3D STOP-MOTION ANIMATION
Even in the contemporary era, when animation enjoys mainstream success and a diverse presence in everything from feature films to television sitcoms to festival shorts, and to Web and mobile delivery, the animation form is still very much understood in the popular imagination as "the cartoon"; its history, as ostensibly "American"; and its principal identity, as "Disney." This neglects an extraordinary body of work made with different techniques and by animators and studios worldwide. Animation may be broadly categorized under four key headings: the traditional cartoon; stop-motion three-dimensional (3D) animation, including puppet and clay animation, and work undertaken within the special-effects tradition; digital animation, incorporating computer-generated films, Web animation, motion capture and postproduction visual effects; and alternative animation, embracing experimental and avant garde forms and independent, developmental films that are essentially related to a fine-art discipline and context. Inevitably, these definitions overlap and combine in specific works, but they operate as convenient signposts by which to address different "histories" of animation, and animation as a consistently progressive form even as it has entered mainstream acceptance and popular culture.
Despite all the innovations in the early years of US cinema that eventually led to the emergence of the "cartoon," it is Fantasmagorie (1908), by Emile Cohl (1857–1938) with its surreal stick-figure animation, that should be understood as the first two-dimensional cartoon film. Its bizarre narrative shows off the possibilities of the new form and signals "metamorphosis" as the core language of animated stories. Inevitably, though, it is the US tradition that defines the form in the public imagination, beginning with cartoon versions of comic strips and quickly embracing vaudeville and slapstick film comedy as the touchstone for its development as an indigenous American art. The pioneering work of Winsor McCay (1871–1934), including Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), arguably the first "personality" animation, was hugely influential on the aspirational Walt Disney (1901–1966), who became the key figure in creating an animation industry and ultimately in determining a critical view of animation as a film art. Disney's entrepreneurial and editorial skills drove his company and created a small-scale studio that could compete with the major players in the Hollywood system. The Silly Symphonies, made throughout the 1920s and 1930s and arguably some of the studio's greatest works, preceded the groundbreaking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), the first full-length, sound-synchronized Technicolor cartoon. Though challenged by the innovations of the Fleischer and Warner Bros. studios, Disney's masterpieces, Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1941), and Bambi (1941), consolidated the studio's hyperrealist "fullanimation" aesthetic, and defined animation as a form.
Once Disney prioritized its feature-length works, Warner Bros. and MGM successfully advanced the cartoon short. Warner Bros., with key figures such as Tex Avery (1908–1980), Chuck Jones (1912–2002), and Bob Clampett (1913–1984), modernized the cartoon by making it more urbane and adult and more self-consciously "cartoonal" by foregrounding the very mechanisms by which cartoon narrative and comedy was achieved. MGM enjoyed success with the Tom and Jerry series, becoming endlessly inventive in character humor and chase scenarios, a formula later aped by Chuck Jones in his Roadrunner cartoons. Warner Bros. prospered throughout World War II, continuing to make innovative cartoons, but chiefly establishing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig as household names. The postwar period, however, was the end of the "Golden Era," as a breakaway group from Disney formed United Productions of America (UPA), working in a minimalist, modern-art style, and on far more auteurist terms and conditions. John Hubley (1914–1977), and later his wife, Faith Hubley (1924–2001), and their family, developed the cartoon form with an aesthetic that sometimes embraced non-Western art forms; spiritual aspiration in relation to philosophical or quasi-religious topics; and the direct engagement with personal subject matter.
As the postwar world changed, the cartoon adapted, but its production costs and declining popularity led to the closure of many of the major studios' theatrical cartoon units and to a watershed for Disney, which failed to produce the classics of old. Chuck Jones had made masterpieces for cinema screens in the last throes of theatrical exhibition (What's Opera, Doc?, 1957), but the television era had begun in earnest, with Hanna-Barbera making more economically viable cartoons using a minimalist "reduced" style with simple and repeated movement cycles, and prioritizing witty scripts and characterful vocal performances. Ruff and Reddy debuted in 1957, and Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear soon became popular favorites, but it was The Flintstones (1960), the first prime-time animated sitcom, that vindicated the company's cost-effective methods. Though the 1960s proved to be a time in which animation was arguably at its lowest ebb in the United States, the shifting political climate encouraged more independent work, and by the early 1970s, with the work of Ralph Bakshi (b. 1938), the cartoon fully embraced the counterculture and its value as an "adult" language of expression.
Fritz the Cat (1972), Heavy Traffic (1973), and Coonskin (1975) engaged with the sexual, racial, and political mores of an America embroiled in the Vietnam War and coming to terms with the implications of Watergate. Though not entirely successful, Bakshi's work was nevertheless a last hurrah for traditional animation, as it became clear that the rejuvenation of the form in the mainstream arena would be determined by the recovery of Disney classicism and the rapid development of the new computer-generated aesthetic. The former only came in the late 1980s with the work of Ron Clements (b. 1953) and John Musker, who with The Little Mermaid (1989), and later, Aladdin (1992) and Hercules (1997), revived Disney's fortunes, ironically by using a more self-conscious, Warner Bros. style. In the midst of their achievements, Beauty and the Beast (1991) and the phenomenally successful The Lion King (1994) also resurrected Disney's classical animation aesthetic in the guise of the romantic musical. Interestingly, though, it was the computer-generated sequences in these films—the ballroom scene and the charge of the wildebeest, respectively—that signalled fully how computer-generated animation would eventually overtake traditional cel animation as the signature look of the animated feature. With the closure of the 2D animation department at Disney in 2003 came the tacit admission that 3D computer-generated imagery (CGI) was the new language of animation. Ironically, for all of that, the work of Hayao Miyazaki (b. 1941), with the Oscar® -winning Spirited Away (2001); Bill Plympton (b. 1946) with Mutant Aliens (2001) and Hair High (2004); and Tim Burton (b. 1958), Henry Selick (b. 1952), and the Aardman Studios working in 3D stop-motion proved that "tradition" was never very far away.
Three-dimensional stop-motion animation has two distinct histories. The first is the largely European tradition of short stop-motion films made by individual artists and stop-motion series made principally for children's television. The second, predominantly Hollywood tradition, is the "invisible" history of stop-motion animation as a branch of special effects for feature-length films. This is complicated further by the fact that 3D stop-motion animation also has two principal approaches, using either puppets or clay models, but also includes films made with objects and artifacts.
Though J. Stuart Blackton (1875–1941) and Albert E. Smith (1875–1958), Britons working in the United States, have been credited with making the first puppet film, The Humpty Dumpty Circus (1908), the British filmmaker Arthur Melbourne Cooper (1874–1961) made the first 3D advertisement ("Matches: An Appeal," featuring animated matches) perhaps as early as 1899. Cooper's "toys come to life" stories, including Dreams of Toyland (1908) and The Toymaker's Dream (1913), became a staple of early British animated film. Similar preoccupations informed The War and the Dreams of Momi (Giovanni Pastrone, 1913) and, later, The New Gulliver (Alexander Ptushko, 1935); but it was another Russian, Ladislaw Starewich (1882–1965), who first developed an extraordinary technique, following his interest in entomology, in animating three-dimensional insect characters. The Cameraman's Revenge (1911) is a melodramatic love triangle, and highly self-conscious in its reflexive tale of cinema about cinema. His later films Town Rat, Country Rat (1926) and Tale of the Fox (1930, released 1938) are masterpieces of the stopmotion form, drawing upon a darker, more amoral tradition of the folktale, yet they remained singularly unsung until recent years.
This neglect is a signal that animation made outside the US cartoonal tradition, in the long shadow of Disney, has been often marginalized in animation histories. This does more than negate important, aesthetically different work; it dismisses significant indigenous works that reflect national cultures and alternative perspectives on human experience. It is also true to say that the US tradition, particularly in its formative years, is largely a comic tradition. Other countries have aspired to different kinds of storytelling and have different thematic and artistic preoccupations. Indeed, even the comic work inevitably reflects different traditions of humor. The recovery of this work is paramount to a full understanding of the place of animation in international film culture.
Back in the United States, though, it was the pioneer Willis O'Brien (1886–1962) who inspired generations of what came to be called "effects artists." Amused by his brother, who playfully changed some of the postures of clay figures created for the exhibits in the San Francisco World's Fair of 1915, O'Brien experimented with his first stop-motion film, of a boxing match, soon to be followed by a prehistoric comedy, The Dinosaur and the Missing Link (1915). In 1925 he made The Lost World, based on a story by Arthur Conan Doyle, assisted by the gifted model maker Marcel Delgado (1901–1976), who constructed 18-inch models influenced by Charles Knight's acclaimed dinosaur paintings in the American Museum of Natural History. RKO then employed O'Brien on the groundbreaking King Kong (1933), which changed the status of special-effects work, fully deploying O'Brien's "rear-projection" system, which combined background live action with foreground miniature animation, first seen in O'Brien's aborted project, The Creation (1930). King Kong has generated a high degree of critical attention, playing out considerations of its sexual and racial subtexts, and the complex implications of its bestial and imperialist agendas. These issues were revisited in the 2005 remake by Peter Jackson (b. 1961), which uses the same combination of motion-captured performance, 3D puppet animation, and 3D computer animation so successfully deployed in the creation of the character Gollum for Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003).
