|The cover of the book, its title drawn in so ornate a style that one can hardly read it.|
Bob Heath's one claim to fame was that he animated the short cartoon "The Critic" for Pintoff Productions. With comic narration by Mel Brooks, this cartoon won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject for 1963.
Heath subsequently ran his own animation studio and developed the book during this time. Originally it was designed as a correspondence course, which means that students would enroll by mail, receive lessons by mail, and send in their work and receive corrections and comments by mail. Complete the whole course of work, and you get a certificate of completion. It is the same idea as was successfully carried out by such schools as the well-known Famous Artists School and is similar in concept to the online courses available from independent schools today. However, I don't know if it was ever actually offered to the public as a correspondence course, or only as the book that came into my hands.
It was a large format book, 11" x 14" (28cm x 35.5cm) and 142 pages long, and it offered a practical education in basic character animation in a "limited animation" character design style that was fashionable in the 1950's and 60's, more UPA than Disney. After some introductory material about equipment, the 12 lessons included three on inbetweening, two on assistant animation, one on general animation, and then a chapter each on animation pans, the animation camera, tricks of the trade, animation actions, working with animation, and technical animation.
Each of the 12 chapters had exercises or problems to be solved, and each had solutions to its problems provided at the back of the book, thus maintaining the lesson and answer structure of the correspondence course. My copy of the book is somewhat mutilated because of the necessity in doing the lessons of cutting up the pages to remount the drawings in register on animation paper. But I have kept all the material together and haved taped the pages back together so that today I have virtually the whole book.
|A typical page of illustrated instruction from Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons.|
Personally I never completed all the lessons because by the time I got Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons, I had already learned many of these basic lessons elsewhere. I don't know how many animators benefitted from this book, but I believe a person who had absorbed all its information would have been qualified for at least an entry level position at any studio producing animated television commercials in its time.
In addition to the book, I purchased at the same time the animation disc offered by Heath Productions. It was manufactured of molded particle board with a frosted glass inset panel and movable Acme peg bars of black plastic with metal pegs. I used this disc until I replaced it with the much cooler and more expensive aluminum disc I still use today.
|The Heath Productions animation disc. The only way to lock down the sliding peg bars was to tape them down...but it worked!|