What is animation?
Animation is the rapid succession of still sequential images, shown at a steady rate that create the illusion of movement.
This illusion is made possible by a physical phenomenon called “persistence of vision“: If a sequence of still images is displayed fast enough, our brain will stop seeing individual steps and start seeing motion instead. This illusion is referred to as the persistence of vision. The human eye and brain can only process 10-12 separate images per second. If another image replaces it within a fifteenth of a second, it will bridge the two, creating the illusion of continuous motion.
Pre-film era: Before the advent of cinema in the 1890s, inventors were putting still images into motion with optical toys such as the zoetrope. A strip with sequenced imaged was placed on the inner surface of cylinder with slits on the side. As the cylinder spins, the user looks through the slits at the pictures across. The scanning of the slits keeps the pictures from simply blurring together.
Eadweard Muybridge, although not an animator himself, was a key figure in the development of the medium (as well as live-action film). His multi-camera motion studies of animal and humans, created in the 1870s and 80s, advanced the understanding of movement. His books of photographs continue to be used as references by animators to this day. Here’s a link to the horse in motion as a video file on YouTube
Here are a few classic films/animators from the very early days of animation:
- George Melies, “A Trip to the Moon” (1902)
- Emile Cohl, “Fantasmagorie” (1908)
- Winsor McCay “Gertie the Dinosaur” (1914)
- Otto Messmer, “Felix in Hollywood” (1923)
- Lotte Reiniger, “Adventures of Prince” Achmed (1926)
The Walt Disney Studio was founded in 1923 and quickly came to dominate the medium. Not only did the studio create memorable characters such as Mickey Mouse, it also invented and perfected development and production tools that are still used today.
In traditional 2D film animation, each frame is created by hand. Animators often use their own expressions as a reference for their characters. 1 second of animation requires 24 frames/drawings.
Up until the mid-1990’s the lead animator would animate the character on sheets of paper. These drawings would then be cleaned up and painted unto sheets of celluloid. Finally, the character cell would be overlaid over a background and shot on film.
The multiplane camera was a large analog piece of equipment developed at the Disney studios in the 1930s to impart live action-like effects (i.e: depth-of-field, parallax and zooming) to 2D animation. The multiplane became obsolete with digital scanning, compositing and editing tools in the early 1990s.
The 12 principles: Two of Disney’s master animators, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, described the 12 most important principles to create appealing animations in a a book called “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation” in 1981. While these rules were already present in very early animations, Frank and Ollie formalized them. These principles are essential to any animator’s education and practice. This video offers a great overview of all 12 principles: “Complete 12 Principles of Animation Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston as described by Alan Becker”
This animation is a very quick overview of the 12 principles.
While 2D animation is still popular today, the computer almost always comes into play (i.e: for scanning, compositing, sequencing and/or to color each frame). Often, animators draw the frames directly within the digital environment with a tablet.
Here a few interesting contemporary examples:
- “A Man too Good to be True” (2015) – from the New York Times’ “Modern Love” series
- ‘Dumb Ways to Die’(2012) – Australian public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains
- “You’re Welcome”sequence from Disney’s Moana (combination of 2D and 3D) (2016)
- “Paper” (2015) – Honda “Add” by PES
- “Cannon Busters” (2019) trailer. animated series on Netflix written and directed by LeSean Thomas
- “The Girl Without Hands”(2016) – full feature film by Sebastien Laudenbach
- “Catch Me If You Can”(title sequence) (2002)
- “Waltz with Bashir” (2008) animated documentary feature written and directed by Ari Folman
- “Your Name”(trailer) (2016) – by Makoto Shinkai
- “Alto’s Odyssey” (trailer) (2017) – Mobile Game
Your first assignment is to create a flipbook. You should complete it by our next class We will review in class how to make a video and submit it to OpenLab. Here are all the details.
Checklist for this week:
- View the Alan Becker video on 12 principles
- Watch at least 2 of the classic animations listed above
- Watch at least 2 of the contemporary animations
- Set up your OpenLab account
- Join the course in OpenLab
- Create your OpenLab portfolio
- Post to the Introductions Discussion Board
- Complete the flipbook assignment
- Bookmark this site