O'Brien later became mentor to the most famous of all stop-motion animation artists, Ray Harryhausen (b. 1920), who, inspired by King Kong, sought to ape the technique in his own short films. After working with the renowned George Pal (1908–1980) on his Puppetoons, Harryhausen made his own short educational films, the first of which was the Mother Goose Stories, then joined O'Brien in making Mighty Joe Young in 1949. This was the beginning of a long and distinguished career in which Harryhausen created many fantastical and mythical creatures in films such as The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms (1953), The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and Clash of the Titans (1981). The effects tradition essentially defined by Harryhausen has the inherent contradiction that an effect must operate as something that draws attention to itself as "spectacle," but at the same time remains invisible as an "effect." Harryhausen's painstaking efficiency in the frame-by-frame compositing of increasingly complex miniature figures and creatures with live-action characters and environments represents a major achievement in cinema practice. As such, he is cited as a major influence by contemporary animators and artists from Phil Tippett (b. 1951) to James Cameron (b. 1954) and is referenced in animated films from Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993), in which skeletons battle underwater, echoing Jason's fight with six skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, to PIXAR's Monsters, Inc. (2001), in which a top-class restaurant is called Harryhausen's.
Harryhausen's legacy is great, but George Pal, his one-time employer, also produced fine work. His "replacement" technique was slightly different from Harryhausen's method: whereas Harryhausen manipulated his models by small increments and recorded them frame by frame, Pal created replacement pieces of his models—faces, arms, legs, and so on—which progressed the cycle of movement he was creating, and which he inserted and changed, once more recording the incremental progression frame by frame. Though a more cumbersome technique, it survives into the modern era, particularly in clay animation, and has been used in films by Aardman Animation in England. After making early films in Germany, Pal moved to Holland, fleeing the rise of Nazism, and established the biggest puppet studio in Europe, principally making striking advertisements for sponsors such as Phillips and Unilever. His Puppetoons, made in Hollywood, included Jasper and the Beanstalk (1945), Henry and the Inky Poo (1946), and Tubby the Tuba (1947). They were highly successful, though sometimes they fell afoul of what might be termed "cultural difference" in regard to the representation of race issues and the interpretation of Western humor. These films nevertheless secured Pal a reputation that enabled him to produce and direct feature-length science-fiction and fantasy films such as The War of the Worlds (1953), Tom Thumb (1958), The Time Machine (1960), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1963). These films all included tourde-force sequences of puppet animation—"the yawning man" from Tom Thumb being one of the most remembered. The quality of the animation by Harryhausen and Pal overshadowed similar efforts in the field such as, for example, Jack the Giant Killer (1961) by Tim Barr (1912–1977), one of a number of variations on The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958) that sought to cash in on its popularity. Barr later joined up with Gene Warren (1916–1997) and Wah Chang (1917–2003) to work on visual effects for Pal and on their own work in Projects Unlimited.
Pal's legacy in Europe has been sustained, consolidated, and advanced by two major figures of Czechoslovakian origin. Influenced by indigenous marionette and theatrical traditions, Jirí Trnka (1912–1969) and Jan Svankmajer (b. 1934) produced a range of extraordinary films pushing the boundaries of stop-motion and other techniques as well. Trnka's politicized if romantic vision inspired masterpieces such as Staré povesti ceské (Old Czech Legends, 1953), Sen noci svatojanske (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1955), and Ruka (The Hand, 1965), while Svankmajer's more subversive and challenging view, genuinely taboo-breaking in its daring, appears in such features as Alice (1988) and Otesánek (Little Otik, 2000). This altogether darker work inspired the Quay Brothers working in England, Kihachiro Kawamoto (b. 1925) in Japan, and Tim Burton and Henry Selick in the United States. Svankmajer's work is an important example of the ways in which the principles of modernist thought and political insight may be accommodated in experimental film. His "agit-prop" (strident critique of authoritarian regimes and political repression) and "agit-scare" (use of surreal images drawn from the unconscious to prompt moments of fear and revelation in his audience) are conceptual applications to the medium and should be understood as a methodology in the creation of distinctive imagery and alternative narratives. Svankmajer's masterpiece, Moznosti dialogu (Dimensions of Dialogue, 1982), is a tripartite meditation on the breakdown of communication, illustrating the brutal and destructive tendencies inherent in human exchange. The film is a complex metaphor and a challenging comment on humankind's inability to resolve its differences.
The contemporary era has seen the emergence of the Will Vinton studios in the United States and Aardman Animation in England as masters of clay animation. The two styles vary, but both studios value the "clay" aesthetic as something visually distinctive and engaging. Nick Park (b. 1958), Aardman's most famous son, created Wallace, the eccentric inventor, and his altogether smarter dog, Gromit, a now globally famous partnership, who have featured in Park's shorts A Grand Day Out (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993), and A Close Shave (1995). Park's work, though speaking to a wider tradition of English wit and whimsy, nevertheless has clear affiliations with the stop-motion animation made for children's television in England by Gordon Murray (b. 1921) and Bura and Hardwick (Camberwick Green, 1966, and Trumpton, 1967); Oliver Postgate (b. 1925) and Peter Firman (b. 1928) (The Clangers, 1969, and Bagpuss, 1974); and Ivor Wood (1932–2004) at Filmfair (The Wombles, 1973, and Postman Pat, 1981). The high quality of 3D animation for children in England has been sustained by Cosgrove Hall, S4C, and BBC Animation, and has been only echoed in the United States by the early 1960s work of Jules Bass (b. 1935) (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 1964, and Mad Monster Party, 1968) and by Art Clokey's (b. 1921) simple clay figure, Gumby (1955 onward). Inevitably, Will Vinton's (b. 1948) Martin the Cobbler (1976), The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985), and the 1990s' advertisements for the California Raisin Advisory Board, featuring raisins singing popular songs, have in their various ways created a high-water mark in clay animation in the United States, which has always had to compete with the Disney tradition, but also in recent years with the now dominant CGI aesthetic.
Stop-motion and clay animators have always championed the "materiality" and "textural" aspects of their work as the distinctive appeal of 3D stop-motion, but one of the most significant aspects remains the necessarily artisanal approach to the work, which is reliant not on off-the-shelf software but on the ability to make and build things, as well as to respond to the miniature demands of theatrical practice and live-action filmmaking techniques on a small scale. The fundamental belief in the sheer "difference" and visual appeal of stopmotion animation has also prompted the emergence of important individual artists, from Serge Danot (The Magic Roundabout, 1965) to Joan Gratz (Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase, 1992) to Barry Purves (Gilbert and Sullivan, 1999), each bringing a specific vision to the materials, as well as a sense of theatrical space and the fluid timing of their narratives. Peter Lord (b. 1953) and David Sproxton's (b. 1954) Animated Conversations (1978) and Conversation Pieces (1982–1983) were also groundbreaking in their combination of animation and "documentary" soundtrack. Chicken Run (2000), an Aardman feature, proved hugely successful, and crucially represented the maintenance of 3D work in a physical and material context. The persuasiveness of 3D CGI has proved a serious threat to such work, but the sheer tactility, texture, and presence of 3D stop-motion work with puppets or clay has endured and has maintained its own aesthetic distinctiveness. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005) and Aardman's feature Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) are testaments to the style's achievement and future.
The history of digitally produced animation, and animation produced through the use of a computer, begins outside the sphere of the entertainment industry, emerging out of the work of military and industrial research teams seeking to use computer graphics for simulation and technical instruction. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), created by the US army at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, was the world's first electronic programmable computer; although it was a vast contraption, it had little processing power. With the first silicon transistors, made in 1954, and integrated circuits in 1958, computers became more powerful, and their uses more various but still largely untouched by creative endeavors.
b. Prague, Czechoslovakia, 4 September 1934
Jan Svankmajer studied sculpture, painting, engraving, and the writings of the surrealist artists at the College of Applied Arts in Prague in the early 1950s, eventually entering the famed Prague Academy of Performing Arts in 1954 to study puppetry and filmmaking. These multidisciplinary skills earned Svankmajer a place as director and designer at the Czech State Puppet Theatre in 1958 and secured him work with the Semafor Mask Theatre in 1960. His first films—Poslední trik pana Schwarcewalldea a pana Edgara (The Last Trick, 1964), Hra s kameny (A Game with Stones, 1965), and Rakvickarna (Punch and Judy, 1966)—demonstrate Svankmajer's trademark synthesis of the arts and the particular relationship between animated puppets and objects, human actors, and automata within performance contexts and "psychological" spaces.
The most significant influence on Svankmajer is the authoritarian context in which he worked. Following the Prague Spring of 1968 and his implicit critique of communism in Leonarduv denik (Leonardo's Diary, 1972), Svankmajer was banned from making animated films for seven years. When permitted to return to filmmaking, he agreed to make approved literary adaptations. His interpretations of Hugh Walpole's Castle of Otranto (Otrantský zámek, 1977) and Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher (Zánik domu Usheru, 1981), are nevertheless thematically similar to his later Poe adaptation, Kyvadlo, jáma a nadeje (The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope, 1983) and his Lewis Carroll pieces, Zvahlav aneb Saticky Slameného Huberta (Jabberwocky, 1971) and the full-length feature Neco z Alenky (Alice, 1988). All are strident surrealist critiques of authoritarian regimes and political repression using irrational images drawn from the unconscious.
Svankmajer's bleak masterpiece, Moznosti dialogu (Dimensions of Dialogue, 1982), was banned in Czechoslovakia but enjoyed international success as a rich metaphor about the failure of personal and political communication. Do pivnice (Down to the Cellar, 1983) was an autobiographical interrogation of Svankmajer's childhood, depicting the terrors of unknown and mutable objects in a dark cellar. Many saw a similarly frightening engagement with childhood in Svankmajer's Alice, which sees Carroll's Wonderland recast as a nightmare world of disturbing images suggesting death, decay, and detritus, propelled by unconscious and complex desires.
