Monday, 10 September 2007


The History of Animation


Animation is involves individual frames (with a slight difference) put together to create a moving image. Since 1906, when James Stuart Blackton (America filmmaker) created a small animated film using stop-motion and drawing, the idea intrigued many and so animation began. However, J.S.Blackton was not the single “creator” of animation, as during this period of time several other people were also carrying out projects which where considered as animation. Other contributors to the birth of animation where people such as Georges Méliès (the creator of the special effects film), Winsor Mcay (with a team of artist) who painstakingly created highly detailed animations e.g. ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ by repetitively re-drawing each frame (backgrounds and animation). Émile Cohl who in 1908 drew cartoon strips and created a film titled ‘fantasmagorie’ and Otto Messmer (creator of the character ‘Felix the Cat’).
Whilst during this time period the idea of animation of developing and growing it was is 1831, when the phenakistoscope was invented by the Belgian Joseph Plateau. The phenakistoscope disc (phenakistoscope coming from the Greek word meaning ‘deceiving viewer’) was an animation device using optical features to give the onlooker the illusion of animation. Other animation devices based from the phenakistoscope followed such as zoetrope and stroboscope.

A Phenakistoscope disc

In the early years of animation, people had to draw out each frame by frame which was a mind-numbing task; however it was in 1910 when the introduction of cels that animation took its next steps forward. Cels (celluloid) are ‘sheets of clear plastic, containing the images of the characters, which are placed over a background, and then photographed in succession to give the illusion of movement in the completed film’. This in turn allowed the animator to focus on the animation and not having to continuously re-draw the backgrounds again and again.
A frame from ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ (1914)

CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is a modern name for computer animation. It is an application of the field of computer graphics used for things such as special effects in films. 1973 was the year in which CGI began. In the film ‘Westwood’, 2D CGI was used, whilst in ‘Futureworld’ (1976), 3D CGI was used. A year later and in 1977, Star Wars used CGI to create the Death Star (a weapon created by Darth Vader to destroy planets). It wasn’t until 1985, when the first ever CGI character was created to star in the film ‘Young Sherlock Holmes’
However it was in 1993, when Spielberg’s famous ‘Jurassic Park’ hit the big screens that CGI really stepped up. The dinosaurs within the movie were made to look realistic and lifelike that its impact changed the movie industry forever. This also saw the time when stop-motion animation started to decline as Hollywood converted to digital effects.

However CGI came into its own in 1995, when Disney (Pixar) released the first ever computer generated feature length motion picture ‘Toy Story’. The film generated a staggering $191,773,049 and $358,100,000 worldwide. From then on the animation industry was born as major companies such as Blue Sky Studios (1997), DreamWorks Animation SKG (1994) and many others followed on. CGI has become so big that it has almost become essential in many big films e.g. big Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘I, Robot’ (2004), Starring Will Smith, use CGI to create special effects or Spiderman 3 (2007) ‘Venom’ etc.

Throughout computer generated animation films, DreamWorks ‘Shrek’ series has been the biggest animation success, however recently the individual genre of CGI films has been in decline, although CGI will now almost always be used in films to create special effects. But as it computers, technology is developing at an alarmingly fast rate and so therefore animation and CGI will only get better and in doing so revive the CGI genre. In fact the genre is way ‘forward’ according to Colin Kennedy, editor of the Empire Magazine. “Computer animation is the way forward, according to Kennedy, simply because production techniques are getting so much cheaper and cost effective’. In addition Kennedy believes that it’s down to a ‘strong story’ and ‘sharp scripts’ that holds the success of animation. Whilst all the visual effects remain dazzling and realistic, all successful films begin with a strong storyline/script.

Types of animation


There are 3 main different types of animation:
1. traditional/cel/plain animation
2. Stop-motion animation 3.
Computer animation ___________________________________________________________________
Traditional/cel/plain animation

This is the original form of animation whereby the animation is created by hand drawings on cels. Nowadays this form of animation is obsolete due to computers and technology.

