Friday, April 17, 2009

Flip-a-Mation

It was a crazy idea. Why not put a flip book into a paperback novel?

After I designed the cover for a science fiction book Quozl by Alan Dean Foster (1989, Berkley Books), I proposed including an animated sequence inside the pages of the book.


The story was about long-eared aliens called quozls that come to Earth and end up starring in a Saturday morning cartoon. It seemed a perfect reason to try out the flip book idea.


I did 100 pen and ink drawings for the animated sequence. It starts out with a spacecraft landing. The hatch open and a quozl climbs out. It walks over to a skateboard, steps onto it, does a flip, and ends up sitting on the skateboard.

The press technicians worked hard to keep the pages lined up so that the animation didn’t jump around too much.

If the idea didn’t become more widespread, perhaps it was just because it was just too much work and too much cost.

16 comments:

Victor said...

Wow, were you the first person to ever to that?

There are so many possibilities for this idea. You could have animated prologues and epilogues, or certain action scenes could be animated. How about an animated "about the author" photo?

fergk said...

The Animorphs series that were popular in the 90s had this actually. In the story, these kids could transform into any animals they touched. In the corner of every book there was a flip-animation of a person transforming into an animal, if I remember correctly.

Richard Smitheman said...

Ah great, so he animates too. Is there any other area of art you like to conquer? I suppose next week you'll show us how you touched up the Sistine chapel ;)
But seriously, nice job. Shame more books don't do it, it really does add something special.

Alida Saxon said...

Ha, I remember the book. A friend of mine showed it to me back when I was in high school. I didn't realize you were the artist behind the project. I defend that by saying it has been a few years since the work and finding this blog. Sticking to that excuse.

Natalie said...

You remember correctly fergk. My son still has his collection. It's more a morph than an animation. Disney's 'Illusion of Life' has several animation examples in the corners of the book, but from previously drawn artwork (looks awesome though). I know that I have seen examples of book animation before, I just can't remember where. I'm going to fixate on this all weekend...

Pat said...

What a brilliant idea!

My favorite part was when the spacecraft squashed and stretched when it landed. Haha!

Daroo said...

The landing is great -- a squash, an overshoot and then a nice slow in as the ship settles into that final pose. You said you were a fan of Winsor McKay -- it shows.

I love this idea because you actually took something we all did to our eighth grade language arts reading assignment books and then got it published (and I assume paid for it)!

They used to have Looney tunes comics that were basically in a paperback format -- and they would often have some flippable animation in the corner.

Nina Johansson said...

Very cool idea, I´ve seen lots of flipbooks, but never in a novel. Great way to add something extra to the book.

Andrew Wales said...

I remember the Looney Tunes flip books!

Wow, I can't imagine how much work this was. What a really neat achievement though.

Tom said...

that was great James

Christopher said...

I loved this animation as a kid. Did you do a lot of Alan Dean Foster books? because I read pretty much all of them. Your illustrations definitely helped bring the characters to life.

Stefan said...

Wow, I remember that book quite well. I never realized that it was you who did that. A shame that it never caught on... my favorite example of something like this is the animation in the lower corner of "The Next Whole Earth Catalog", of landscape and sunrise and sunset and birdflight.

Cool as usual, keep on posting :)

gallymathias said...

Brilliant!! :)

Cortney Skinner said...

Excellent!...and I love the pen & ink style you used...at first I thought it was a vintage drawing from the 30's. Sounds like Carl Stalling there?

James Gurney said...

You are all so kind to my efforts. Good ear, Cort...yes, the music is by Carl Stalling, the great Warner Brothers composer. There's a CD called "The Carl Stalling Project" with a lot of tracks from Bugs Bunny cartoons, and it's pure magic.

David said...

I read this book the day my son was born waiting for the induced labor stuff to kick in.
Small world