The eventual downfall of communism produced Tma/Svetlo/Tma (Darkness/Light/Darkness, 1989), an absurdist fable about human endurance in the light of repression, and a short history of postwar Czechoslovakia, The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia (1990), which retains a chilling scepticism about oppression even in the newly democratic state. Svankmajer'ssubsequent features, Faust (1994), Spiklenci slasti (Conspirators of Pleasure, 1996), and Otesánek (Little Otik, 2000), combine live action and animation, yet continue his preoccupations with the "life" within found objects, the reconfiguration of "the body," and the surreal and subversive prompts of the unconscious.
The Last Trick (1964), Leonardo's Diary (1972), Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), Alice (1988), Jídlo (Food, 1992), Otesánek (Little Otik, 2000)
Field, Simon, Guy L'Eclair and Michael O'Pray, eds. Afterimage 13: Animating the Fantastic. London: Afterimage/British Film Institute, Autumn 1987.
Hames, Peter, ed. Dark Alchemy: The Films of Jan Svankmajer. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.
Hosková, Simeona, and Kveta Otcovská, eds. Jan Svankmajer: Transmutation of the Senses. Prague: Edice Detail, Central Europe Gallery and Publishing House, 1994.
Pilling, Jane, ed. A Reader in Animation Studies. London: John Libbey, 1997.
Svankmajer, Jan, and Eva Svankmajer. Animus Anima Animation. Prague: Slovart Publishers and Arbor Vitae—Foundation for Literature and Visual Arts, 1998.
John Whitney (1917–1995) was a pioneer in this respect, establishing Motion Graphics Inc. and making analog computer–generated light effects. He, in turn, inspired his son, John Whitney Jr., who was aware of the more commercially oriented innovation prompted by Ivan Sutherland's invention of the Sketchpad in 1962. This device enabled "drawing with light" into the computer, and underpinned the establishment of Evans and Sutherland as the first company to promote computer graphics as a creative technology. Whitney Jr. worked for the company for a short period before joining Information International, Inc. ("Triple I"), specializing in 3D computer-generated (CG) simulations. By 1964, when the first digital film recorder became available, John Stehura had made "Cibernetik 5.3" using only punch cards and tape, imagining his abstract, computer motion picture in his mind, and only seeing its outcome onscreen for the first time when using the recorder at General Dynamics in San Diego.
Having worked on an analog videographic system for his projects in the early 1970s, Ed Emshwiller (1926–1990) made the pioneering Sunstone (1979), a three-minute 3D computer graphic work using traditional frame-by-frame transitions and color in motion to create movement in static images that preceded the development of any software or hardware to facilitate such work. Another pioneer, Larry Cuba, made First Fig in 1974, and later worked with John Whitney Sr. on Arabesque (1975). Both of these were not merely experimental films, but also research into the relationship between geometry, mathematics, and graphics as they could be expressed through the computer.
One of the most crucial developments in the field in the 1970s was George Lucas's (b. 1944) creation of the initial teams that later became the nucleus of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and, later, PIXAR—a company created by Steve Jobs (b. 1955), the founder of Apple Computers, following the purchase of Lucasfilm's computer research and development division in 1985. Robert Abel (1937–2001), a pioneer in motion-control camera techniques, joined Lucas's team, and as well as doing development work on Star Wars (1977), effected research with Evans and Sutherland on applications of computer animation in the entertainment industries. It was not until 1982, however, that the first fully persuasive applications of computer-generated imagery emerged, first in Disney's Tron (1982), and then in the "Genesis" sequence of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982).
It was clear, though, that the research and development undertaken by ILM aspired to move beyond using computer graphics as purely an effect, to prioritizing the technology as a new model for the filmmaking process per se, thus creating a postphotographic mode of cinema. John Whitney left Triple I to establish Digital Productions and was responsible for the next key development in CGI by creating over twenty-five minutes of material for The Last Starfighter (1984). In 1985 three works ensured that CGI would have a significant role to play in future production: John Lasseter's (b. 1957) ILM research project The Adventures of Andre and Wally Bee, which showed early signs of Lasseter's trademark combination of traditional cartoon-character animation with computer aesthetics; Daniel Langlois's (b. 1961) Tony de Peltrie, the first convincing CG character performance, here an aging pianist; and Robert Abel's Canned Food Information Council–sponsored commercial Brilliance, featuring a sexy robot employing some primitive but nevertheless effective motion capture. Though these works were in some senses primitive, they signalled the possibility of character-driven narratives in a new aesthetic context even while drawing upon filmic imagery from earlier cartoons made by Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Tony de Peltrie used software, which would underpin the creation of Softimage, along with Alias-Waterfront, one of the major computer-animation software companies in the world.
Though initially the progress of CGI as a process was compromised by its cost, technical constraints, slowness of execution, and the lack of a standardized software package, James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) demonstrated that CGI could be used for effective storytelling and aesthetic ends and could work on a scale different from anything previously envisaged. With the increasing standardization of the requisite software, production facilities proliferated and CGI became an intrinsic tool of expression throughout the commercial and entertainment sector, in film, video games, and other multimedia applications.
Jurassic Park (1993) consolidated CGI as a crucial cinematic tool in the creation of its highly realistic dinosaurs, just as King Kong (1933) vindicated the importance of stop-motion animation as more than just a special effect in the creation of Kong, and Jackson's remake of King Kong progresses the field of visual effects once more in the contemporary era. The process of animated film practice itself also changed with the advent of computers, as much of the arduous work involved in cel animation (in-betweening, ink and paint) could now be done with a computer. Postproduction in most feature films was also revolutionized by the impact of computer applications and their intrinsic role as a special effect. Digital compositing and motion-controlled camera became a norm in feature production comparatively quickly, but it was the work of PIXAR that prioritized research and development in the service of creating a fully computer-animated feature—a model echoing Disney's desire to use the Silly Symphonies during the late 1920s and early 1930s as prototypes for the eventual creation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Each year PIXAR made a short film—Luxo Jnr (1986), Red's Dream (1987), Tin Toy (1989), and Knick Knack (1990)—in anticipation of Toy Story (1995), the groundbreaking CGI feature featuring the now iconic Woody and Buzz.
Less heralded but also important is Reboot (1993), the first fully computer-generated television animation. Produced by Ian Pearson, Gavin Blair, and Phil Mitchell, it self-reflexively used the computer as its narrative subject, depicting the city of Main Frame where Bob, Enzo, and their friend, Dot Matrix, battle two viruses, Megabyte and Hexadecimal. Also, Chris Wedge (b. 1958), who worked initially for Magi, a company run by a group of nuclear particle scientists literally creating images from the data, went on to make the digital effects for Tron. Wedge and some Magi colleagues then formed their own company, Blue Sky, in 1987, making MTV logos, dancing cockroaches in Joe's Apartment (1996), swimming aliens in Alien Resurrection (1997), and Bunny (1998), which won an Oscar® for the best animated short film. Blue Sky also wrote their own proprietary software for tracing light rays, which has enabled the company to achieve its own signature aesthetic in Ice Age (2002) and Robots (2004), and to work within the remit of Fox in a fashion similar to PIXAR's relationship to Disney.
Inevitably, with the success of CGI on the big and small screens, investment in the technology increased, and computer-generated images became the dominant aesthetic of animated features and children's programming. Equally inevitably, a variety of approaches to using computer animation have characterized the post–Toy Story era. While Dreamworks's SKG has emerged as a serious contender to PIXAR with films such as Shrek (2001), PIXAR has continued to innovate in features such as Finding Nemo (2002) and The Incredibles (2004), creating software to extend the range of the visual palette, incorporating underwater visualization and more cartoon-like aesthetics. With each new feature has come another innovation—even the holy grail of realistic-looking human hair in The Incredibles. Companies such as Rhythm and Hues specialize in animated visual effects for live-action animals in films such as Cats and Dogs (2001); Sony Pictures Imageworks advanced the complexity of special effects in films such as Spiderman 2 (2004); CORE Digital Pictures in Toronto, Canada, created a range of persuasive children's television with Angela Anaconda, The Savums, and Franny's Feet; and individual artists such as Karl Sims, Yoichiro Kawaguchi, William Latham, Ruth Lingford, James Paterson, Amit Pitaru, Tomika Satoshi, Johnny Hardstaff, Marc Craste, and Run Wrake have challenged the dominant look and styles using the available range of computer software packages to create what might be described as the avant garde or experimental end of the CG form. It is clear that as different software packages become more affordable and user-friendly, and the use of the computer as a creative tool becomes both a domestic and industrial orthodoxy, the same degree of breadth and variety that has characterized all other approaches and techniques to animation will characterize computer-generated imagery. In many senses, in the same way as the term "new media" now seems redundant, it is possible that "CGI" will also become part of an assumed lexicon of creative practice in animation.
The term "alternative methods" merely begs the question—alternative to what? Within the context of animation, the methods discussed below essentially operate as alternatives to the trends in industrial production contexts, largely resisting the dominant aesthetics of contemporary CGI in feature work, traditional puppet and model animation, and orthodox cel or drawn material. There is also a resistance to the "Disney style," both visually and thematically, and inevitably a more personal or auteurist approach to the work, which often customizes a technique to achieve a highly individualized look.
Previously, these kinds of films might have been termed experimental animation, and to a certain extent this does embrace the auteurist sensibility present in such work, and the strong links it often has with an avant garde approach or the personal approach of fine art. "Experimental animation" as a term has become more associated with nonobjective, nonlinear work—which some claim is the purest form of animation—but in other ways this misrepresents a whole range of work that is not necessarily highly progressive in its "experimentation," but merely of a different order from "classical" or traditional 2D cartoons or 3D animation. It is essentially "developmental" animation in the sense that it is often a response to, and a resistance of, orthodox techniques, in a spirit of creating a personal statement or vision not possible in a big-studio context, or within the field of popular entertainment.
