What is Animation?

When we recall images that we have seen on television or the movie theatre during our childhood, all of us remember some or the other cartoon or animated image. Be it Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, Scooby Doo or Tom and Jerry, Toy Story or Ice Age- all of these images are created with the help of animation. Animation basically puts images in such a sequence that it creates an illusion of movement. This is done by creating the position of one object in relation to another. The device which is used to show these images then projects them rapidly, faster than that of a usual film, for example, 25-30 frames per second.  From hand painted photographs to images created by computer, animation has really come a long way and with passing time it is showing signs of even further progress. What used to be for the purpose of entertainment and wonder is now being used for nobler and serious purposes such as creating social awareness on a particular issue.

What is Animation

Animation screenshot (Image source: sxc.hu)


The concept of images which reflect motion dates way back to cave paintings. However, animation, as we know it made its appearance only after the concept of cinematography came to life. One of the first hints of animation can be found in the special effects’ films of the 1890s. George Melies made great contributions in this regard with his stop-motion photography. The illusion of movement was created by shifting the position of objects in front of the camera and pausing the rolling of the camera in between accordingly.  Steadily with the development of film and the arrival of television, the art of animation also started showing signs of maturity. Traditional animation was done using hand drawn paintings. In each painting there was a slight change in posture and position of the characters or objects than the previous one. After a complex process of photocopying onto a special material and adding colour, these images were then captured on a motion picture film and when shown on screen, seemed like smooth moving ones. All of these became almost obsolete with the development of the computer. Almost all animated images that we see today are computer generated. Add to this the coming of 3D images- animation now has reached a new high!



Broadly divided, animation is of three types: computer, cel and stop. The traditional method of animation is cel animation. Like mentioned earlier, pictures with slight changes in the position of the different objects or characters are drawn one after the other. These are then traced on a transparent sheet, known as cel. The back of the cel is then used to fill the pictures with colour. Once this is over, a camera is used to photograph the drawings and finally before projecting them, appropriate music, voice overs, etc are added. Most old cartoons were created this way, including the most popular one of all times- ‘Tom and Jerry’. ‘The Lion King’ is one of the most famous traditionally animated feature films.


The stop motion technique is something which early filmmakers creating special effects films used. There are further divisions to demarcate the different kinds of stop motion animation techniques some of which are puppet animation, graphic animation, object animation, model animation, silhouette animation, etc. Among the most well-known films which have used stop motion animation are ‘King Kong’ and ‘The Lost World’.


The most recent and now, most popular form of animation is of course, computer animation. Computer animation makes the images more lifelike as compared to all other kinds of animations. Software are used to create the images and add effects. Particular objects like water or hair or fur look tangible when created by computer animation. In some cases, special sensors are used to capture human body movement which are then applied to animated characters as done in the case of the penguin dance sequence for the film ‘Happy Feet’. Computer animation includes both 2D and 3D techniques. 2D animations are created using tools like AJAX animator, KToon, etc, while 3D with tools like Maya, Anim8or.  The arrival of 3D images created a rage among those working in the visual arts. It takes the world of the imaginary to a completely whole new level where you can almost feel the images surrounding you. ‘Toy Story’ was the first film to have been made with completely computer generated images. Computer animation is also immensely useful for different games which people play online, or on their gaming consoles or even simply on a computer.


As animation develops as a successful medium of expression, there are appearing special awards to give a pat on the back of the creators. Considering the rate at which technology is progressing, no one can hold back the development, reach and brilliance that animation is. It will continue to create awe among the audiences in different forms for many years to come.