Animation Essay, Research Paper


My personal enjoyment with animation has inspired me to write this essay,

pertaining to animation. Since I was a child I have been fascinated with

cartoons; from when they started out to be black and white, and until now with

full colour and computer effects. To better perceive what my personal feelings

about animation are, I must first discuss in full detail, a general overview of

how animators bring traditional animation alive with motion.

Animation seems like a smooth movement of drawn sequences of artwork,

pasted together to form a single sequence of animation. This is the basis of

animation, but animation is far simpler than it may seem. “The true meaning of

animation is that it is a series of drawings strung together to create the

illusion of smooth fluent movement.”1 But the process of creating this so-

called illusion, is a pain staking process during which artists must spend

tremendous hours of agony to produce only seconds of animated film.

Before an animator goes about creating an animation he or she must have

the knowledge of several rules of animation, which animators around the world

follow. The first rule of animation is that an animator must hold the

understanding of the techniques used to produce single cells of animation.

Second rule, and one of the most important ones is that, the animator must have

great patience, so that his or her piece of artwork is not rushed, to prevent

the animation from looking choppy and not as smooth as it should look. Finally

what is required from an animator is “it takes commitment and effort to make the

basis of animation come alive with fresh ideas.”2 The following is not a rule of

animation, but is often taught to animators around the world. “Animators were

often taught that animation is only limited by the imagination and skills of its

creators.”3 Using these rules animation companies hire artists who are familiar

with the rules previously discussed, but to create a feature full-length

animation you need more than just these rules. Below the process of creating a

feature full-length animation will be discussed in further detail.

To create a traditional animation requires a team of cooperative artists

and editors. It also demands a collective, creative approach, within which the

individual artists and editors of the team must harmonize and communicate well

with the other members of the team, for the final product to be successful.

Because so many personnel are involved in producing a single piece of animated

film, creation of this is very costly. Companies must create a team of animators

that are willing to work together to get the finished product perfect the first

time around. No matter how modest or ambitious the project, the team of

animators follow a strict number of structured procedures, and must possess the

understanding of the concepts and terminology in traditional animation.

When the team has been assembled. The team begins a long process of set

procedures, which all animators worldwide use. Below the many set procedures are

described in full detail.


The script is the first stage in all film production. In an animation

script, the visual action in the plot and performance is far more important than

the dialogue.


The storyboard is a series of roughly drawn images that convey the

action described in the script. This scene-by-scene portrayal helps the writer,

director and animation team to access the content of the project and to correct

any deficiencies in the scripted story.


After the script and storyboard are completed, the recording of any

dialogue or key music is undertaken. Since traditional animation relies on

perfect synchronization of the picture to the soundtrack, the animator must

receive the recorded track before beginning to draw.


Designers create visual interpretations of all the actors in the script.

When these interpretations are approved, the actors are drawn from many angles

on a model sheet which the animators will use as a reference.

5.Leica Reel

A Leica reel is a filmed storyboard which can be projected in

synchronization with the soundtrack. It helps the director see how the film is

shaping up and make any changes to its visual aspects before animation is begun.

6.Line Tests

Line tests are animation drawings, produced in pencil on paper, filmed

to the precise timings of each scene. As line tests are approved they are cut

into Leica reel, replacing the original drawings and giving the director an even

better idea of how the final film will look.


Cleanup artists take the animation drawings now and clean them up, to

give them a consistent visual style.

8.Trace and Paint

When a cleaned-up line test is approved, each drawing is transferred to

a sheet of celluloid or acetate (a cell) and painted in the colours of the

original design.


Background artists produce the animation’s backgrounds, the background

is everything behind or, sometimes, in front of the actors that does not move.


The finished animation cells are passed to the checker, who makes sure

that everything is correctly drawn, traced, painted and prepared for the

cameraman who is to finally film it.

11.Final Shoot

When the checker is satisfied that all the artwork for each scene is

correct, the artwork is passed to the camera operator who shoots the final scene.


When the whole film exists in final form, and the director is satisfied

with it, the editor, with the director, chooses sound effects to go with the

action in the film. These sound effects are then laid in synchronization with

the action, and mixed with the voice track and music on one complete soundtrack.

13.Answer Print

Creating an answer print involves merging the sound and picture on one

piece of 24 frames per second film, the film is now ready for projection!

The above described how traditional animation is created. But now with

the computer becoming more useful and more tangible in its usefulness in

everyday society, animation is going through a dramatic change, with newer and

easier alternatives in creating and editing animations, on work stations and

home computers. Highly known animation studios like Disney and Silicon Graphics

are stepping up to a higher and more advanced level of animation, by using

computers to create animation effects that traditional animation techniques

would never be able to create. Special computer effects that were created on

computers were observed in the movies “Abyss”, “Terminator 2″, and “Jurassic

Park”. All these movies had some computerized animation added to the film

producing special effects never seen previously on movies until now. This is

because computer-generated animations are more flexible than traditional

animations, because it can be altered, viewed, and manipulated in any way the

computer animator wishes by a click of the mouse. Furthermore computer-generated

animations appear to be more realistic, to the audience, because realistic

objects can be scanned into the animation by a computer scanner easily, and be

used as part of the animation. But the most attractive feature computer

animation holds is that “animations done on computer are cheaper and take less

time to produce.”4

There are two major ways to go about producing a computer-generated

animation. The first and most used process is called “Stop-Frame

Cinematography”, where an artist draws each cell of the animation or cuts out

pictures, then puts all the frames of still animation in an special scanner

which scans all the separate cells into the computer. Then the computer animator

arranges all the frames in the order, that it will be viewed in. Then the artist

colours and edits each frame of animation with a computer paint program. After

the animation on computer is completed the soundtrack and background voices are

digitized into the computer, and mixed synchronously together. The final process

of creation is where the foreground animation is merged with the background, and

the mixed sounds are synchronized with animation. After the animation is

completed it is printed to film by a computer film printer, and is ready for

viewing. The second process, which with the production of powerful high speed

computers is becoming more familiar in films with computer generated animation

and special effects, an example of this process is in the films “Jurassic Park”

