Animation Techniques Report

|Early Forms Of Animation|


Illustration Of A Thaumatrope

The thaumatrope is a toy which was invented by John Ayrton consisting of two images on either side of a disk, with two pieces of string on both sides. If span rapidly enough by twirling the string between the fingers it gives the impression of a single image.

The Thaumatrope In Action 


Zoetrope Illustration Wheel Frame

The zoetrope was invented in 1834 by William Horner originally titled “Daedalum”, another toy which is a sequence of hand-drawn pictures on strips of paper inside a cylinder base with vertical cuts along the sides. The cylinder turns (with the viewer watching through the slits) which sees the rapid spinning of the image.

The Zoetrope In Action


The Mutoscopes

The mutoscope, patented 1894 by Herman Casler but created by Winsor McCay, is an early motion picture device. Similar to a flip book, individual images were printed onto cards and were attached onto what looked like a large rolodex; usually holding 850 card which gave roughly the viewing time of a minute. The machines were coin-operated and were lit electrically but was driven via a hand crank.

The Mutoscope In Action

|Different Uses/ Applications For Animation|

Animation refers to the art of making an object change over time through scripted actions, with animation rough meaning to make something “alive.” Over time the original 2D animation adapted into 3D animation which as an added “Z” dimension that allows for added rotation and depth (with 2D animation only have XY dimensions).

1.  Entertainment

Animation did start as an alternative form of entertainment from television and early films. Though at the beginning the process was not taken very seriously and few thought there was much future in the medium.


Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur ( 1914)

For films animation began with Cel Animation which is short for “celluloid”. Celluloid refers to the transparent sheet that are drawn or painted on and then layered together. For example there will be one sheet for the background, another for the character base and another for the object they are interacting with, this was to make the animation process easier and quicker as if there was a mistake on one layer, it would not affect the rest.

Diagram of Cel Sheets

Celluloids were also good for rotoscoping (an animation technique where animators trace over footage, frame by frame) as the clear sheets allowed for film wheels to be easily copied over, which was the case in early animation to study human and animal movement rather than actual tracing or art style.

Rotoscoping In Disney’s Snow White (1937)

As Cel Animation was so labour intensive tricks were used in order to save time such as animation loops, or cycles where a sequence is made and repeated again and again like a character walking or a hallway passing in the background which was just the same few frames.

An Animation Loop

Animators would also recycle some of their original frames from other products, using rotoscoping to trace over them.

Recycled Frames: Disney’s Snow White (top) And Robin Hood (bottom)

Of course once technology advanced Cel Animation was replaced by large production companies, for computer-assisted animation software: Computer Animation Production System (CAPS), which was the first digital ink and paint programme for feature films.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid, 1989: CAPS with ending scene.

With computers being implemented into animation and it already having been incorporated into live action films such as Disney’s “Mary Poppins” (1964) and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” (1971), the first solid leap into a CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) was “Tron”with whole scenes of digital terrain, as well as Light Cycles (vehicles) made with the four leading (at the time) computer graphics such as:
Information Internation Inc, Robert abel and Associates, MAGI and Digital, all of whom worked on different areas of the film.

Disney’s Tron 1982

3D Animation can include claymation which uses stop motion. Claymation involves each character and object to be sculpted from clay or other pliable material, usually with an armature (wire skeleton). These objects will then be manipulated a bit with a photo being taken after every change in order to “film” the movie or show.

Art Clokey’s Gumbasia (1953)

However most people associate 3D Animation with the more recent CGI productions which uses software to make both the world and its inhabitants fully 3D. The first feature length film to have a full-CGI Animation was “Toy Story”.

Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story (1995)


The “Silent Era” was the beginning of animation with works like “Pauvre Pierrot” created by Charles-Emile Reynaud a the first animated screening of a projection. Notable he did not use photographs by draw directly onto transparent stop.

Pauvre Pierrot, 1892

Projects continued through with “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces” (1906) where cartoons were animated onto a blackboard, followed by “Fantasmagorie” (1908) which is similar in technique. Gertie the Dinosaur (as mentioned above) followed, marked as the first sample of character animation.

Humorous Phases of Funny Faces Film.

The development of cartoons started as black and white and silent, and some true examples of the cartoons we see today would be Felix the Cat and Oswald the Luck Rabbit.

