The Basics of Character Animation: What is a Character?
ANIMATION IS A GREAT WAY TO TELL A STORY, BUT WITHOUT CHARACTERS IT’S JUST A SERIES OF EVENTS. A CHARACTER IS A PARTICULAR INDIVIDUAL OR A PERSONAGE IN A MOVIE, VIDEO, BOOK, OR ANY OTHER MEDIUM OF ANIMATION.
Character animation is a subset of animation that involves creating and manipulating characters in an animated work. It is one of the most challenging and demanding aspects of animation, as it requires great skill and creativity.
In this guide, I’ll explain what character animation is, how it differs from other types of animation, and what you need to be a good character animator.
The Beginnings of Character Animation
Gertie the Dinosaur
Gertie the Dinosaur, created by Winsor McCay in 1914, is often credited as the first example of true character animation. She was followed by Otto Messmer’s Felix the Cat, who was given a personality in the 1920s.
The Disney Era
The 1930s saw Walt Disney’s animation studio take character animation to a whole new level. From Three Little Pigs to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney created some of the most iconic characters in animation history. The ‘Nine Old Men’ of Disney, including Bill Tytla, Ub Iwerks, and Ollie Johnston, were the masters of the technique. They taught that the thoughts and emotions behind the character were the key to creating a successful scene.
Other Notable Figures
Character animation isn’t just limited to Disney. Here are some other notable figures in the field:
- Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Frank Tashlin, Robert McKimson, and Friz Freleng from Schlesinger/Warner Bros.
- Max Fleischer and Walter Lantz, pioneering animators from Hanna-Barbera
- Don Bluth, former Disney animator
- Richard Williams, independent animator
- John Lasseter from Pixar
- Andreas Deja, Glen Keane and Eric Goldberg from Disney
- Nick Park from Aardman Animations
- Yuri Norstein, Russian independent animator
Character and Creature Animation: Bringing the Unnatural to Life
- Character animators bring to life all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures, from dinosaurs to fantasy creatures.
- They use the same principles of character animation to animate vehicles, machinery, and natural phenomena like rain, snow, lightning and water.
- Computer science research is always being done to make sure characters can be rendered in real-time applications.
- Motion capture and soft-body dynamics simulations are used to make sure characters move realistically.
- Creature animators are the ones who make sure all the weird and wonderful creatures look as realistic as possible.
- They use all kinds of techniques to bring creatures to life, from motion capture to soft-body dynamics simulations.
- They also use the same principles of character animation to animate vehicles, machinery, and natural phenomena.
- Computer science research is always being done to make sure creatures can be rendered in real-time applications.
The Early Days of Character Animation
- Character animation has come a long way since the days of Walt Disney Studios, where cartoon artists would create characters with distinct personalities and characteristics.
- It takes a lot of technical drawing or animation skills to make a character move, think, and act in a consistent way.
- Back in the day, primitive cartoon animation was replaced with modern 3D animation, and character animation evolved along with it.
Character Animation Today
- Character animation today involves things like character rigging and creating object-oriented frameworks for character sequences.
- Voice dubbing by famous celebs and advanced character profiles are also used to create a character’s persona and background.
- Take the Toy Story movies for example: the careful creation of on-screen characters has made them a huge success and earned them a legacy status.
Choosing the Right Character Animation to Make Your Project Pop
Types of Character Animation
Character animation is the best way to make your animation marketing campaign stand out. There are a few different ways to make characters move, and each one has its own pros and cons. It’s important to know what type of animation you want to use so you can get the most out of your project. Here are the main types of character animation:
- 2D Animation: This is the classic style of animation, where characters are drawn and then animated frame-by-frame. It’s a great way to create a classic look and feel, but it can be quite time-consuming and expensive.
- 3D Animation: This is the modern style of animation, where characters are created in a 3D environment and then animated with motion capture or keyframing. It’s a great way to create realistic and dynamic animations, but it can be quite costly and time-consuming.
- Motion Graphics: This is a hybrid style of animation, where characters are created in a 2D or 3D environment and then animated with motion graphics. It’s a great way to create dynamic and eye-catching animations, but it can be quite expensive.