and “Terminator 2″. The process I am describing is referred in the industry as

“Computer Object Renderization”. This is where a computer-generated actor is

created by a process called “Wire Framing”. This process is like bending and

shaping metal wire to create a solid human figure or sculpture; at this point no

colour or texture has been created. After the wire framed actor is created, it

goes through a process referred as “Texture Mapping”, where texture is added to

the wire framed actor, producing depth and dimension to the computer actor. This

process could be thought of as paper mashing a wire sculpture. Now the actor

appears to be three-dimensional with shadows and shades added to the actors

darker areas of the skeletal form. The computer actor is now ready for details

like toes, fingers, nose, eyes, etc… to be added, to make the appearance of

the actor more realistic. Now that the computer-rendered actor is completed

with all its human or animal like details. Its movement can be controlled by a

electronic suit which has several movement sensory devices located on key areas

of the suit. That means a human actor can put on the suit, and his or her

movement will be transferred to the computer and processed as digital

information. This causes the rendered actor to move on the computer monitor.

After the actor’s movements have been acted out like the script needed, voices

are sequently merged together creating a single sequence of animation. Now the

actor can be printed to the film’s background, creating full feature animation.

This is how animation studios produce computer rendered animations.

Due to the tremendous pace at which computers are becoming more widely

available in our everyday society today, almost anyone with some general

computer knowledge can now produce simple computer-generated animations, with a

home computer and some computer hardware, like a computer image digitizer,

computer drawing tablet with sensory drawing pen, colour film printer, sound

card with microphone receiver, and finally a video camera, these devices will

enhance the computer’s graphics capabilities for doing computer generated

animations or movies. Secondly what is needed to create computer animation is

computer animation software which can execute fairly complicated graphics

applications. Finally, the most important piece of equipment which is needed, to

create sophisticated graphical animations is an abundance of external computer

memory or RAM. This is, because it takes enormous amounts of memory to animate

computer images which contain colour. This equipment has its limitations whereas

it can only produce simple computer animations, nothing like “T2″ or “Jurassic

Park”. “Long stringed sequences of animation like full-feature cartoons, contain

vast amounts of information that must be stored and manipulated.”5 “This

enormous kind of digital computer information requires the kind of power and

storage capabilities that only industrial size supercomputers can provide.”6

These sorts of computers, cost a significant amount of money, making it nearly

impossible for the general public to get at this technology.

Ever since the “first animated cartoons were produced in 1910,”7

involving such animals as “Felix the Cat” and “Mickey Mouse”, and on to feature-

full length classics “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Fantasia”, and many

more, the history of animation has been characterized by the almost constant

introduction of ever more complex forms of animation. “Beginning in the 1960’s,

films showing abstract colour designs in motion were programmed by means of

computers that calculate intricate movements with amazing precision.”8 Today

computer animation has achieved the ability to create moving images and

backgrounds of great complexity. This advanced innovation in animation, has

prompted the multimedia world to manipulate this technology to adapt to their

needs. Such as using computerized animation widely in their television

commercials, titles, and in producing more convincing music videos for the

consumers. Computer animation has just become popular in our society, it has not

even began to show its full capabilities. For in the near future we will be

graced with the presences of it in every technological medium; such as in

multimedia advertisement, video entertainment, and in the education system. We

must either accept this technology and learn to use it, or be left in the dark,

falling behind in the technological world.

Even though many companies are using computerized animations to promote

their product or film, old-style cell animation continues to be the sole

technique which quality animators, such as Disney Productions use, but with

computer-generated objects still often mixed with the traditional animation,

adding a new outlook to the animation. As we near the year 2000, and enter the

high-tech age of computer generated graphics and animation, I believe that the

true admirers of the art of animation will always have a nostalgia for the

techniques first used by the pioneers of animation.


1.Compton’s Encyclopedia, 1991 edition, Vol.3, “Cartoons.”

2.Randy McCallum, Cinemation (British Columbia: Motion Works Inc., 1992), p. 19.

3.ibid., p. 23.

4.Edward Desmond, “Beyond Mickey Mouse,” Time (Nov.1.1993), p. 32.

5.Toolworks Encyclopedia, 1992 edition, CD ROM, “Animation.”

6.ibid., CD ROM.

7.Compton’s Encyclopedia, 1991 edition, Vol.3, “Cartoons”

8.Toolworks Encyclopedia, 1992 edition, CD ROM, “Animation.”


1.Brown, Robert. “Cartoons.” Compton’s Encyclopedia, (1991), Vol.3, pp. 163-165.

2.Desmond, Edward W. “Beyond Mickey Mouse.” Time, Sept.27,1993, pp. 42-47.

3.Elmer, Philip. “Video Game Boom.” Time, Nov.1,1993, pp. 16-20.

4.McCallum, Randy. Cinemation. British Columbia: Motion Works Inc., 1992, pp. 1-


5.Redmond, John R. “Animation.” Toolworks Encyclopedia, (1992), CD ROM.

6.Young, Harvill. “3D Imaging Technology.” MacWorld, Sept.1,1992, pp. 276-285.

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