Animation is the process of making an illusion of motion. Is basically a sequence of still images that change into another over time. There are various ways for animation to be created such as traditional animation, Stop Motion Animation, Computer animation, in case of 2D computer animation is also known as Tradigital Animation ( a term that combines Traditional and Digital animation ), 3D animation, Mechanical Animation and More.
But in order for us to understand animation, is good to know how it all began, since the first attempts to animation to nowadays Tradigital and 3D animation.
Examples of attempts to create the illusion of motion were found in Palaeolithic Rock Art paintings 30.000 B.C, were used to tell stories of hunting expeditions and more. Also in the city of Shahr-e-Sukthe in south-eastern Iran, was found a bronze-age pottery bowl with five sequential images of a Persian desert ibex jumping up to eat the leaves of a tree.
1600-1877 – with the spread of the industrial revolution in Europe and north America, came experimentation with machines that would make images appear to move, and so the Magic Lantern (1603), the Phenakistoscope (1832), The Zoetrope (1834) and the Praxinoscope (1877) were introduced.
In 1908 a French artist named Emile Cohl produced a film called “Fantasmagorie”. It was a big success and it was considered the first animated film using traditional animation, later in 1914 Windsor McCay the animation short film Gertie the Dinosaur, and it became famous very quickly. The film was presented like a documentary for McCay’s act, it was like McCay’s speaks to Gertie who respond with a series of gestures, and by the end of the film, McCay appears on the screen and jumps on Gerties back and ride out of the frame, it was as the first cartoon combining hand draw animation and live action. In 1920 an artist named Otto Messmer created a character named Felix the Cat, it was very successful and considered the first animated cartoon star, it’s popularity lived on for many years after, sometimes used as mascot and a pop culture icon.
In 1922 a man named Walt Disney began is first animation studio called Laugh-O-Grams. Laugh-O-Grams went bankrupt and Walt Disney opened a new studio in Los Angeles named Disney. Disney release is first animated cartoon entitled Alice Comedies, but the notable hit was Steamboat Willie in 1928, was the first cartoon using sound and Mickey Mouse was born. Steamboat Willie was a big hit not just because of the sound, but also because the fact that, the audience felt an emotional connection with Mickey Mouse that they haven’t felt with any previous animated character. It was like mickey mouse had real human being emotions, Walt Disney then realize that his animated movies could have a better approach to the public, if they had an emotional story, so he develops a “Story Department” where storyboard artists would focus on story development alone, and it proved its worth with the release of the animated short Three Little Pigs in 1933. After that Disney continued to release shorts but, they focus much more of its productive force on feature length films with a good story such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) and much more. Most of Walt Disney Movies were a big hit and winners of academy awards. After the World War II began, a few employees of Disney studios were working on war related films, that were meant to increase public support for the war effort.
1930 – 1960 – Golden Age of American Animation
Several animation studios began to appear and with them, a lots of character began to emerge and make part of the popular culture:
One animation style that it cannot not be mentioned, is the Japanese Anime. The society just refer to it as Anime (anime means animation in Japanese). Many people look at anime like animation came from Japan, others put it in a different category. Animation in Japan began in 1917 and since then the production of anime continued to increase, but the characteristic anime art style emerged in the 1960s with the works of Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka was very influenced by Walt Disney’s works, Fleischer Studios and other American artists, if anyone compares his Astro Boy and Betty Boop, can notice the resemblance. Tezuka is considered the father of manga and anime because he introduced the “big eye” characteristic and he was able to put, cinematic action into a comic book (Manga), and he also was the creator of Anime, that is the animated series of a manga. However not always an anime is produced based on a Manga or, a Manga hits the popularity to progress into an anime series.
What makes anime different than the usual cartoons is the target audience, genres, unique art style and animation. Target audience varies from kodomo (children’s), Shojo (girls), Shounen (boys) to adult audience. And there are tons of genres with different subjects, such Drama, Romance, Adventure, Fantasy and Magic, Sci-Fi, Mecha, Martial Arts, Sports and so on. Anime is a diverse form of artistic animation that, is separated from reality by a gap of fiction that, over the years always proven ideal, to capture the audience with ease. It combines colourful graphics, vibrant character design, cinematography and other forms of individualistic techniques. The art styles are quite varied, and the production focus a lot on the camera settings such as zoom, padding and angle shots for the cinematic approach.
