14 books directly related to traditionally animated filmss 📚

All 14 traditionally animated films books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The Illusion of Life

By Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston,

Book cover of The Illusion of Life

Why this book?

I was privileged to see firsthand these two Disney Legends and their passions for the craft of storytelling through animation. I worked with Frank and Ollie as a young animation trainee. I learned the basics of animation by ‘in-betweening’ scenes primarily for Frank. In addition to ‘in-betweening’ for Frank, he would give me scenes to animate under his supervision. The principles and philosophy of the ‘Disney way’ are explained within the pages of this book and I was fortunate to have absorbed them firsthand.

Applying the principles of animation that Frank and Ollie presented has had a tremendous effect on all aspects of my art. My book, my personal award-winning illustrations, and a 38-year career with the Disney Studio bear witness of putting these principles into practice.

The Illusion of Life

By Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Illusion of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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 in a half-century of Disney films. They personally animated leading characters in most of the famous films and have decades of close association with the others who helped perfect this extremely difficult and time-consuming art form. Not to…

Book cover of Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons

Why this book?

This landmark survey of American animation, published more than forty years ago, remains an essential guide to the subject. Maltin’s passion for classic cartoons is evident in the depth of his research and in the infectious enthusiasm of his writing. For beginners unfamiliar with cartoon history, Of Mice and Magic is a delightful introduction; but even for the seasoned enthusiast, it provides gratifying coverage of both the established classics and the more obscure discoveries. I thoroughly enjoyed this book when it first appeared, and I still return to it periodically.

Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons

By Leonard Maltin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Of Mice and Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Film historian Leonard Maltin recreates a whole era of Hollywood cartoons, from Betty Boop to Spielberg's "An American Tail". It also brings the reader up to date on the modern work of Walt Disney and the Warner Bros studio, plus new developments in animation. The book includes a filmography of cartoons and sources for video rental.

Book cover of Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age

Why this book?

During the 1960s, a wonderful periodical called Funnyworld began to chronicle animation history with unprecedented depth and eloquence. It was the work of Michael Barrier, and as it continued, it offered glimpses of the research he was conducting for a book to be published by Oxford Press. The book was finally finished and published more than three decades later, and reflects Barrier’s depth of insight, the thoroughness of his methods, and his dogged perseverance; his research included interviews with literally hundreds of artists from every American cartoon studio. Hollywood Cartoons stands as a definitive study of its subject, an essential reference (and enjoyable read) for any lover or serious student of classic animation.

Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age

By Michael Barrier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hollywood Cartoons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Hollywood Cartoons, Michael Barrier takes us on a glorious guided tour of American animation in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, to meet the legendary artists and entrepreneurs who created Bugs Bunny, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, Wile E. Coyote, Donald Duck, Tom and Jerry, and many other cartoon favorites.
Beginning with black-and-white silent cartoons, Barrier offers an insightful account, taking us inside early New York studios and such Hollywood giants as Disney, Warner Bros., and MGM. Barrier excels at illuminating the creative side of animation-revealing how stories are put together, how animators develop a character, how technical innovations enhance the…

Book cover of Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism

Why this book?

If you have a child diagnosed with apraxia, a rare but growing neurologically-based communication impairment, you are probably aware of the lack of research for apraxia in children. Life, Animated is geared towards those raising a child with autism. While apraxia is considered to be “on the spectrum” not every child with apraxia meets the requirements for a diagnosis of autism, some of the treatments that have been found helpful for autism, have been found useful to address apraxia as well. In addition, a Penn State study found 64% of those with autism have apraxia. 

Life, Animated is helpful in a number of ways. Like The New Language of Toys, it demonstrates how we as parents can become instrumental in helping our children breakthrough to find their voices. It teaches us to look outside of the evidence to integrative methods that may help. Knowing which toy, activity, or subject matter grabs our child’s attention and makes them shine is something we know as our child’s expert. Learning how one father utilized his autistic son’s fixation as a form of therapy is something we can each seek to do as well to help our children at home.

Prior to this book being published, I utilized this type of method when Tanner was little and fixated on Pokémon. Even though his therapists wanted to focus speech therapy on functional language such as the word “more”, his motivation to learn to say Pokémon superseded his desire to learn to say anything else. Going to Tanner’s world and what he wanted and allowing him to try to learn how to say Pokémon names was a starting point that enabled both me at home as well as with his traditional speech therapy. 

Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism

By Ron Suskind,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life, Animated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind tells the story of how his autistic son was able to regain the ability to speak through the medium of Disney animated films.

"Ron Suskind's "Life, Animated" is an extraordinary saga of an exceptional boy from a remarkable family and their compelling journey through autism."-David Royko, Chicago Tribune


Imagine being trapped inside a Disney movie and having to learn about life mostly from animated characters dancing across a screen of color. A fantasy? A nightmare? This is the real-life story of Owen Suskind, the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind and his wife,…

Book cover of Cartoon Animation with Preston Blair: Learn Techniques for Drawing and Animating Cartoon Characters

Why this book?

I believe this is one of the greatest books for breaking down and understanding the emotion and simplicity of construction. I love that it offers a variety of animals and humans to draw from and it can save you so much time by teaching you the basic fundamentals of drawing cartoon faces that will guide you throughout your career.

Cartoon Animation with Preston Blair: Learn Techniques for Drawing and Animating Cartoon Characters

By Preston Blair,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cartoon Animation with Preston Blair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By following the lessons in Cartoon Animation with Preston Blair, you can make any character—person, animal, or object—come to life through animated movement!

While animators must first know how to draw, the animation process involves much more than just good drawing skills. In this new edition, acclaimed cartoon animator Preston Blair shares his vast practical knowledge to explain and demonstrate the many techniques of cartoon animation. Learn the knowledge and skills animators must have, including: How to construct original cartoon characters by developing a character’s shape, personality, features, and mannerisms How to animate movements such as running, walking, dancing, posing,…

Book cover of Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation

Why this book?

An Academy Award®-winning animator in his own right, John Canemaker has combined his firsthand knowledge of the craft with superior writing skills to produce a series of outstanding books on animation history. You can pretty much close your eyes, pick any one of Canemaker’s books at random, and come up with a winner. But I’m highlighting this one as the definitive study of the “Nine Old Men,” the Disney artists widely recognized as the leading masters of animation. For each of the nine, Canemaker provides a detailed biography and a cogent analysis of the artist’s work, heavily illustrated. It’s a fitting testament to a royal legacy of talent.

Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation

By John Canemaker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Noted film historian John Canemaker brings to life the team whose combined individual genius defined the art of character animation. Think of your favorite moments and characters in Disney films from the thirties to the seventies and chances are most were animated by one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men." Through the span of their careers, these nine highly skilled animators exhibited an unparalleled loyalty to their employer. This book explores their artisitic breakthroughs, failures, and rivalries, and their individual relationships with each other and with Walt.

Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art

By Susan J. Napier,

Book cover of Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art

Why this book?

This is an excellent “life in art,” or a series of chapters on the major works in a biographical context.

Napier discusses such questions as: his feelings about the fact that his family profited from the war, making fan belts for fighter planes; his feelings about his father compared to his mother; the relation of the works to his professional life—the studio, his collaborators, his periodic burn-out and work ethic.

Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art

By Susan J. Napier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Miyazakiworld as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's life and work, including his significant impact on Japan and the world-"an essential work in anime scholarship." (Angelica Frey, Hyperallergic)

A thirtieth-century toxic jungle, a bathhouse for tired gods, a red-haired fish girl, and a furry woodland spirit-what do these have in common? They all spring from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki, one of the greatest living animators, known worldwide for films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises.

Japanese culture and animation scholar Susan Napier explores the life and art of this extraordinary Japanese…

Book cover of Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts

Why this book?

Another catalogue (sorry!) but also another opportunity to delve into a rich and beautiful world, this time not Miyazaki’s but the world of Walt Disney and the European Rococo as seen in a special exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. At first glance, this pairing seems an unlikely juxtaposition since the ornamental art of the Rococo flourished in the 18th century. As the beautifully illustrated catalogue and excellent essays by the curator Wolf Burchard amply demonstrate, however, both Walt Disney and the many superb artists who worked for him drew creative and aesthetic inspiration from all aspects of Rococo art. These range from decorative anthropomorphized teapots (think Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast) or the flamboyant costumes and hairstyles of the period, (illustrated in a mesmerizing scene from Cinderella) to Fragonard’s exquisite painting “Girl on a Swing” that shows up briefly but memorably in Frozen 2. This catalogue shows how richly beneficial cultural interchange can be.

Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts

By Wolf Burchard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inspiring Walt Disney as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How Walt Disney and the Disney Studios wove the aesthetics of French decorative arts into the fairy-tale worlds of beloved animated films, from Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast and beyond

Pink castles, talking sofas, and objects coming to life: what may sound like the fantasies of Hollywood dream-maker Walt Disney were in fact the figments of the colorful salons of Rococo Paris. Exploring the novel use of French motifs in Disney films and theme parks, this publication features forty works of eighteenth-century European design-from tapestries and furniture to Boulle clocks and Sevres porcelain-alongside 150 Disney film stills, drawings, and…

Book cover of Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli

Why this book?

And here is your dessert course! 

Fluent in Japanese and with a background in Japanese literature, Steve Alpert worked initially at Disney in Japan and then for a number of years at Miyazaki’s Ghibli Studio and writes about his experiences in this delightful and frequently hilarious book. He gives us fascinating details about Miyazaki and his fellow director Takahata and producer Suzuki, especially in relation to what are perhaps the two most famous of Miyazaki’s movies, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

The chapter on Princess Mononoke is particularly interesting as it includes a detailed and very funny account of negotiations between Ghibli and Disney as to how to translate the film’s elegant Japanese script and complex worldview into something that could be understood by an American audience. The Disney executives keep asking Alpert “Who’s the bad guy?” and seem unable to cope with the answer that “There is no bad guy." Not only does the book provide a window into the world of Ghibli, but it also engages with some of the significant and frustrating culture clashes that can still occur in our rapidly globalizing world.

Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli

By Steve Alpert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This highly entertaining business memoir describes what it was like to work for Japan's premiere animation studio, Studio Ghibli, and its reigning genius Hayao Miyazaki. Steve Alpert, a Japanese-speaking American, was the "resident foreigner" in the offices of Ghibli and its parent Tokuma Shoten and played a central role when Miyazaki's films were starting to take off in international markets. Alpert describes hauling heavy film canisters of Princess Mononoke to Russia and California, experiencing a screaming Harvey Weinstein, dealing with Disney marketers, and then triumphantly attending glittering galas celebrating the Oscar-winning Spirited Away.

His one-of-a-kind portraits of Miyazaki and long-time…


Book cover of Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes

Why this book?

This two-book volume of notes, drawings, wise sayings, and philosophy are and have been invaluable assets to the learning curve of myself and numerous others. I have these same handouts, in storage boxes, saved over the years. I was there in the lunch-time drawing classes Walt taught at the Disney Studio. Before each drawing session he would hand out these xerox pages. On occasion some of my sketches were included in these handouts. With humor and enthusiasm, Walt encouraged us to push the models pose, see the possibilities and more, all with a goal of making better animation drawings. 

Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes

By Walt Stanchfield,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Drawn to Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the lessons that helped bring about a new golden age of Disney animation!

Published for the first time ever, Drawn to Life is a two volume collection of the legendary lectures from long-time Disney animator Walt Stanchfield. For over twenty years, Walt helped breathe life into the new golden age of animation with these teachings at the Walt Disney Animation Studios and influenced such talented artists as Tim Burton, Brad Bird, Glen Keane, and John Lasseter. These writings represent the quintessential refresher for fine artists and film professionals, and it is a vital tutorial for students who are now…


Book cover of They Drew as They Pleased, Volume 1: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age, the 1930s

Why this book?

During the golden age of the Disney studio, the “concept artists” were those who created sketches and paintings to suggest mood, theme, and atmosphere for the inspiration of the production artists. Their works were used internally, during production, and sometimes were outstanding works of art in themselves, but were never seen by the public. Now Didier Ghez singles out four of those top concept artists, documents their careers, and provides a generous gallery of their drawings and paintings, almost all of them previously unpublished. If you enjoy this book—and you surely will—there’s more good news: this volume is the first of six, all retaining the same format and the same high standard of excellence, and following the trail of Disney history well into the 21st century.

They Drew as They Pleased, Volume 1: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age, the 1930s

By Didier Ghez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked They Drew as They Pleased, Volume 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the Walt Disney Studio entered its first decade and embarked on some of the most ambitious animated films of the time, Disney hired a group of "concept artists" whose sole mission was to explore ideas and inspire their fellow animators. They Drew as They Pleased showcases four of these early pioneers and features artwork developed by them for the Disney shorts from the 1930s, including many unproduced projects, as well as for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and some early work for later features such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Introducing new biographical material about…

Book cover of Frame by Frame: A Materialist Aesthetics of Animated Cartoons

Why this book?