The abstract films of Walter Ruttmann (1887–1941), Viking Eggeling (1880–1925), and Hans Richter (1888–1976) in the early 1920s are commonly understood as a benchmark for some of the formative ways in which animation was used in the service of a modernist approach to filmmaking. Richter's Rhythmus 21 (1921), made with Eggeling, sought to use the movement of shape and form as an expression of thought and emotion in its own right. Ballet Mecanique (Fernand Léger, 1924), featuring full animation, painting directly on film, and Méliès-style effects, as well as live action, demonstrated a wholly self-conscious use of technique as a model of creative resistance to modernist machine cultures and consumerism. The kinetic combination of abstract form and sound to create a kind of "visual music" was pioneered by Oskar Fischinger (1900–1967) during the 1930s in experimental works such as Composition in Blue (1935). Lotte Reiniger (1899–1981) successfully combined abstract work with a visual narrative more accessible to wider audiences using the technique of cut-out, silhouette animation, most particularly in her full-length work The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). She collaborated with Berthold Bartosch (1893–1968), who later made The Idea (1932), a thirty-minute poetic narrative of high technical innovation and achievement.
As the industrial model of animation production emerged at the Disney Studio and elsewhere between 1928 and 1941, experimental work continued. Mary Ellen Bute (1906–1983) and Leon Thurmin worked with the idea of drawing with electronically determined codes in The Perimeters of Light and Sound and Their Possible Synchronisation (1932), while Alexander Alexeieff (1901–1982) and Clare Parker created the "pin screen," where raised pins were lit to create particular images in Night on Bald Mountain (1934). Particularly influential were Len Lye (1901–1980) and Norman McLaren (1914–1987), whose work for the GPO Film Unit, under the auspices of John Grierson, significantly advanced experimental forms. Lye's Colour Box (1935) was painted directly on film, while his Trade Tattoo (1937) used stencilling on documentary footage. McLaren, who continued to work with Grierson at the National Film Board of Canada, experimented with many techniques, including direct "under-the-camera" animation, pixellation, cut-out and collage animation, and shifting pastel chalk, making many influential films including Begone Dull Care (1949), Neighbours (1952), and Pas de Deux (1968). Lye and McLaren essentially recognized that animation was a cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary medium, and they exploited its affinities with dance, performance, painting, sculpture, and engraving.
This period of high experimentation in the 1930s was arguably the purest expression of what animation could achieve beyond the American cartoon and European 3D stop-motion puppet traditions, demonstrating that animation had credibility as a "fine art." Cartoon animation still remained unrecognized as an art form despite the critical and cultural attention enjoyed by the Disney Studio with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio (1940). Disney responded with Fantasia (1941), which aspired to combine classical music with lyrical animation in the same spirit as the abstract artists. The mixed reception to Fantasia helped to establish the sense of separatism between different kinds of animation, a trend that has continued into the contemporary era. Yet all animation is arguably "experimental" by virtue of its aesthetic, technical, and cultural difference, even as it finds continuing currency in mainstream culture. The late Jules Engel (1909–2003), though ostensibly an experimental filmmaker, worked on Disney features, developed the characters of Gerald McBoing Boing and Mr. Magoo at UPA, and worked on individual projects, rejecting the false boundaries within the field.
b. Stirling, Scotland, 11 April 1914, d. 27 January 1987
Norman McLaren was one of the most innovative and influential figures in animation. Throughout his life McLaren worked in any number of techniques, including painting, drawing, and scratching directly onto film; pixellation (the frame-by-frame animation of staged live-action movement); stop-motion chalk drawing; multiple compositing; hand-drawn soundtracks; cut-outs; and 3D object animation. Beyond the implicit influence of his work, he also nurtured other artists, and maintained a pacifist, left-wing, humanitarian agenda in his creative practice, evidenced early in his student film, Hell UnLtd (1936).
Educated at the Glasgow School of Art in 1933, he made his first experimental "cameraless" film in 1934, and entered two films, Camera Makes Whoopee and Colour Cocktail in the Glasgow Film Festival of 1936. Though he believed the former to be his "calling card" to the creative industries, it was the latter that impressed the documentary filmmaker John Grierson, who invited McLaren to work at the General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit. Initially undertaking camerawork for Defence of Madrid (1936), and later, encouraged by the new studio head, Alberto Cavalcanti, he made Love on the Wing (1938) and Many a Pickle (1938); the former was banned by the postmaster for its use of phallic imagery. McLaren was then invited by the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, later the Guggenheim, in New York, to make a range of abstract loops, including Allegro (1939) and Dots (1940), though he managed also to make two other personal films—Stars and Stripes (1939), which used the US flag as its background, and an experimental electronic work with Mary Ellen Bute, Spook Sport (1939).
By this time Grierson had moved on to establish the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and McLaren joined him, becoming head of the newly formed animation unit in 1943. Embracing the creative freedom offered by the NFB, McLaren embarked on a career that sought to advance animation as an art form, most notably by drawing upon its relationship to dance in such films as Blinkity Blank (1954) and Pas de Deux (1968), but also by the imaginative use of sound—for example, in Begone Dull Care (1949) and Synchromy (1971). McLaren's desire to transcend national and ethnic boundaries in his work, and to ensure aesthetic, technical, and creative innovation, meant that he used little dialogue, and employed multilingual credits. Neighbours (1952), his famous antiwar parable, not only redefined the cartoon, the principles of live-action performance, and the use of animation as a peacetime propaganda tool, but also embodies the philosophic, imaginative, and humanitarian heart of Norman McLaren's vision.
Love on the Wing (1938), Hen Hop (1942), La Poulette Grise (1947), Begone Dull Care (1949), A Phantasy (1952), Neighbours (1952), Blinkity Blank (1954), The Crow (1958), Pas de Deux (1968)
McLaren, Norman. The Drawings of Norman McLaren. Montreal: Tundra Books, 1975.
Richard, Valliere T. Norman McLaren, Manipulator of Movement: The National Film Board of Canada Years, 1947–1967. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1982.
Russett, Robert, and Cecile Starr. Experimental Animation: Origins of a New Art. New York: Da Capo, 1988.
Wells, Paul. British Animation: A Critical Survey. London: British Film Institute, 2006.
What is important about "alternative" animation, though, is its innovation in the use of materials and techniques. Robert Breer (b. 1926) used file cards with different imprints of various kinds for his seminal LMNO (1978), effectively creating a visual stream of consciousness of an artist as he creates his art; Caroline Leaf (b. 1946) deploys sand on glass in The Owl Who Married a Goose (1974) and ink on glass in The Street (1976), foregrounding the core principle of metamorphosis in animation as one scene evolves directly into another; in Dimensions of Dialogue (1982) Jan Svankmajer uses all manner of materials, which are crushed and pulped to illustrate the innate conflict in human communcation; the Quay Brothers "reanimate" detritus and abandoned materials in Street of Crocodiles (1986) to create the sense of a supernatural other-wordliness; and Vera Neubauer (b. 1948) creates knitted characters in revisionist feminist fairytales such as Woolly Wolf (2001). In recent years the rise of conceptual art has enabled the use of all materials and contexts for the suggestion and facilitation of artmaking; in a sense, animation has always been an art form that has worked in this spirit, defining concepts through the choice, treatment, and application of new materials and new techniques.
Bell, Elizabeth, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, eds. From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995.
Brophy, Philip, ed. Kaboom!: Explosive Animation from Japan and America. Sydney, Australia: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1994.
Cohen, Karl F. Forbidden Animation. Jefferson, NC, and London: McFarland, 1997.
Faber, Liz, and Helen Walters. Animation Unlimited: Innovative Short Films Since 1940. London: Laurence King, 2004.
Furniss, Maureen. Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics. London: John Libbey, 1998.
Klein, Norman M. Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Cartoon. New York: Verso, 1993.
Lent, John A., ed. Animation in Asia and the Pacific. London and Paris: John Libbey, 2001.
Leslie, Esther. Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory, and the Avant Garde. London and New York: Verso, 2002.
Napier, Susan J. Anime: From Akira to Princess Mononoke. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Pilling, Jayne, ed. Women and Animation: A Compendium. London: British Film Institute, 1992.
Russett, Robert, and Cecile Starr. Experimental Animation: Origins of a New Art. New York: Da Capo, 1988.
Stabile, Carole A., and Mark Harrison, eds. Prime Time Animation. London and New York: Routledge, 2003.
Wells, Paul. Animation: Genre and Authorship. London: Wallflower Press, 2002.
——. Understanding Animation. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.
Animation is the art by which two-dimensional drawings or inanimate objects are turned into moving visual representations of three-dimensional (3-D) life. Computer animation uses computer hardware and software to make the animation process easier, faster, and executable by less skilled and fewer creators. Although there used to be clear divisions among cartoon and feature film animation, visual effects, gaming software, 3-D animation, and GIF animation , these related forms of animation now often overlap.
Animation can be described as the creation of the illusion of motion through a rapid sequence of still images. Although the quality of the original images is important, equally important is the quality of the sequence through which action, character, and story development are portrayed. There must be a coherent pattern to the action. A common story structure introduces characters, a source of conflict, the development of this conflict, a climax, and finally a resolution. But an animated story can also be more fluid, including the creation of forms or simple images, some interaction of them, and then a transformation or transmutation , such as a smiley face turning into a frown or dissolving into the background.