Example/s: Walt Disney’s ‘The Lion King’.

Full animation

The most widely-known style in animation, known for its realistic and often very detailed art.
Examples: All
Disney and most Ghibli feature length animation, The Secret of NIMH, The Iron Giant

Limited animation

A cheaper process of making
animated cartoons that does not follow a "realistic" approach.
The Flintstones, Yellow Submarine

Rubber hose

The characters are usually very "cartoony", and the animators have a lot of artistic freedom as rubber hose doesn't have to follow the laws of physics and anatomy to the same degree as the other main styles of animation.
Examples: Early
Mickey Mouse cartoons, Popeye, Ren and Stimpy


A technique where
animators trace live action movement, frame by frame, either by directly copying an actors outlines into an animated drawing (e.g. Ralph Bakshi), or use rotoscoped material as a basis and inspiration for a more fluid and expressive animation (e.g. Disney).
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Gulliver's Travels, American Pop
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Stop-motion animation

Stop motion aka motion picture animation involves animation whereby the animator can ‘physically’ change the scene. Objects and materials such as clay, puppets, paper etc. are used to create a scene. The scene is set up and the animator takes a photo of the scene and then changes/moves the puppet/clay model when the character is making a move and then takes a photo again. This form of animation is one of the most tedious and complicated types of animation.

Example/s: Wallace and Gromit (clay animation)

Clay animation

A clay animation scene from a TV commercial.
Often abbreviated to claymation, this is a type of stop-motion animation using figures made of clay or a similar malleable material. The figures may have an
armature or wire frame inside of them, similar to puppet animation (below). Alternatively, the figures may be made entirely of clay, such as in the films of Bruce Bickford where clay creatures morph into a variety of different shapes.
Morph, Wallace and Gromit; The Trap Door

Cutout animation

A type of stop-motion animation formed by moving 2-dimensional pieces of material such as paper or cloth.
Terry Gilliam' animated sequences of Monty Python's Flying Circus

Silhouette animation

A monochrome variant of cutout animation in which the characters are only visible as black silhouettes.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed and other films by Lotte Reiniger, Princes et princesses and some short films by Michel Ocelot

Graphic animation
Graphic Animation is a variation of stop motion (and possibly more conceptually associated with traditional flat cel animation and paper drawing animation, but still technically qualifying as stop motion) consisting of the animation of photographs (in whole or in parts) and other non-drawn flat visual graphic material, such as newspaper and magazine clippings.
Examples: Frank Morris' 1973 Oscar-winning short film, Frank Film

Model animation

In this form of animation, model animated characters interact with, and are a part of, the live-action world.
Examples: The films of
Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts) and Willis O'Brien (King Kong)
Go motion
Go motion is a variation of
stop motion animation, and was co-developed by Industrial Light & Magic and Phil Tippett for the film The Empire Strikes Back.
Example: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back

Object animation

Object animation is a form of
stop motion animation that involves the animated movements of any non-drawn objects such as toys, blocks, dolls, etc. which are not fully malleable, such as clay or wax, and not designed to look like a recognizable human or animal character.
Example: Robot Chicken


Pixilation (from pixilated) is a
stop motion technique where live actors are used as a frame-by-frame subject in an animated film, by repeatedly posing while one or more frame is taken and changing pose slightly before the next frame or frames. The actor becomes a kind of living stop motion puppet.

Puppet animation

Puppet animation typically involves puppet figures interacting with each other in a constructed environment, in contrast to the real-world interaction in model animation (above). The puppets generally have an
armature inside of them to keep them still and steady as well as constraining them to move at particular joints.
The Tale of the Fox, the films of Jiří Trnka, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Robot Chicken


Graphic Animation is a variation of stop motion (and possibly more conceptually associated with traditional flat cel animation and paper drawing animation, but still technically qualifying as stop motion) consisting of the animation of photographs (in whole or in parts) and other non-drawn flat visual graphic material, such as newspaper and magazine clippings.
Examples are Frank Morris' 1973 Oscar-winning short film, Frank Film, and Charles Braverman's Condensed Cream of the Beatles (1972), originally produced for Geraldo Rivera's late night TV show of the time, Goodbye America.