A very successful anime series created in 1963 was Tetsuwan Atom, better known in the US as Astro Boy, in 1967 Lupin III, Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979. In the 1980s anime became very popular and many series began to emerge such as Dragon Ball, Macross, space battleship yamato, as well a lot of feature films began to be released, Nausica of the Valley of the wind in 1984, Neo Tokyo in 1987, Akira in 1988. And up till nowadays anime is part of culture, and tons of feature films and series keep been released.
And as the technology evolved, the way animation was produced also began to change and many techniques began to be used:
Stop Motion Techniques:
Clay or Plasticine
Real Clay animation
2D Animation Techniques
Traditional hand drawn animation
Animation using light tables or shot frame by frame under a camera
A lots of software also were developed to create animation, and with it, also new techniques that uses traditional animation together with other digital tools, to help the animator. The most known softwares for 2D animation are Adobe Flash (in 2015 renamed to Adobe Animate), Toon Boom Harmony, Toon Boom Studio and Anime Studio. The softwares usually have the same set of mechanism in order to draw and create animation. On adobe animate for example, when you open the software, you’ll find a timeline were you can build everything, instead of having a sheet of paper for the background, other for the character, or sometimes the all assets in one, you can use layers to separate all the assets of the animation, and in order to create the illusion of motion, you can always add more frames, and draw the following movement of the character for example. And there is a variety of tools to draw, Pencil, Brush, Pen Tool, and the hardness and softness of the tools are adjustable in order for you to have the result that you want. Also there is a colour pallet that you can find the colour that you want or adjust to get the exactly ton that you’re looking for. The frame by frame animation technique comes with the software, and you can find more, Classic Tween, Motion Tween, Shape tween, and, as well tools to help character animation such as the use of Bones tool, that is a sort of skeleton that is put into a 2D Figure, that helps to create movements, Puppet pin that is other tool that creates articulations into a 2D figure in order to move certain parts of the character body. Since the 1990s and forward, inumerous cartoons we’re created with the help of 2D animation softwares, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Powerpuff Girls, Lilo & Stich as well as movies.
Computer generated Imagery (CGI)
In 1972 at the University of Utah, was developed a method of creating computer-generated movies. Different than hand-drawn, where we only have two dimension (2D) in a sheet of paper, width and height, and the illustrator is the one who creates the illusion of perspective, in 3D we have depth, is like drawing with three dimensions or building a body with plasticine. 3D animation is a complex subject because we have different stages in order to achieve the final result, we have the Modelling stage, materials, animation, lights and cameras and rendering, but once mastered it becomes very helpful, and the CGI revolutionized the way animation used to be made. Most of the animated movies or series using CGI, are made using stylized character (non-realistic or cartoon-like proportions) or animals because, the human body is way too complex and, it gets a little hard to animate something exactly the way we see it, in the real world. The stylized characters, are an advantage in this point because, is a “form of life” that no one ever saw and the animator can animate it, exactly the way he want. The first animated short fully in CGI is The Adventures of Andre & Wally B produced in 1984, but the CGI animation began to be more used, in 1995 with the release of the first CGI animated movie, produced by Walt Disney Studios, Toy Story. Disney produced more CGI movies, A Bug’s Life (1998), Finding Nemo (2003), The incredibles (2004), and also many other studios began to produce CGI movies, Ice Age (2002) by Blue Sky Studios, the illumination entertainment released Ice Age (2002), Sony pictures Animation, Open Season (2006) and more. Also many studio start using a few CGI assets in theirs Hand-drawn animated movies or series, some sequences in The Beauty and The Beast, are made using a CGI background, in Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire as well, and the list just keep going till nowadays.
One well-known studio that uses mostly CGI in their animated movies is DreamWorks Animation. Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen founded DreamWorks in 1994, and on the following year DreamWorks signed a deal with Pacific Data Image to create a new unit, that would produce computer-generated films. In 1998 the studio produced their first CGI movie, Antz, and in the same year they also produced, The Prince Of Egypt that uses both traditional animation and CGI. In 2001, Shrek and the movie won the Academy Award for the best-animated feature film. The success of CGI animated movie was so huge that the studio decided to stop making movies using traditional animation. The studio is well know for producing, Shrek, Madagascar and How To Train Your Dragon.
Animation continues to revolutionize to entertainment industry, nowadays we see 2D and 3D animation in various types of media, animated cartoon, TV advertisement, Music Videos, Live action movies, animated movies, video games, as well both software’s that make 2D and 3D animation are used for by a lots of studios to produce, inemerous things. A successful CGI movie using realistic 3D model is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, in later years, Beowulf, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and it also can be seen the use of CGI for background, assets or even characters in Live Action Films, such as, Tron Legacy, The Lord Of The Rings, Transformers and list just continues until today.