Creating an Animated Story
Although the process of animation takes many forms depending on the medium used, the following is typical. A preview or rough overview of the story, called a pencil test, is created. This is a sample sequence of pencil drawings created on paper to present a rough overview of the story. In the early days of animation, these were then recorded on an animation stand, but now they are placed on film or videotape. Sometimes, after a story idea is conceived, a "treatment" is created instead of a pencil test; this is a brief narrative description of the proposed film or video. Both pencil tests and treatments are often used to solicit sponsors. The action of the story and its development are conveyed through the use of storyboards, which are used to compose, organize, and deploy the animation.
A storyboard is a series of visual sketches that the story creator uses when developing the narrative and depicting the action of the animation. This is done so that everyone involved in the animation project can literally sketch out what is happening, making sure that important details are not overlooked. The storyboard details the sequence of actions necessary to convey the story line, character development, and point of view. This would include the background, action, and camera movement of the scene, but also each change of scene, each change in perspective, the timing and length of each scene, sound requirements, and the timing of the whole work.
With the storyboard in place, the dialog or music for the animation is recorded, and the sound length is determined in terms of the number of frames that it can handle. This information is entered on a "dope sheet"— a document detailing the nature of the music clips, their times, and the number of frames per clip. A layout is drawn up for each scene and the director uses the layout and dope sheet to plan the action and its timing. Next a background is created and the movement is created by a sequence of drawn images, which is then also entered on the dope sheet.
The image drawings for movement are then tested; if there are discrepancies, corrections are made to the timing or the drawings. In traditional animation, hand-drawn or cel animation is the most common technique. The cleaned-up drawings are inked and colored by hand on acetate overlays called cels. The cels are placed on the background, which is then placed under the camera. The camera operator, using the dope sheet, assembles the background and movement cels, and shoots each frame, after which the film is sent for processing and printing. The printed scenes are then edited to integrate all the sound tracks, including music and dialogue. The result of this integration is called a work or cut print. The lab makes a final print that can be projected to an audience or is transferred to film.
Computers are now used for many or all parts of this process. With current technology, the completed computer file is sent directly to digital tape, which will be transferred to film or broadcast on DVD or videotape.
Types of Animation
Many types of animation exist but there is no common classification scheme to describe them. The Encyclopedia of Animation Techniques (1996) lists drawn animation and model animation, but there are also cutout animation, 3-D animation, virtual reality (VR) animation, and animatronics , to name a few other types. The hand-drawn or cel animation, mentioned earlier, is the most common traditional technique. Hundreds of examples of hand-drawn animation were generated by Walt Disney (1901–1966) and his studios, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi. Hand-drawn animation in pencil form and cels is no longer used much today. Drawings are often made with computer software, and foregrounds and backgrounds are now generated through the use of digital files.
Model animation follows a process similar to hand-drawn animation, using models such as puppets (sometimes referred to as puppet animation) or clay figures (sometimes referred to as claymation). Set workers create movement by physically modifying the clay figures or changing the positions of the puppets. Each time this is done, a new scene is recorded on film or videotape. Because motion is captured through the position-by-position image of the models on single frames, model animation employs a technique known as stop-motion animation. The Christmas favorite Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a classic example of stop-motion animation.
One of the well-known creators and directors of "claymation" was Nick Parks, who created the characters Wallace and Gromit in A Grand Day Out (1990), which won a British Academy Award. He also created Creature Comforts (1990), featuring interviews with inmates of a zoo, which won an Academy Award, as did two more adventures of Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave (1995) and The Wrong Trousers (1998).
Cutout animation has been made notable by Terry Gilliam in Monty Python's Flying Circus and by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in South Park. To create cutout animation, an artist cuts actors and scenes out of paper, overlays them, and moves them, and captures their images frame by frame, again using stop-motion animation. In Gilliam's work, the animation was done frame by frame, but Stone and Parker quickly abandoned the physical work of generating the figures and turned instead to advanced computer workstations that create the same effect.
3-D animation is similar to hand-drawn animation, but it involves thinking in three-dimensional space and working with objects, lights, and cameras in a new way. 3-D animation requires the use of computers. The movie Toy Story is an example of 3-D computer animation.
Virtual reality animation is created through such technologies as VR and VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language). These make it possible to create 3-D environments, accessible through web sites, within which viewers can feel fully immersed in the animated surroundings. Quicktime VR uses photographic images or pre-rendered art to create the inside of a virtual environment that is downloaded to the viewer's own computer. VRML uses 3-D models and real-time interaction that puts the viewer inside 3-D environments.
Animatronics entails the use of computer-controlled models that can be actuated in real-time. These models have electronic and mechanical parts including motion-enabling armatures covered with a synthetic skin. These models, often used in conjunction with live actors, form the foundation for animation sequences. Films featuring animatronics include Jaws, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park.
Two basic animation techniques are keyframing and in-betweening. Keyframing is derived from key moments of still frames in the animation sequence. A keyframe is defined by its particular moment in the animation sequence, its timeline, parameters, and characteristics. In traditional pencil drawings, these would be keyframe drawings; in claymation or puppet animation, these would be key poses. Once the keyframes are established, then the sequences of animations between these keyframes have to be done. This technique is called in-betweening; it involves creating the frames that fill the gaps between the key frames. In computer environments, the technique is called interpolation and there are several varieties. Keyframe interpolation provides the frames that are required, but how this is done depends on the kind of interpolation used, linear or curved. Linear interpolation provides frames equally spaced between the key frames, based on an averaging of the parameters of the key frames and employing a constant speed. Curved interpolation is more sophisticated and can accommodate changes in speed.
History of Animation
Most basic animation principles and techniques were developed in the first twenty years of the twentieth century, and were perfected by the 1940s, particularly by Walt Disney, whose studios popularized the form through full-length feature films. Disney's impact on animation and the entertainment industry was profound. Ironically, his first attempt at an animated film production was a failure. In 1922, as a twenty-one-year-old commercial artist, he launched Laugh-O-Gram films in Kansas City. The company went bankrupt after a year. Fortunately, his creditors permitted him to retain one of his short features, which provided the basis for the launch of Disney Brother Studios in Hollywood. It produced the Alice Comedies, which featured a combination of animation and live action.
In 1928 Walt Disney teamed with his brother, Roy O. Disney, and animator Ub Iwerks to produce Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon that was synchronized with sound. Steamboat Willie gave us Mickey Mouse, one of the long line of popular characters—such as Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Cinderella, and Simba—that made Disney famous and on which the Disney empire is built. Then Disney made a series of animated short films set to classical music, called the "Silly Symphonies" (1929–1939), in which he introduced Technicolor into animation. Disney held the Technicolor patent for two years. Disney won an Oscar for the first cartoon and full-Technicolor feature called Flowers and Trees (1932).
In 1937 Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated feature film. In order to produce this film, Disney invented the multiplane animation camera. With this invention, for which he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, he changed the animation industry. Disney's camera made it possible to have cartoon characters move through many layers of scenery.
Disney always pushed the limits in his use of new technologies: for example, he produced Fantasia (1940) in Fantasound, a forerunner of current movie sound systems; Lady and the Tramp (1955) in CinemaScope, an innovative movie viewing experience with a wide screen and stereophonic sound; and 101 Dalmations (1961) using Xerox technology to make cels from animated drawings.
Following the success of Snow White, Disney produced a series of animated films, now regarded as classics, that secured his reputation. Among them are: Fantasia (1940), Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Song of the South (1946), Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), and Sleeping Beauty (1959). Starting in 1961, Disney found additional success in the rapidly growing medium of television with what came to be known as Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, which included many animated components or productions. During his lifetime, Walt Disney won thirty-two personal Academy Awards, and the Walt Disney Studios during the same time won an additional twenty-three Oscars in categories such as in animation (e.g., Pigs Is Pigs in 1953) and original musical compositions or songs (e.g., Pinocchio in 1941).
After the death of Walt Disney in 1966, his studios continued to garner awards and to produce commercial animation successes such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), Mulan (1998), and Atlantis (2001). The company also produces many live-action films and television series. Disney's animations are also on display throughout the company's popular theme parks.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was an early promoter of animated films. Two of their in-house animators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, launched the Tom and Jerry films in 1940 that subsequently won five Academy Awards. They later created such familiar characters as the Jetsons, Scooby Doo, the Flintstones, and the Smurfs.
Major growth in animation productions started in the 1960s prompted by the growth of mass media, particularly with visual effects in films (e.g., Mary Poppins ) and animated cartoon series on television (e.g., The Flintstones ). In the 1970s, the growth of computer animation was facilitated by the invention of minicomputers, particularly by Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP and VAX computers. Because of cost and complexity, computer-assisted animation was still the domain of commercial companies. While personal computers (PCs), such as the Macintosh and the IBM-PC, were introduced in the mid-1980s, it was only in the 1990s that their power and available software were adequate for personal computer animation authorship. The diversity of developments and inventions and increasing use of technologies for computer animation are presented in a timeline (1960–1999) in Isaac Victor Kerlow's The Art of 3-D Computer Animation and Imaging (2000).
Principles of Animation
Around 1935, some animators at Walt Disney Productions wanted to develop lessons that would refine the basic animation techniques that had been in use from the earliest days of animation. These became the fundamental principles of traditional animation, though most can also be applied to Internet and 3-D graphics environments. John Lasseter, in "Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation," provides a list:
- Squash and Stretch, in which distortion is used in animated action to convey the physical properties of an object;
- Timing, in which actions are spaced so that they help portray the personal or physical characteristics of characters or objects;
- Anticipation, meaning that actions are foreshadowed or set up;
- Staging, through which the animator conveys ideas clearly through background, foreground, and action;
- Follow-Through and Overlapping Action, wherein the end of one action builds a bridge to the next action;
- Straight-Ahead and Pose-to-Pose Action, which are two primary ways of creating action;
- Slow In and Out, which refers to the animator's placement of the in-between frames to create various levels of sophistication in timing and motion;
- Arcs, a visual representation of movement that appears natural;
- Exaggeration, wherein an idea is emphatically represented through design and action that is not restricted to representing reality;
- Secondary Action, which refers to the action of an animated object or character that is caused by the action of something or someone else;
- Appeal, or audience-pleasing action, stories, and visuals.
