For the past few weeks, I have been taking an introductory animation course at my school. Even though I plan on majoring in Illustration, I decided to briefly delve into animation just so I could get a taste of the methods and work that go on behind the scenes. I always assumed that animating was time-consuming, but I never really understood it first-hand until now. For this class, we are required to do all of the animation either hand-drawn or using paper cut-outs, sand, or paint which make the process even longer and more meticulous. This picture of a cat is actually a still from a short animation I did to experiment with sand. Despite the fact that it takes a lot, and I mean A LOT, of time and effort and passion for what you choose to animate, I really have been enjoying the class! Drawing is what I love to do, and having the power to bring my characters to life all on my own can only be described as… well, for lack of a better word, magical!
All of the concepts I’ve been working with in class are relatively basic in the animation world, especially since we aren’t allowed to use any digital animation, but in a way, that makes it more complicated because we don’t have the luxury of technology to speed up the process. The only digital editing we can use is to piece the individual drawings, or frames, together so that we can export it as a movie file. For example, our first assignment was to make a four-second flipbook which consisted of about fifty different drawings, and we had one night to complete it. Mine can be seen here. I’ve learned that when dealing with any hand-drawn animation, the key is to keep each drawing as simple as possible. The more complex it is, the harder it will be to replicate in each frame, and the more time it will take.
Another process that we touched upon during a class was the use of paper cut-outs. We were asked to create a character and make him or her walk across the screen. In this case, the challenge lies in the creation of the character, but once it is finished, it is quick and easy to animate because you only have to move it rather than draw it over and over again. To make an effective paper puppet, you have to give it multiple joints so that it can achieve lifelike motions over the course of the animation. You can check out my example of this here!
By the end of the course (next week!), I have to complete a 30-40 second hand-drawn animation. Just to give you some perspective, I started working on it about three weeks ago, and so far I have a total of 22 seconds done! On the left you’ll see a sketch of me thinking of all of the drawings I still have to get done… and on the right is another sketch of me TOTALLY confident that I’ve got it under control. Even though this class only lasts a month, I’ve already learned a lot about the broad world of animation, and it’s safe to say I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for it.
Which method of animation interests you? Can you imagine the time involved in creating an entire Disney full length feature film? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!
(Images from author’s personal collection.)
Alyssa Schulman is currently a student at Rhode Island School of Design. She was born in Florida but moved to Massachusetts at age 10. Alyssa’s heart has belonged to Walt Disney World for as long as she can remember, but something very high up on her bucket list is to visit all other Disney locations. She intends to pursue illustration in the hopes of being even half as inspirational, or at least entertaining, as Disney Animation continues to be to her.