This is a book for animation aficionados who really want to think about the nuts and bolts of animation. As someone with a tendency to revel in the world building of the finished product of animation, be it a Miyazaki movie or a Disney film, this book re-orients me to the materiality of the medium itself. And yes, traditional animation is a material medium! Frank looked at thousands of animation cells, literally frame by frame, and in her book provides us with a glimpse of the enormous labor, expertise, and occasional mistakes that go into creating even a seven-minute short subject. She brings back from the past the many women who were the inkers and in-betweeners in American animation studios and makes us realize the enormous effort (and tedium) that went into producing the fluid and flexible cartoons that Hollywood is known for.

Along the way, Frank touches on the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the fascination with montage evinced by European and Russian critics such as Walter Benjamin and Sergei Eisenstein to enhance her analysis of the subtleties of a seemingly simple art form. This book is a powerful theoretical treatise that is not an easy read, but it is an important one for those who want to think about animation in general.

Frame by Frame: A Materialist Aesthetics of Animated Cartoons

By Hannah Frank,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frame by Frame as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At publication date, a free ebook version of this title will be available through Luminos, University of California Press's Open Access publishing program. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.

In this beautifully written and deeply researched study, Hannah Frank provides an original way to understand American animated cartoons from the Golden Age of animation (1920-1960). In the pre-digital age of the twentieth century, the making of cartoons was mechanized and standardized: thousands of drawings were inked and painted onto individual transparent celluloid sheets (called "cels") and then photographed in succession, a labor-intensive process that was divided across scores of artists and…

Book cover of Otaku Food! Japanese Soul Food Inspired by Anime and Pop Culture

Why this book?

Both the Italians and the Japanese are obsessed with food, and I’m an Italian living in Japan. You do the math. My first shocking encounter with sushi notwithstanding (I mistook wasabi for some kind of green mayonnaise) I love Japanese cuisine, and anime stories are full of people eating all kinds of food. 

If you have found yourself watching an anime and wishing that you could taste a particular dish, with this book you can go one step further: you can make it yourself. Here you will find simple but detailed instructions on how to make lots of Japanese dishes, and their connections with a particular anime title. I wish I owned this book when I first entered Otakudom. 

Otaku Food! Japanese Soul Food Inspired by Anime and Pop Culture

By Danielle Baghernejad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Otaku Food! Japanese Soul Food Inspired by Anime and Pop Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Experience the World of Japanese Pop Culture Through a Whole New Medium-Japanese Food!

#1 New Release in Animated Humor & Entertainment

With dishes inspired by otaku culture, this cookbook brings Japanese anime and manga to chefs of all levels.

Experience Japanese culture like never before. Japan fever has taken the West by storm. Praised for its attention to detail, it's no wonder that some of the most appealing images are colorfully culinary. From beautifully animated bowls of ramen and curry to cakes and confectionery, Japanese food culture never looked so good. If only you could reach out and take a…


Book cover of The Moe Manifesto: An Insider's Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming

Why this book?

Patrick Galbraith is arguably one of the leading experts on all things otaku. He has written dozens of article and essays and a few books on the subject, and choosing one to showcase here was not easy. The Moe Manifesto is not an entry-level work; it’s for hardcore fans who want to dive headfirst into the otaku rabbit hole. Even I often consult it for inspiration when I write about Japanese subcultures. 

The book’s main selling point – especially if you can’t read Japanese – is that Galbraith has assembled a unique lineup of experts (university professors, social and cultural critics, writers, illustrators and other assorted creatives) that he has extensively interviewed about different aspects of otaku culture. There’s a lot of serious food for thought here.

The Moe Manifesto: An Insider's Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming

By Patrick W. Galbraith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moe Manifesto as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Moe is a huge cultural phenomenon and one of the driving forces behind the enormous success of Japanese anime and manga--not just in Japan but now throughout the world.

In Japan, avid fans of manga comics, anime films and video games use the term Moe to refer to the strong sense of emotional attachment they feel for their favorite characters. These fans have a powerful desire to protect and nurture the youthful, beautiful and innocent characters they adore--like Sagisawa Moe in Dinosaur Planet and Tomoe Hotaru in Sailor Moon. They create their own websites, characters, stories, discussion groups, toys and…