When CD-ROMs (Compact Disk-Read Only Memory) became common, Macromedia distinguished itself with Director, a multimedia authoring system. In 1995 the company released the Shockwave Internet browser plug-in for Director, which allowed users to see online content created by Director. Macromedia later produced a plug-in designed specifically for web browsers, called Flash, which it continues to improve and support. However, realizing the value of dHTML, Macromedia created another product, called Dreamweaver, which avoids many browser platform disparities, by producing a dHTML page as an HTML page. Unfortunately, the standard HTML page was not conceived as a medium for animation, and its performance is not as great as plug-in formats, such as Flash, Director, or Quicktime, although the standards may evolve.
Games began to appear almost as soon as computers appeared. In the late 1960s, Spacewar! was created, partly as a way of experimenting with one of the earliest computers, the PDP-1, developed by Digital Electronic Corporation. A lot of two-dimensional games began to follow, including Pac-Man. In 1984 Atari's I, Robot appeared. Loosely based on Isaac Asimov's book by the same name, it foreshadowed the movement to three-dimensional games. At the same time, Nintendo was working on a video game console, Famicom, which later emerged as the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States.
Part of the success of these systems was the structure of the computer they used: the computer had chips for the central processing unit (CPU), audio, and video which permitted better efficiency and looser control. This was the case with Commodore's Amiga and Atari's ST computer series. Before long, PC peripheral manufacturers started producing more powerful video cards (e.g., "graphics accelerator cards" with their own chips and memory, such as the ATI series), and sound cards (e.g., SoundBlaster). These eventually posed a challenge to the units designed specifically for games because they could handle the graphics and sound requirements necessary for games. Examples include Nintendo's GameCube, Sony's Playstation and Microsoft's X-Cube.
Animation in the early games was basic, relying on simple movement and graphics, but current games embrace sophisticated animation. There are many genres of games, including electronic versions of traditional games like Monopoly, Solitaire, Hearts, and Jeopardy! Early maze games, such as Pac-Man, and puzzle games, like Tetris, paved the way for more sophisticated action games like Street Fighter and Killer Instinct (fighting games); Castle Wolfenstein (a first-person shooter game); and third-person 3-D games, such as Tomb Raider and Deathtrap Dungeon. Animated computer games also include racing games such as Destruction Derby and 3-D vehicle-based games, such as Dead Reckoning ; flight simulators, such as Wing Commander, and other popular simulations (e.g., Sim City, Sim Ant ); role-playing games, such as Dungeon Hack ; and adventure games, such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. At the pinnacle are full-motion video games, like Myst and Raven. Software, including The Games Factory and PIE 3D Game Creation, has emerged to cope with the demands of creating animated games.
see also Games; Music; Music, Computer.
Thomas J. Froehlich
Finch, Christopher. The Art of Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.
Kerlow, Isaac Victor. The Art of 3-D Computer Animation and Imaging, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2000.
Lasseter, John. "Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation." Computer Graphics (ACM) 21, no. 4 (1987): 35–44.
Taylor, Richard. Encyclopedia of Animation Techniques. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press Book Publishers, 1996.
Wagstaff, Sean. Animation on the Web. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press, 1999.
White, Tony. The Animator's Workbook. New York: Billboard Publications, 1988.
Walt Disney's first full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), consisted of approximately 477,000 photographed drawings.
Animation is a series of still (nonmoving) drawings that, when viewed one after the other at a fast pace, gives the impression of a moving picture. The word animation comes from the Latin anima, meaning breath or soul, and animare, meaning to fill with breath.
Since early history, people have used various ways of giving the impression of moving pictures. Drawings found in caves showed animals with legs overlapping so that they appeared to be running. Other art forms that exhibited some kind of animation include Asian puppet shows, Greek sculpture, Egyptian funeral paintings, medieval stained glass, and modern comic strips.
In 1640, a German Jesuit priest named Athanasius Kircher (1601–1680) invented a "magic lantern" that projected enlarged drawings on a wall. This invention is often considered the first movie projector. It consisted of a little tin box lit by candles and oil lamps and with a chimney on top. The "magic lantern" earned its name from its slide-show type of presentations of devils, ghosts, and goblins. Gaspar Schott (1608–1666), using his associate Kircher's idea, created a strip of pictures that was pulled across the lantern's lens (a piece of clear glass). He later changed the design of the lantern to a spinning disk (thin, flat, round plate).
The popularity of magic-lantern shows grew with the discovery of the physical occurrence called "persistence of vision," by which the retina of the eye holds on to a still image for a fraction of a second longer after the eye has seen it. When a person views drawings of the different stages of an action, the eye sees one drawing blending into the next, so that the person has the mental impression of a continuous movement.
In 1832, Belgian scientist Joseph Plateau (1801–1883) invented the phenakistoscope, a cardboard spinning disk with holes. Pictures were drawn around the edges of the disk showing successive (arranged in order) movements. The viewer held the disk at eye level in front of a mirror and spun the disk, using a stick attached to its back. The reflection (the bouncing back) of the pictures passed through the holes, giving the illusion of movement. In Austria, Simon Ritter von Stampfer (1792–1864) made a similar device, calling it a stroboscope. In 1834, William George Horner (1786–1837) invented the zoetrope, in which a strip of pictures on the inside of a rotating drum were seen as moving objects through small openings in the outside of the drum.
In 1845, Baron Franz von Uchatius (1811–1881) of Austria invented the first movie projector, a device by which images painted on glass were passed in front of the projected light. In 1888, George Eastman (1854–1932) introduced celluloid film, a strip of celluloid acetate with a light-sensitive coating that retained and projected images better than glass.
In the United States, James Stuart Blackton (1875–1941) showed the first animated cartoon, Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, in 1906. As the Sunday comic strips gained popularity, other cartoonists, including Bud Fisher (1905–1954), who created Mutt and Jeff, and George Herriman (1880–1944), who created Krazy Kat, started doing animated films. However, among the early animators, Winsor McCay (1867–1934) stood out. McCay's animated film of his comic strip Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) is credited for raising the art of animation to a higher level with its lifelike character and the fluid movement of the film.
Felix the Cat was the most popular animated cartoon character before the introduction of sound. Created by Otto Messmer (1892–1983) in 1919, Felix easily became a model for drawing cartoon characters.
In 1928, Walt Disney (1901–1966), with his associate Ub Iwerks, created the character Mickey Mouse. In 1928, the pair introduced their third Mickey Mouse film (the first two were soundless), Steamboat Willie, complete with voices and music. Steamboat Willie was an instant hit. Disney used color for the first time in 1932 in Flowers and Trees. His first full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, came out in 1937. The movie consisted of approximately 477,000 photographed drawings. Translated into thirteen foreign languages, it went on to become the box-office favorite all over the world the following year. Other Disney favorites include Dumbo (1940), Fantasia (1940), and Cinderella (1950).
Since the 1950s, filmmakers have experimented with new methods of animation, including pixilation, in which live people are filmed in different fixed poses to give the impression of humanly impossible movements. This method was used in 1968 in Yellow Submarine starring the Beatles. In 1978, The Lord of the Rings, directed by Ralph Bakshi (1938–) used rotoscope animation, in which live actions were filmed first. The images were then projected frame by frame onto a drawing surface. These images were traced and colored to create a series of animation cels and filmed again frame by frame.
By the late 1900s, animators were experimenting with computer technology to create animation. Movies such as the Alien and the Star Wars series used computer special effects to enhance their stories. In 1995, John Lassiter directed the Walt Disney film Toy Story, the first feature film created entirely with computer animation.
The most important raw material in creating an animated film is the imagination of the animator. However, a variety of supplies are needed to help translate that creativity to material form. Some of the supplies are constructed by the animator; others are purchased.
The animator works at an animation stand, which has a baseboard. Register pegs hold the drawings on the baseboard. The animation stand also holds a camera, a work surface, and a platen (a clear sheet of glass or Plexiglas® plastic that holds the drawings in place).
The images are drawn on cels (short for celluloids, a type of plastic), drawing papers, or films. Most professional animation is drawn on cels, which are transparent (see-through) sheets five millimeters thick. Each cel measures about 10 inches by 12 inches (25.4 centimeters by 30.5 centimeters). The top edge of the cel, paper, or film is punched with holes to fit the register pegs on the animation stand and baseboard. The pegs keep the drawing surface taut.
Opaque inks and paints, as well as transparent dyes, are commonly used to draw the story. Felt-tip markers, crayons, and litho pencils can also be used.
The animation is photographed using 35-millimeter cameras. Some animators use Super 8 or 16-millimeter models. Different camera lenses are used, including standard, zoom, telephoto, wide-angle, and fish-eye lenses.
The Manufacturing Process
The creation of an animated film, whether short or full-length, is a time-consuming process. The average short film requires about 45,000 separate frames. A frame is a still (nonmoving) drawing A total of twenty-four frames per minute are needed to give the illusion of movement.
The story is written
1 The animator may also be the writer of the story. The writer makes a storyboard, which is a series of one-panel sketches pinned on a baseboard. It looks just like a big comic strip. Dialogue and/or summaries of action are written under each sketch. The sketches may be rearranged several times depending on how the writer, the animator, and the director wish to present the story.
The dialogue, music, and sound effects are recorded
2 Actors record the voices of each character. Background music and sound effects, such as footsteps, the opening and closing of doors, and popcorn popping, are recorded on magnetic tapes.
