of smoke or the pixie dust floating through gust of wind?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind May 6, 2009
By K. Noda
Joseph Gilland has done a great service by creating this book, which intricately details both the thought process and raw mechanics behind traditional, hand-drawn effects animation - a discipline that rarely takes center stage in a character-oriented animation industry. I've been looking for a resource like this for years, and there really hasn't been anything like it before this book. I can whole-heartedly recommend it for any animator with an interest in broadening their understanding of effects, the drawings contained within are worth the price alone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful resource for animators July 18, 2009
Length: 0:16 Mins
Joseph Gilland is an animator with over 30 years of experience. He has worked with Disney and other studios on movies like Lilo and Stitch, Mulan among many other titles.

When he wrote this book, there wasn't any book dedicated to classical hand drawn special effects animation. It's great to be able to highlight the work done by special effects artists, who are usually the unsung heroes of animation -- if their work is good, nobody notices!

This book focuses more on dealing with liquids, fire, smoke, explosions and (other-worldly) magic. The chapters are broken down into the order of covering design concepts, discussing scale and perspective, then moving to breakdown the energy, action path and timing.

Joseph Gilland presents his topic with examples on his own, complete with tips and common mistakes to avoid. You'll learn stuff like how animators can remove details and yet keep things realistic. For example, when dealing with liquids, he would talk about the different factors that affect animation, like water density, force, gravity, viscosity, after splash, etc. The various examples include the simple water droplet to creating waves on which surfers surf on.

There's also a chapter on props. These are stuff like breaking branches, falling leaves, moving fabric, crumbling clay, etc. Animating special effects is essentially animating energy. Throughout the book, there are a lot of detailed explanation on how different elements and objects interact with one another.

While the book is on classic hand drawn animation, there are also some non-technical writeup on how you can use computers to aid in creating these effects.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Well needed book on 2D FX
I was in Vancouver Film School's Classical Animation Course back in 1999-2000 (Class 29), and the 2D FX course was exceptional. I still look over my old notes to aid in animating. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Cliff Parrott
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must!
It has been said that one must learn special effects for animation prior to animating or any other process in the field. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Terri Rowley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Guide in the Journey of Effects Animation
Customer Video Review
Length: 1:06 Mins
Published on December 25, 2011 by Ganapathy Subramaniam
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome title for special effects animation
There aren't many books that explain special effects animation, and this is a welcome addition. It's a Focal Press title, and if you are familiar with their publications then you... Read more
Published on April 30, 2011 by Stop Motion Maniac
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, functional
Lots of great explanations of the physics and logic behind elemental effects and great illustrations to show how to create them in a 2d world.
Published on February 19, 2011 by L. Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and thoughtful
This engrossing book tries to teach the reader how traditional special-effects artists have created hand-drawn animations of fire, water, and weather. Read more
Published on January 25, 2011 by Ernest Friedman-Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book
This book is beautiful, well-written, and a blast to flip through and look at even if you're not an animator. Read more
Published on September 29, 2010 by Ben Ruiz
4.0 out of 5 stars A MUCH needed book
A book of this type is WAAAAYYY overdue. With the release of Richard Williams 'The Animator's Survival Kit', Walt Stanchfield's 'Drawn to Life', and a few other fantastic books... Read more
Published on July 5, 2010 by Allison Westbrook
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Valuable Resource for Animators
When I first got Joseph Gilland's book 'Elemental Magic: The Art of Special Effects Animation,' I was a bit skeptical about the book, since the graphic design is not very well... Read more
Published on February 24, 2010 by Stephen J. Carlson
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional
Excellent book by an inspired and accomplished animation effects artist and teacher. This volume sits alone as a very comprehensive overview of traditional hand-drawn special... Read more
Published on February 14, 2010 by Kevin
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