Puppetoon animation, also called replacement animation, is a type of
stop-motion animation. In traditional stop-motion, the puppets are made with moveable parts which are repositioned between frames to create the illusion of motion when the frames are played in rapid sequence. In puppetoon animation the puppets are rigid; each is typically used in a single frame and then "replaced" with a separate, near-duplicate puppet for the next frame. Thus puppetoon animation requires many separate figures.
Example: The Tale of the Fox

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Computer animation

This type is the newest form of animation. This form of animation involves the use of creating a film through the use of computers. Computer animation has slowly now become important in terms of creating many spectacular films. For example Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’ used CGI animation to create impressive scenes. The computer animation also saved time and cost as it did not require the long task of building model dinosaurs. CGI also came to use when required for things such as stunts and creating large crowds without having to gather lots of people etc. The two types of computer animation are 2D and 3D.

2D animation

Using 2D Bitmap graphics or 2D vector graphics to create and animate. Analog computer animation (Scanimate), Flash animation and PowerPoint animation are other forms of 2D animation.

3D animation

The figures are created using polygons.

Examples: Shrek, Finding Nemo

Cel-shaded animation-

a form of computer animation which makes the computer graphics appear to be hand drawn

Examples: Walt Disney films

Morph-target animation

Morph target animation is stored as a series of vertex positions. In each keyframe of the animation, the vertices are moved to a different position.

Skeletal animation

Skeletal animation, sometimes referred to as rigging, is a technique in computer animation, particularly in the animation of vertebrates, in which a character is represented in two parts: a surface representation used to draw the character (called the skin) and a hierarchical set of bones used for animation only (called the skeleton).

Motion capture animation

Using sensors the actions/movement patterns are captured by the computer allowing realistic viewing e.g. if a person, hooked up to sensors, goes through the act of batting a ball, that motion trail can be used to simulate a more realistic baseball player in the computer.
Example: The Incredible Hulk (2003)

Crowd stimulation

Instead of having to gather large crowds of people, the computer stimulates the movement of large crowds.
Examples: Lord of the Rings

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Process of Computer Generated Imagery Animation

Note: It takes 4 years to produce a CGI animation film

1. Script

The first step to creating a CGI animation film is to make a script. ‘Great films begin with great concepts’. The best films all begin with a great script.

2. Storyboard

The script is then passed onto the artist who then translates the script into images via drawings. The drawings are then digitally photographed and put together to create a story reel (this is then worked with for 18 months)

3.Visual development

The visual development team starts to develop the tone and style of the film by creating all the characters, scenes and objects.

4 .Casting

Then people are casted to be the voices of the animated characters.


From the initial designs the modelers will construct the digital 3D model that will be used for planning and animation


The modelers start with a armature (wire frame sculptures) which allows the animator to use geometry to work out the type of movements the characters can make.

7.Basic surfaces

Once the armature has been setup, we can begin to add basic surfaces. It is this simplified “puppet in a box“or digital marionette that we use in our next step.


The layout artist team use blocks and shapes to block out the scene. The blocks and shapes act as a blueprint.

9.Character animation

The characters are then animated and brought to life by using the actions made from the rigging phase. Then they are also synchronized with their voices


Effects are added to make the scenes realistic

11.Finishing touches

Things such as adding sound effects, adjust correct colours, add music soundtracks etc.

A List of Computer animation companies

Walt Disney Pixar (Pixar was purchased by Disney in 1991)- Toy Story (first ever feature length CGI animated film), A Bugs Life, The incredibles, Monsters Inc
DreamWorks Animation SKG- Shrek, Madagascar
Warner Bros- Looney Tunes, Pinky and the Brain
Blue Sky Studios- Robots, Ice Age
PDI (Pacific Data Images)
Sony Pictures Animation
Aardman Animation

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