Choosing the Right Animation Style
When it comes to choosing the right type of character animation for your project, it’s important to consider your budget and timeline. If you’re on a tight budget and timeline, then 2D animation might be the best option. If you have a bit more money to spend and a bit more time to work with, then 3D animation or motion graphics might be the better choice.
It’s also important to consider the type of animation you want to create. If you want to create a classic, hand-drawn look and feel, then 2D animation is the way to go. If you want to create something more realistic and dynamic, then 3D animation or motion graphics might be the better option.
No matter what type of animation you choose, it’s important to make sure that it fits the style and tone of your project. The right animation style can make all the difference in the success of your project, so make sure to choose wisely!
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Character Animation: A Guide to the Different Types
Subtle Character Movements
Sometimes, you don’t need a full-blown character animation to get the point across. Subtle character movements can do the trick! These small head and arm movements give a sense of life to the characters and dynamism to the scene. Plus, they’re great for fast-paced projects or motion graphics pieces that don’t rely heavily on characters. All you need to do is crop the character from the torso up, and you’re good to go!
Detailed Character Animation in After Effects
If you’re looking for something a bit more complex, detailed character animation in After Effects is the way to go. This type of animation uses a mixture of techniques to animate full-body characters or add more complexity to movements. It usually takes advantage of the software’s digital interpolation to reduce the number of poses the animator needs to create.
Complex Character Animation in Frame-by-Frame (Cel Animation)
For the ultimate form of character animation in the 2D environment, you can’t go wrong with frame-by-frame or cel animation. This traditional technique involves drawing many individual images in a sequence to create movement. It’s great for animations full of action, or if you want to really wow your audience with a hand-crafted and dynamic experience.
What Visual Style Should You Choose for Your Animation?
Straight Lines and Basic Shapes
If you’re looking for subtle movements and After Effects animations, then straight lines and basic shapes are your go-to. Think squares, circles, and triangles. These are perfect for creating a sleek and modern look.
Organic shapes, on the other hand, are great for frame-by-frame animations. These are more complex shapes, like those found in nature. So if you’re looking for something more whimsical and fun, then organic shapes are the way to go.
Different Ways to Approach Characters
Of course, these are just guidelines. Your animator will be able to help you decide which technique is best for your project. Here are some different ways to approach characters in the same project:
- Mix and match straight lines and basic shapes with organic shapes.
- Use a combination of After Effects and frame-by-frame animations.
- Create a hybrid style that combines both techniques.
Mixing it Up: Different Techniques in the Same Style
Cut-Out and Subtle Movements
When it comes to creating animated videos, why settle for just one technique? Mix it up and make it interesting! With the right visual style, you can combine cut-out and subtle movements to create a unique and engaging experience for viewers.
Take it one step further and add some cel animation moments. This will give your animation a richer, more unexpected feel, while still staying within your production timeline and budget.
Character Vs Personality For Animation
Character vs personality for animation is a tricky one. Characters are the physical representation of a person or thing, while personality is the traits and behaviors that make up the character. Characters have a distinct look and feel, while personalities are more abstract and can be interpreted differently by different people. For example, a character may have a big nose and glasses, but their personality could be seen as kind and generous.
When it comes to animation, characters and personalities can be used to create a unique and entertaining experience. Characters can be used to create a visual representation of a person or thing, while personalities can be used to create a unique and dynamic story. For example, a character may have a goofy look, but their personality could be seen as brave and courageous. On the other hand, a character may have a serious look, but their personality could be seen as mischievous and cunning. Both characters and personalities can be used to create a unique and entertaining experience for viewers.
Main Character Vs Background Characters For Animation
When it comes to animation, it’s all about the main character. That’s the one you want to draw first, as they’ll be the star of the show. Background characters, on the other hand, can come second. It’s not as important to get their proportions right, as they won’t be the focus of the animation. But if you want to make sure everything looks balanced, it’s best to draw them first. Just remember, the main character is the star of the show, so make sure they look their best!
In conclusion, character animation is an essential part of the animation process that brings life to characters and helps to tell a story. Whether you’re creating an explainer video or a feature-length film, character animation is a great way to humanize your brand and increase your ROI. Just remember, when it comes to character animation, “the sky’s the limit” – so don’t be afraid to get creative! And don’t forget the most important part: practice your chopstick skills – it’s a “must” for any animator!
Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.