Traditional animation, also known as cel animation, or hand-drawn animation, is an animation technique where each frame of the film is drawn by hand, and was - until the arrival of computer animation - the dominant form used in cinema.
Although advances in technology have resulted in much of the labour of hand-drawn animation being reduced, the technique remains a long and painstaking one.
The process begins with producing a series of storyboards to map out what the film will look like. These are then synced with the film's pre-recorded soundtrack to ensure that the animators know precisely when a character is speaking, or bursting into song. Character designers then work on creating model sheets, to ensure there is consistency in terms of appearance and movement across the board, with many different animators involved.
Once all this is completed, the animation itself begins! Animators draw sequences of animation on transparent pieces of paper, one frame at a time, each frame having to match the soundtrack exactly to avoid discrepancy (for example a character's mouth moving when not speaking). Meanwhile background artists are busy painting the sets over which each animated sequence will take place, often using watercolours or oil paints.
The next big step, after the images have been cleaned and polished, is making them into a film! Each drawing is transferred from paper to a thin, clear sheet of plastic called a cel (short for celluloid). Once a sequence has been loaded onto cels, the photography process begins using special animated cameras. Once every sequence has been photographed, the final film is sent for development and processing.
The rise of computer animation has resulted in fewer traditional animated films being produced, yet they remain hugely popular; painstaking labours of love and arguably more romantic than their more modern counterpart.
Here are our selection of some of the finest examples.
We also have film lists on rotoscoping, 3D/CGI animation, VFX, stop-motion, cut-out animation, and the history of animation.
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