The music is timed for beats and accents. This music information is recorded on a bar sheet so that the animation can be fitted around the music. This process of fitting the actions to the music is called "Mickey Mousing," named after the popular character whose creator, Walt Disney, was one of the first do so.
Many animation studios now use an optical sound track on which voices, music, and sound effects are represented by varying lines. An electronic sound reader and synchronizer give an accurate count of the number of frames needed for each sound.
Dialogue measurements are entered on an exposure sheet
3 A technician called a track reader measures each vowel and consonant in the dialogue. Words are recorded on exposure sheets (also called x-sheets or dope sheets). Each sheet represents a single film frame. This allows the animators to synchronize (let occur at the same time) each movement of the character's lips with the dialogue.
Footage, the time needed between lines of dialogue for the action to occur, is also recorded on the exposure sheet. Slugs, sections of film without sound, are inserted where the action occurs.
Model character sheets are created
4 A model of each character is made to ensure his or her appearance is the same throughout the film. The models can be detailed descriptions. They can also be sketches of the characters in different positions with various facial expressions.
Artists create the layout or set design
5 A layout artist creates linear drawings that animators use as a guide for action. Background artists use these same drawings for painting the backgrounds.
Characters' actions are sketched
6 The head animator uses the model character sheets to sketch the primary actions. For example, if the character is running, the head animator will draw three to five or six frames out of the twenty-four needed per second to create animation. One drawing will be of a foot leaving the floor, the next of the foot in the air, and a third of a foot returning to the floor. The details in between these three "extreme" actions will then be filled in by the animation assistants, sometimes called the "in-betweeners."
The drawing is done on a transparent drawing board that is lighted from below. After a drawing sheet is done, a second sheet is placed on top of the first. The second sheet is drawn slightly different from the first to show movement.
Drawings are cleaned up and checked for accuracy
7 Artists compare characters drawn against the model sheets. Drawings may be made sharper but not changed. Scenes are checked to ensure they include all actions recorded on the exposure sheet. The artists also make sure the characters are properly lined up with the background.
A video test is conducted
8 The animators make a computerized videotape of the sketches to check for smoothness of movements and proper facial expressions. Adjustments are made as needed.
Artists create background
9 The artists create color backgrounds, including landscapes, scenery, buildings, and interiors. These are done using the linear drawings. The artists then use a computer to fill in the color. As the computer scans (reads) the layout, the artists click on colors from a template, or a palette of colors.
Sketches are inked in and painted
10 If the animation drawings have been done on paper, they are transferred to cels using a photocopying process. In some studios, a person known as an inker traces the pencil sketches onto the cels, using a special ink that sticks to the cels. Colors are applied to the other side of the cels, using the same computer process to color the background. All inked and colored materials are checked for accuracy.
The action is filmed
11 The cels and backgrounds are photographed following the instructions on the exposure sheet. One scene of actions can take several hours to photograph. The cels are placed on top of the backgrounds and photographed from above. As more characters appear in a frame, more cels are stacked on the background. Each level of cels is lighted up and staggered to make the resulting pictures seem three-dimensional (having height, weight, and depth). Then, the film is sent to the photo lab, where a print and a negative are made.
A very important development in animation was the introduction of clear sheets of celluloids (cels) on which drawings were made. Patented in 1914 by American Earl Hurd (1880–1940), cels allowed the placing of different drawings of movements on top of a single background scene. This way the artist did not have to draw the same background over and over, allowing more time to add details to the fewer background scenes needed, as well as to the characters.
The sound is dubbed
12 Dialogue, music, and sound effects are rerecorded from several tracks into one sound track. Two other sound tracks—the dialogue and music—are made. These will be used for translation when the film is sent to foreign countries.
The dubbing track and print are combined
13 The final dubbed track is combined with the print to make one unit called a "married print." If the animated film is for television viewing, the negative and the married print are usually sent to a video postproduction house to be converted to videotape.
Computer-generated animation continues its popularity. In the summer of 2001, Shrek, one of the most popular animated movies of all time, was produced with the aid of more than 1,000 computers. Anime, a cartoon form that started in Japan after World War II (1939–45), has become popular worldwide. The characters and movements are more detailed and realistic. Varied camera angles give viewers a clearer look at the actions.
- comic strip:
- A narrative series of cartoons.
- A rerecording from the original sound track.
- A single still (nonmoving) drawing, twenty-four of which are needed to make one second of animation.
- magnetic tape:
- A thin ribbon of plastic coated with iron oxide and used to record sounds, images, or data.
- persistence of vision:
- A physical phenomenon in which the retina of the eye holds on to an image for a fraction of a second longer after it has seen the image. The brain, which works with the eye, puts these still images together so that the eye perceives them as a single movement.
- rotoscope animation:
- A type of animation in which live actions are filmed first, images are traced and colored to create a series of animation cels, and then refilmed frame by frame.
- sound track:
- The recorded dialogue, music, and sound effects in an animation production.
- A device that makes the sound and actions occur at the same time.
For More Information
Charnan, Simon. Walt Disney: Creator of Magical Worlds. New York, NY: Children's Press, 1999.
Hahn, Don. Animation Magic: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at How an Animated Film IsMade. New York, NY: Disney Press, 1996.
O'Donnell, Annie. Computer Animator. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2000.
Ansen, David. "The Shrek Effect: This jolly green giant is putting the squeeze on Disney's Mouse House, raising the bar on animation and threatening to steal the first Oscar in the field." Newsweek. (June 18, 2001): pp. 50-51.
Burns, Paul T. "The Complete History of the Discovery of Cinematography." http://www.precinemahistory.net (accessed on July 22, 2002).
"How We Make A Movie: Pixar's Animation Process." Pixar Animation Studios.http://www.pixar.com/howwedoit/index.html (accessed July 22, 2002).
Animation is a series of still drawings that, when viewed in rapid succession, gives the impression of a moving picture. The word animation derives from the Latin words anima meaning life, and animare meaning to breathe life into. Throughout history, people have employed various techniques to give the impression of moving pictures. Cave drawings depicted animals with their legs overlapping so that they appeared to be running. The properties of animation can be seen in Asian puppet shows, Greek bas-relief, Egyptian funeral paintings, medieval stained glass, and modern comic strips.
In 1640, a Jesuit monk named Althanasius Kircher invented a "magic lantern" that projected enlarged drawings on a wall. A fellow Jesuit, Gaspar Schott, developed this idea further by creating a straight strip of pictures, a sort of early filmstrip, that could be pulled across the lantern's lens. Schott further modified the lantern until it became a revolving disk. A century later, in 1736, a Dutch scientist named Pieter Van Musschenbroek created a series of drawings of windmill vanes that, when projected in rapid succession, gave the illusion of the windmill circling around and around.
The magic lantern became a popular form of entertainment. Traveling entertainers, visiting the villages and towns of Europe, included it in their shows. In London, the Swiss-born physician and scholar Peter Mark Roget, most famous for compiling the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, was fascinated by the scientific phenomenon at play and wrote an essay entitled "Persistence of Vision with Regard to Moving Objects" that was widely read and used as a basis for subsequent inventions. One of the first was the thaumatrope, developed in the 1820s by John Paris, also an English doctor. The thaumatrope was simply a small disk with a different image drawn on either side. Strings were knotted onto two edges so that the disk could be spun. As the disk twirled around, the two images appeared to blend. For example, a monkey on one side appeared to sit inside the cage on the opposite side.
The next major innovation was the phenakistoscope, created by Joseph Plateau, a Belgian physicist and doctor. Plateau's contribution was a flat disk perforated with evenly spaced slots. Figures were drawn around the edges, depicting successive movements. A stick attached to the back allowed the disk to be held at eye level in front of a mirror. The viewer then spun the disk and watched the reflection of the figures pass through the slits, once again giving the illusion of movement.
In Austria, Simon Ritter von Stampfer was toying with the same idea and called his invention a stroboscope. A number of other scopes followed, culminating in the zoetrope, created by William Homer. The zoetrope was a drum-shaped cylinder that was open at the top with slits placed at regularly spaced intervals. A paper strip with a series of drawings could be inserted inside the drum, so that when it was spun the images appeared to move.
By 1845, Baron Franz von Uchatius invented the first movie projector. Images painted on glass were passed in front of the projected light. Forty-three years later, George Eastman introduced celluloid film, a strip of cellulose acetate coated with a light-sensitive emulsion that retained and projected images better than those painted on glass. The first animated cartoon Humorous Phases of Funny Faces by J. Stuart Blackton, of the New York Evening World, was shown in the United States in 1906. Two years later, French animator Emile Cohl followed suit with Phantasmagorie. Winsor McCay introduced Gertie the Dinosaur in 1911. Other cartoonists who brought their characters to the screen included George McManus (Maggie and Jiggs) and Max Fleischer (Betty Boop and Popeye). By 1923, Walt Disney, the world's most famous animator, began turning children's stories into animated cartoons. Mickey Mouse was introduced in Steamboat Willie in 1928. Disney's first animated full-length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, debuted in 1937.
Yellow Submarine, a 1968 animated film starring the Beatles, featured the process of pixilation, in which live people are photographed in stop-motion to give the illusion of humanly-impossible movements. In the film The Lord of the Rings, directed in 1978 by Ralph Bakshi using rotoscoping, live action was filmed first. Then each frame was traced and colored to create a series of animation cels. By the late twentieth century, many in the industry were experimenting with computer technology to create animation. In 1995, John Lassiter directed Toy Story, the first feature film created entirely with computer animation.
