5th Edition

Acting for Animators

By Ed Hooks Copyright 2023
    244 Pages 96 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    244 Pages 96 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Ed Hooks' essential acting guidebook for animators has been fully revised and updated in this fifth edition, capturing some of the vast changes that have affected the animation industry in recent years. Written specifically for animation professionals instead of stage and movie actors, this book provides an essential primer for creating empathetic and dynamic character performance and, in the process, shows how the strongest storytelling structure works.

    Hooks applies classical acting theory – from Aristotle to Stanislavsky and beyond – to animation, as well as explaining scene structure, character development and the connections between thinking, emotion and physical action. Theory presented here applies to any and all character animation regardless of style or animation technique. Whether your project is stop-motion, 2D, 3D or a blend of techniques, audiences are audiences are audiences, and they have shown up at the theater or cinema so they can experience and enjoy your story.

    New to this fifth edition:

    • Four new scene-by-scene acting analyses of animated feature films:  Flee, Soul, Porco Rosso and The Triplets of Belleville
    • A comprehensive and updated section titled "Classroom Notes" which includes a segment on experimental animation, a brief history of acting training for actors and guidance on Motion and Performance Capture technology
    • Updated online database of Hooks' previous film analyses, all in one place

    Acting for Animators is essential reading for all students and teachers of animation courses.



    Let’s Start with Definitions

    Definition: Acting is behaving believably in pretend circumstances for a theatrical purpose.

    For a theatrical purpose


    Action → Conflict/Obstacle → Objective

    We are narrative-seeking, storytelling animals



    Long-term and short-term objectives

    Baymax in a shopping cart

    Pursuing a negative objective

    Acting and the CG Pipeline

    Animate the thought (acting is a process of exposing, not of hiding)

    Willing suspension of disbelief and the Uncanny Valley

    Regarding the animated documentary




    Psychological gesture

    Character rhythm

    The audience

    Who is your intended audience?

    The 4th wall

    Video reference

    Storyboards vs. complete screenplays

    Comedy vs. drama (intro)

    Gags lack structure

    Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy


    Character development

    Heroes and villains

    Video games

    Empathy vs. agency in games

    Cutscenes (animatics)


    Non-player characters (NPC's)

    Character design and narrative

    A few more thoughts about blinking in games

    Classroom notes

    Scenes begin in the middle

    Acting is doing; Acting is also reacting



    Animating dialogue

    Status transactions

    Power centers

    The adrenaline moment


    Regarding those talking dogs in Pixar’s movie UP

    Experimental animation

    Laban movement analysis

    What does listening look like?


    Anger and yelling

    Punctuation in scripts



    My acting gift to you is a surprise

    A scene is a negotiation

    Relationships are the way that characters feel about one another


    A brief history of acting training (for actors)


    Animating aliens, robots and other non-humans

    Film Analysis


    Grave of the fireflies


    Porco Rosso


    The Triplets of Belleville


    Madame Souza

    Training for the Tour de France

    The Tour de France

    The kidnapping

    French wine center/the sinister crime

    We meet the Triplets of Belleville

    The rescue




    "PSSSST . . . a few words, please, with animation teachers and mentors . . ."

    Classroom exercises

    Tightrope Exercise

    Create a character profile

    Open script exercise

    The transformation game


    Walt Disney’s 1935 memo to Don Graham regarding how to train animators

    Ed Hooks annotates an animation master into "actor-ese" ...

    Ed Hooks annotates a section from the book The Illusion of Life


    Becoming an artist

    The future of animated storytelling





    Ed Hooks was a professional actor for almost 30 years, trained in New York, with credits in all media. He is an internationally recognized acting teacher who has taught in over 35 countries, and he has written several books for actors. Hooks is the first person to apply classical acting theory to animated storytelling.

    Acting for Animators is written specifically for animation professionals and provides an essential primer for creating empathic and dynamic character performances and shows how the storytelling structure works. Not only will every animation professional benefit from reading this book, every animation student can use it as a basic tool for the foundation of their career.”

    Nancy Denney-Phelps, Animation World Network, USA