Animation Art
History, Characteristics of Cartoon & Film Cartoonists like Walt Disney.

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Definitions, forms, styles, genres,
periods, see: Types of Art.

Animation Art

Animation (from the Latin word, animare, to breathe life into) is the visual art of making a motion picture from a series of still drawings. Although twenty first century animation is dominated by computerized film and video technology, the creative figure drawing skills and draftsmanship of cartoonists and graphic artists remain an integral part of the process. Famous twentieth century animators include J. Stuart Blackton, George McManus, Max Fleischer, and Walt Disney, and the team from DreamWorks Animation. Famous animated film cartoons include Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck, Jungle Book, the Simpsons, Shrek and Anime.

For details of colleges who
offer classes on subjects
like animated film, see:
Best Art Schools.

Giacomo Balla, was an important Italian Futurist painter. Balla was
fascinated by the 2-D depiction of
movement and motion, and this
work had a significant effect on
the development of early animation.

For a list of important dates about
movements, styles, famous artists,
see: History of Art Timeline.


There are various types of animations: animated full-length films, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fritz the Cat, and Shrek; films with both animated and human characters, such as Roger Rabbit, and Lord of the Rings; shorter-length cartoons or TV series, like Tom and Jerry, and the Simpsons; and specific animations for TV and video commercials. The growth of animation, both as an art form and as a commercial product, has led to its growing importance as a study subject. Animation is now taught as a separate figurative art course in a growing number of European as well as American arts colleges. For related disciplines, see Photography and also Video art.

The Draftsman Animator

Animators complete their drawings on cels, transparent acetate sheets. If drawn on paper, they are later transferred to cels using xerography. The most common media for drawing the story are opaque inks and paints, applied with a variety of specialist markers, crayons, and litho pencils. The basic process revolves around the 'storyboard' - a series of one-panel sketches. Accompanying action and dialogue summaries are written under each sketch. Cartoons are particularly labour-intensive: the average short cartoon requires 40-50,000 separate frames or drawings. Making a character sit down can require 10 or more drawings to depict each individual movement.

For facts and information, see:
Modern Art Guide
For the avante-garde, see:
Contemporary Art Guide
For an explanation of the
post-modern era, see:
What is Postmodernism?

For details of camera art, see:
Greatest Photographers (c.1880-).

Head Animator

To achieve continuity and uniformity of images, one or more models are made for each character. These models typically incorporate sketches of the characters in various positions with various facial expressions, and are used by the head animator to sketch the primary action sequence. For instance, if the character is supposed to run, the head animator will draw the foot leaving the floor, then in the air, and finally returning to the floor. Assistant artists then complete the details.

Layout and Background Artists

Set design is very important. This is handled by the layout artist who makes a series of linear drawings which are used by the background artist to create the backgrounds. The latter can include anything from buildings, room-interiors, landscapes, jungle and mountain to shopping malls. All colour is usually filled in by computer.

Computer Animation

Since 1990, computer-created animation incorporating sophisticated graphics software has become increasingly dominant: witness John Lassiter's 'Toy Story', the first feature film created totally with computer animation. Whether traditional animation can survive this development is unclear, although at present it seems that human skill is still needed to create the ultra-realistic imagery which consumers now expect. (See also: Is Photography Art?)


Animated film derives from the old 'magic lantern' shows. These originated with the work of Jesuit Monks like Althanasius Kircher and Gaspar Schott, in the seventeenth century, and the turning windmills of Dutchman Pieter Van Musschenbroek in the early eighteenth century. The influential essay 'Persistence of Vision with Regard to Moving Objects' by the Swiss physician Peter Mark Roget, author of Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, stimulated interest in 'magic lantern' technology, and was followed by several technical developments. First, the thaumatrope, invented by John Paris during the 1820s. Second,the phenakistoscope, invented by the Belgian Joseph Plateau. Thirdly, the stroboscope, designed by by Simon Ritter von Stampfer and the zoetrope, invented by William Homer. Then, in 1845, came the first movie projector, designed by Baron Franz von Uchatius. In 1888, George Eastman invented celluloid film - a medium that projected images much better than those painted on glass.

The first film cartoon - Humourous Phases of Funny Faces animated by J. Stuart Blackton, appeared in the United States, in 1906. This was followed in 1908 by Emile Cohl's Phantasmagorie, and in 1911 by Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur. In 1923, Walt Disney, started developing children's stories into cartoons. Mickey Mouse first appeared in 1928, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937. Since then, animation art has undergone huge improvements. The new generation of animated cartoon graphics - as evidenced in the films Lord of the Rings, Shrek, Toy Story and Anime - are taking computerized animation to new heights.

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