Although the most important raw material in creating animation is the imagination of the animator, a number of supplies are necessary to bring that imagination to life. Sometimes these items are purchased; sometimes they are constructed by the animator.
The animator works at an animation stand, a structure that holds a baseboard on which the drawings are attached by register pegs. The animation stand also supports a camera, lights, a work surface, and a platen (clear sheet of glass or plexiglass that holds the drawings in place).
The drawings are executed on cels, drawing paper, or on film. The majority of professional animation is drawn on cels, transparent acetate sheets five millimeters thick. Each cel measures approximately 10 in by 12 in (25.4 cm by 30.5 cm). Holes are punched along the top edge of the cels, paper, or film, corresponding to the register pegs on the animation stand and baseboard. The pegs keep the drawing surface rigid.
Opaque inks and paints, and transparent dyes are the most common media for drawing the story. Felt markers, crayons, and litho pencils can also be used.
Professional animation is photographed with 35mm cameras. However, it is possible to use Super 8 or 16mm models. A variety of camera lenses are employed, including standard, zoom, telephoto, wide angle, and fish-eye lenses.
Creating an animated short or full-length feature is a long, tedious process. Extremely labor-intensive, the average short cartoon has approximately 45,000 separate frames. To make a character say "Hello, Simon," can require 12 drawings to depict each movement of the character's lips.
The story is written
- 1 Sometimes the animator is also the writer. The animator makes a storyboard, a series of one-panel sketches pinned on a board. Dialogue and/or action summaries are written under each sketch. The sketches may be rearranged several times as a result of discussions between the writer, the animator, and the director.
The dialogue, music, and sound effects are recorded
- 2 Actors record the voices of each character. Background music and sound effects, such as doors slamming, footsteps, and weather sounds, are recorded. These recordings are generally preserved on magnetic tape. The music is timed for beats and accents; this information is recorded on a bar sheet so that the animation can be fitted around the music. Because Walt Disney was one of the first animators to fit the action to the music, this process is called "Mickey Mousing." Many professional studios now use an optical sound track on which voices, music, and sound effects are represented by varying lines. An electronic sound reader and synchronizer gives an accurate count of the number of frames required for each sound.
Dialogue measurements are entered on an exposure sheet
- 3 A technician known as a track reader measures each vowel and consonant in the dialogue. Words are recorded on exposure sheets (also called x-sheets or dope sheets), each of which represents a single film frame. This allows the animators to synchronize each movement of the character's lips with the dialogue. Footage, the time needed between lines of dialogue for the action to take place, is also charted on the exposure sheet. Slugs, or sections of film without sound, are inserted where the action occurs.
Model character sheets are created
- 4 A model is created for each character in order to keep their appearances uniform throughout the film. The models can be detailed descriptions or sketches of the characters in various positions with various facial expressions.
Artists create the layout or set design
- 5 A layout artist creates linear drawings that animators use as a guide for action and that the background artists use to paint the backgrounds.
Characters' actions are sketched
6 Using the model sheets, the head animator sketches the primary, or "extreme," action. For example, if the character is running, the head animator will draw the foot leaving the floor, the foot in the air, and the foot returning to the floor. Or if the story calls for the character to blink, the head animator will sketch the eyes going through the motions. Animation assistants then fill in the details.
The drawing is done on a transparent drawing board that is lighted from below. After one drawing is completed, a second sheet of paper is laid on top of the first and the second drawing is varied slightly to signify movement.
Drawings are cleaned up and checked for accuracy
- 7 Artists check the characters against the model sheets. Drawings are enhanced but not altered. Scenes are checked to ensure that all action called for on the exposure sheet is included. All figures are checked for proper line-up with the background.
A video test is conducted
- 8 A computerized videotape is made of the sketches to check for smoothness of motion and proper facial expressions. Adjustments are made until the desired effect is achieved.
Artists create backgrounds
- 9 Artists create color background paintings, including landscapes, scenery, buildings and interiors, from the pencil layouts. The color is filled in by computer. As the computer scans the layout, artists click on colors from a template.
Sketches are inked in and painted
10 If the animation drawings have been executed on paper, they are now transferred to cels using xerography, a process similar to photocopying. In a few studios, the inking is still done by hand, tracing the pencil sketches onto the cels.
Colors are applied to the reverse side of the cel, usually by computer, in the same manner that background colors are applied. All inked and painted materials are checked several times for accuracy.
The action is filmed
- 11 The cels and backgrounds are photographed according to the instructions on the exposure sheets. One scene of action can take several hours to photograph. The cels are laid on top of the backgrounds and photographed with a multiplane camera that is suspended high above. When more than one character appears in a frame, the number of cels stacked on top of the background increases. Each level is lit and staggered, creating the illusion of three-dimensional action. The film is sent to the photo lab where a print and a negative are made.
The sound is dubbed
- 12 Dialogue, music, and sound effects are re-recorded from 10 or more separate tracks onto one balanced track. Another set of two tracks, one with dialogue and the other with music and sound effects, is often made to facilitate translation when the film is sent to foreign markets.
The dubbing track and print are combined
- 13 The final dubbing track is combined with the print to make a married print. If the animated film is for television viewing, the negative and the tracks are often sent to a video post-production house to be put on videotape.
In the last decade of the twentieth century, computer-created animation began to make great strides. Although purists decry this development, it is unlikely that computer animation will disappear. What remains to be seen is whether or not traditional cel animation survives.
Anime, a cartoon form from Japan, is also changing the nature of animation. Story lines and characters are more detailed and reality-based. Varied camera angles bring the viewer further into the action.
Where to Learn More
Cawley, John and Jim Korkis. How to Create Animation. Pioneer Books, 1990.
Locke, Lafe. Film Animation Techniques. Betterway Publications, 1992.
Harmon, Amy. "Making a Face." Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1996, p. D-l.
Considine, J.D. "Toon in Tomorrow." The Baltimore Sun, April 14, 1996, p. 1H.
In movies, computer animation has become astonishingly adept at mimicking reality. The animation power of computers and computer-aided design (CAD) software is now being exploited as a forensic tool.
Forensic animation seeks to produce images that recreate eyewitness accounts of crime scenes, vehicle accidents, and other events. The animation is intended primarily for a jury in a courtroom trial. Instead of relying solely on a verbal account of an eyewitness, jury members can watch a recreation of the testimony.
As an example, animation can recreate the weather conditions visible from the inside of a moving car on the night of a motor vehicle accident, to provide the viewer with a much better appreciation of what a driver faced than what could be realized from verbal testimony.
In another example, an animated reconstruction can be made of a crime scene. The simulation can duplicate the appearance of the scene. In addition, the view of the crime scene can be shifted from a ground level to an overhead view. This can provide a much richer appreciation of the crime scene than would listening to testimony alone or even looking at a series of photographs.
In one real-life example, animation was used in a liability suit in Iowa over a 1993 collision that killed University of Iowa basketball player Chris Street. In the accident, Street was struck and killed by an oncoming snowplow when he pulled out to pass a truck. The driver of the truck acknowledged that he was speeding 10 miles per hour over the speed limit at the time of the crash.
The driver's admission was key to the US$14-million lawsuit filed against him by Street's parents, who contended that his negligence resulted in the death of their son.
The animation formed part of the defense. Using reports from the police, an accident investigator who reconstructed the incident, and measurements of the actual braking distances required for the snowplow at various speeds, two computer animations were created. The first displayed the accident when the snowplow was traveling at 55 miles per hour in the 45 miles per hour zone. In that animation, as in the real-life accident, the snowplow struck the center of the car.
In the second animation, the snowplow was traveling at the speed limit. Then, the plow still struck the car, this time at the rear of the vehicle. The defense argued that, despite the different impact points, the crash that likely would have occurred at the legal speed limit would still have been fatal. In viewing the animations, the jury decided that the accident was caused by Street's failure to properly assess traffic conditions before pulling out in front of the truck.
In another example, an animated recreation of the shooting death of a Scraton, Pennsylvania woman was a vital piece of evidence that led to the conviction of her husband for murder . The man, a former police officer with a history of domestic violence, had claimed that he shot his wife in self defense as she tried to attack him with a knife.
Based on the photographic information gathered at the crime scene by forensic investigators, an animation was created that presented a three-dimensional view of the room. The detail and multi-perspective view of the scene was used convincingly by the prosecution to argue that the blood pattern on the victim was not consistent with her husband's explanation of the death.
Implicit in the above examples is the accuracy of the information that forms the database of the animation file. The intent of forensic animation is to accurately present the testimony of eyewitnesses or experts to a jury, not to create a situation that is not based in reality.
Similar concerns have been voiced in the past about the reliance on expert testimony and the use of other forensic reconstructions that attempt to indicate what a long-missing person might appear like in the present day.
The normal sharing of information by prosecution and defense will hopefully circumvent this recognized risk that animation could be misused to create a fictitious reality. For example, in the Chris Street case, the opposing attorneys were able to view the animations prior to their presentation in court, giving them time to formulate their response strategy. As well, an animation can be presented frame-by-frame, with questioning and expert commentary provided for each frame.
Another concern surrounding forensic animation, exemplified by the above example, is the cost of producing an animation. The high cost of producing a high quality animation, in the tens of thousands of dollars, is often beyond the budget of a defense team.
see also Accident reconstruction; Computer forensics; Crime scene staging.
an·i·ma·tion / ˌanəˈmāshən/ • n. 1. the state of being full of life or vigor; liveliness: they started talking with animation. ∎ chiefly archaic the state of being alive. 2. the technique of filming successive drawings or positions of puppets or models to create an illusion of movement when the movie is shown as a sequence. ∎ (also computer animation) the manipulation of electronic images by means of a computer in order to create moving images.
ANIMATION. SeeCartoons .