Felix The Cat in “Feline Follies” (1919)

The “Golden Age” is where cartoons began to be produced in huge numbers with an abundance of companies creating them and a number more distributing them, some which are still recognised today are Disney and Warner Bros.

What sets the Golden Age a part is this is where sound was added to animation. The first was in “My Old Kentucky Home” by Mac Fleischer (1926) however it wasn’t done well and Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” (1928) featuring a fully synchronised soundtrack ensured that, that was the one which set the standard for later releases.

Micky Mouse as Steamboat Willie

-Web animations-

With the expansion of the Internet and websites such as YouTube as well as animation software like Adobe Flash, Autodesk and Photoshop many independent and/ or professional took to making and uploading animations online.

Youtube’s First Flash Animation

There is a whole community of new artists and animators that will post their attempts online for criticism, as well as to show their progress. This can also be used as a good portfolio.

 Brigham Young University (Centre For Animation)’s “Alight”

There are also indie companies, educational institutions and large businesses that will post samples of the work in order to show people what they are capable of; whether thats to encourage students to join their program or to apply for a job, it introduces new material and ideas to the field.

Domics’ Vlog: “ReTales: Shoplifter”

YouTuber’s have also begun to produce animated Vlogs, general videos, or opening/ ending.

Rooster Teeth’s online series: RWBY Opening Season 1 (2013 – present)

Then there are professional productions that can include a number of animators, voice actions, producers and other crewmen who will work to create the product. With the rise of people turning to the internet for entertainment and with the leap in quality, it is surely where the medium is going.

2. Education

Animation is a good teaching aid as it is often clearer and more concise then live action. It is also seen as more fun and interactive for children, who it is often primarily aimed at. You often see educational animations as either independent shorts, programmes or small segments.’s “How & Why: Eclipses” Video

Using bright colours, simple designs and clear diagrams/ explanations to the content of the video, children will be able to follow along with the short animation. Many individual episodes, on multiple subjects have been made independently and professionally.

CBBC’s Newsround’s Hiroshima Survivor Story

Many programmes on television will use animation as a simple way to show different content, often times to censor what can be sensitive topics for younger viewers such as news or history stories.

1995 Sailor Moon’s “Sailor Says”

some animations will add educational content to their material in segments, in order to either fulfill board casting requirements for the station it airs on or to appeal to parents.

4. Information

Animation was also used in order to spread information or propaganda. This was especially noteworthy during World War 2 with a few short movies produced by Walt Disney to support his ring-winged views.

Donald Duck In Nutzi Land (1943)

|Current Trends In Animation|

-Mixed Styles-

In animation it is typical to create an environment – or world that the audience will easily recognise and know quickly (if, that is, the genre is not Sci-Fi or Fantasy) as this familiarity will usually help make the characters’ of that place more relatable to the viewer. However now things are evolving to where concept artists have begun to take inspiration from different culturals for a fusion of styles.

Disney’s (2014) Big Hero 6’s Example Of Environment: San Fransokyo (Tokyo and San Francisco Hybrid) 

-3D Printing-

3D printing is quite new to the world and not many would think of it in the same air as animation however the process of bringing them together starts with The boxtrlll movie which, integrating photography, CGI and VFX software using real sets; sets that have been built by 3D printers which were responsible for the models.

This new technique will be able to save time and manpower with claymation and more fascinating films like The Boxtrolls, which are trying to find a unique look.

Laila Studio’s The Boxtrolls Movie (2014)

|Software Used For Producing Modern Animation|


GoAnimate’s Interface

GoAnimate is a web, user-friendly software where it allows you to animate with it. It has a library with thousands of character models, backdrops and audio. A lot of the community who use it are causal artists or people with some free time wanting to experiment.

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya’s Interface

Autodesk Maya is a 3D animation software for games, films and visual effects but truly exceeds in character creation. Maya is renowned in it’s industry as one of the best softwares available and is used both professionally and independently alike.


Thaumatrope Image Source

Zoetrope Image Source

Mutoscope Image Source

Cel Animation Diagram Image Source

Disney’s Snow White Rotoscoping Image Source 

Animation Loop GIF Source

GoAnimate Software Interace Image Source

Autodesk Maya’s Interface Image Source


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