For People Crazy About 2D Animation!

Acme Punched! is for people crazy about 2D animation. It may be enjoyed by beginners and others, but it is aimed at animators who know already something about the process of animation and the basics of character animation. In large part, it will attempt to provide a deep look into the problem solving that goes on in my head as I work out a scene, often in step-by-step posts that I will sometimes enter in "real time", without knowing in advance what the outcome will be. Mistakes and false starts will not only be included but emphasized, so that the creative process of animation will be portrayed realistically. And, while my own bias is for 2D drawn animation, many of the effects and principles discussed here can apply to CGI 3D animation as well. I hope the blog will prove useful and instructive for all.

-Jim Bradrick

Sunday, October 28, 2012

No. 18, Rare Animation Books: Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons

The cover of the book, its title drawn in so ornate a style that one can hardly read it.
Animation in Twelve Hard Lessons was first published in 1972 by the author's own company, Robert P. Heath Productions, of Tampa, Florida.  I think I got my copy about 1980, and in those days before the internet, it is probable that I saw an ad for it in the catalog of Cartoon Colour Company of Burbank, California, which is still in the business of selling animator's supplies to this day (including, I must mention, animation paper which is acme punched.)

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!
Although this book is long out of print, as of this writing there are several American booksellers offering used copies online.

Next: Getting Your Paper Animation into Toon Boom Animate Pro.


  1. Awesome. I found your article after seeing some of the pages posted over at Michael Sporn's blog.

    Thanks for the background information on Bob Heath.
    Love the animation disc too!

  2. I just got my copy off eBay for a good price, all the pages are still intact and in good condition!

  3. Bob dated my grandmother back in the mid 80's. He was quite an interesting fellow. I use to hangout in Bob's studio and watch him work. Bob did almost everything by himself. He trusted only a few people to help him work. He and my grandmother broke up and I think the last time I saw Bob he was living in a trailer in Zephyrhills Florida. Disney had offered him a job and Bob had always told me back then that computer animation would take over the industry and he was very tormented by this.things never worked out with Disney as he haggled with someone and lost the opportunity. I think he was just afraid of technology personally and sabotaged himself.
    That was the last time I saw Bob and I believe he passed away in 1996.
    He was quite a character ol' Bob.

    1. Thanks, Jackson. I love this kind of personal reminiscence. I, myself, am more than a bit tormented by the takeover of computer animation, still tilting with the blunted lance of my blog against the windmills of digital this and digital that, while at the same time using computers where it pleases me.