Secrets of Clay Animation Revealed!

by Marc Spess, published by MinuteMan Press, 97 pages, softcover, b&w illustrations and 10 color pages.

This book stands out as virtually a public service, a no-nonsense practical handbook on how to create clay animation. 

The goal of author Marc Spess is simply to spell out the technique as simply and straight-forward as possible. He achieves this by methodically documenting all the steps, including tips and tricks. 

Photographs and diagrams are used to clarify the text, and plenty of examples are cited, making it accesible to beginners while remaining useful even to those who have experience with stop-motion work. 

Importantly, various topics are clearly marked and organized, making this a great reference work. 


If you want to animate with clay, the book you want at your side is Secrets of Clay Animation Revealed!

Having said that, it’s also important to note that this book promotes the methods popularized by Will Vinton Productions in Portland, Oregon. 

The technical advice provided to the author comes mostly from animators from this studio, and the book’s illustrations are either from Vinton’s filmwork or clearly influenced by the clay-sculpted aesthetic made famous by the artists there. 

This is not a complaint, just an observation. If anything, the Northwest style of Vinton is a bit more “purist” than some of the animation now popular from Aardman Animations, which tends to fuse clay or silicon or plasticine heavily with other elements, creating a hybrid animation that is not entirely claymation. 

At its most basic, the method documented in SECRETS involves a metal armature encased in clay, photographed frame-by-frame by an animator.Marc Spess may not write with the most fluid prose, and the book’s page layout is not particularly engaging, but this hardly matters. 

This is the kind of book you consult more than you actually sit down and read. It’s handy, not entertaining. Topics include texture pads, animating eyes, the mold injection process, ball-and-socket feet, clay special effects, set-building, good habits to get into, frame-grab techniques, hot glue guns, and much much more. 

It’s especially useful that the book includes product and vendor names and addresses whenever possible, so that animators can mail order the relevant items that they’ll need. 

Because Marc Spess is a clay animator, one imagines that this is the book he’d always wished he’d had when he first started in the field. Lucky for us, that book is now here, and these “secrets” are now readily available.

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