Animation in Movies

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Since the invention of cinema in the 1880s, technological advances, especially animation, have changed the film industry. Thanks to technological advancements, films have been transformed into technological art pieces that are vastly different from the original films. Digital animations have enabled filmmakers and animators to showcase their work in various ways, which Pierson (6-21) believes is more successful than in the past. Digitally animated films and live-action films are the two most popular genres in which animations, also known as computer-generated imagery, are used. From the early 1990s to the present, these two models have been used in the film industry. Digital animation in the film industry was invented to have more accurate drills and virtual reality training in the military. In the 20th century, the first digital animation studio was established by John Whitney (who is considered to be the pioneer of animation) known as Motion Graphics Inc. In the 1970s the famous director of “Star Wars” George Lucas developed the special effects corporation known as Industrial Light and Magic. Currently, the company has been re-branded to PIXAR animation which is among the best digital animation studio. In the late 1990s films like ‘Terminator 2; Judgment Day,’ ‘Alien Resurrection’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ were popular due to the application of computer generated imagery/ animation in creating realistic components (Wells 30-57).

Digital animation is known to be used mainly in high action sequences and for fully animated films. This type of animation has also been used in less mainstream genres. Various movie genres use animation to produce realistic effects for example "Drag Me to Hell" which is a horror movie uses computer assisted effects to create more realistic gore, blood, and guts. Romance films such as ‘Moulin Rouge,’ subtly uses digital animation to enrich the experience in a scene. Action movies such as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" have used computer generated imagery to make actors look younger or older (Yoon 637-651).

Pierson (6-21) posits that computer generated imagery and animations have now taken over other forms of technology in the film industry due to the fact that using digital animation is not as dangerous as having the actors execute various maneuvers. Digital animation is also more economical than designing live effects in the studio. Designers can easily manipulate digital effects than in live results.

2009 was possibly the peak of innovative application of digital animation in this contemporary era. In this year, James Cameron produced his 3- dimensioned Science fiction movie "Avatar." This was a stride beyond the classical digital animation, as Cameron had the ability to combine digital effects with the actor’s actual actions and facial expressions. Avatar is 40 percent live actions and 60 percent computer generated imagery.

There are various types of animations. They include; Traditional animation, motion graphics, 2D vector based animation, stop animation and 3D vector-based animation. For this paper we shall focus on three different films; one that has incorporated 3D vector based animation, the second that has included 2D vector animation and finally, motion graphics

3D vector based animation

To practically analyze 3 Dimensioned animations, this essay will look at the “Avatar” directed by James Cameron as an example. 3 Dimensioned animations are made by generating frames of an animated shot. They have a lot of similarities with stop motion, as they both convey animation by posing models and imitate the frame by frame scheme of 2 dimensioned animations. In addition to that, 3D is a lot more controllable since it works in a digital space (Bénard et al. 119)

Instead of animators drawing or constructing characters with clay, 3D animations are digitally modeled in the program and then fitted with a skeleton that gives room for the animators to move the templates. In the Avatar film, the animation was done by posing the models on specific key frames after that the computer calculates and performs an interpolation between those frames to create the desired movement.

After modeling, the animators in Avatar rendered each frame individually. This consumed a lot of time while making up the movie coupled up by the fact that the images used were of high quality. The animators in Avatar spent most of their time looking at the curves that represent the movement of different body part over time.

Avatar was the first movie to introduce a new technology of 3D animation that retained the realistic appeal of the actors. Most viewers admitted that the expressions, movements, and gestures of the animations seemed very real. James Cameron combined the 3D animation with the live actions of the actors who were hooked up to the computer receptors to record each of their movement. The results on screen revealed characters that mimicked the actors’ precise movement, in combination with the 3D technology. Other popular movies that successfully used 3D motion include “Planet of Apes” and “Lord of the Rings trilogy.” The pictures below depict the 3D dimension technology used by Cameron

2 Dimensioned Animations

Two dimensioned animations refer to the traditional hand-drawn animation, and can also be used to refer to computer animation that has embraced the performances of traditional animation. 2D animators use the same techniques used in traditional animation but have an advantage of using a computer interpolation at the same time (Wells 30-57). “The Lion King” produced by Disney and directed by Ford Riley is an example of a famous two dimensioned animation film, although this was not the first animation movie created by Walt Disney.

In her book Summary of three-dimensional animation creation based on ethnic culture element, Shao states that two dimensioned computer generated imagery saves time and money due to the simplicity of the characters and easy to manipulate functions. The characters can be duplicated and changed rather than having them redrawn again. 2D allows characters can be made within a few days, depending on the length and picture quality of the animation. For example in 1928 Disney created a two dimensioned film that only lasted 78 seconds yet the film included one thousand drawing that was comprised of 24- frames per second to achieve an end product of film that lasted only 78 seconds. If a thousand pictures could only last for 78 seconds what if Disney wanted to make a movie that could last for one hour using this traditional method? It would consume a lot of time, and possibly a million images would have to be drawn and redrawn. This example shows how effective 2D animation is as compared to the traditional animation.

The first series of the “Lion King” was released in 1994 when 2 Dimensioned animations were still the most common and preferred method of animation. Lion King revolutionized 2 D animation by introducing real animal movements in the characters. Animals had to be brought down to the studio so that animators could study all their movements and learn how animal anatomy contributed to their actions. This highly provided the surreal actions of the characters experienced in the film (Yoon 637-651).

Most animators had done animal animation however lion king presented a new challenge to the animators. Halfway through the movie Simba becomes trapped in a stampede of wildebeests and is saved by his father. This scene had to be done differently due to the setting and action involved. The wildebeests were made using 3D technology and then later given flat colors. These characters were then duplicated multiple times making a heard of 3D wildebeest in the movie. The animators had to use 3D technology because; characters could appear to overlap each other in case the animators used 2D, which could have prompted undesirable results. These 3D images were later transformed back to 2D (Bendazzi).

Motion graphics

Motion graphics combines animation with short-form text, sound design and an original score to form a story. Motion graphics is mostly used to introduce new products or service, ask for a course of action, educate and inspire various components that need to work and create a cohesive experience for the viewer. A successful motion graphic leaves the consumer feeling informed and motivated to learn more. Commercially, motion graphics is mostly used in advertisements and marketing strategies. Motion graphics use either 2D or 3D animation and incorporates it with other forms of media to complete it (Wells 30-57). Syfy uses motion graphics to advertise the company. See the URL below; an example of the movement picture utilized by Syfy This advert uses a combination of 3D animation and graphical effects to bring a personal touch of the company to their clients. These graphical effects mostly include a series display of colorful motions.


Animations have developed over time to become better as compared to their predecessors, in the late 1990s, surreal animations like the ones used in Avatar were unimaginable of, this portrays that in the next coming year's animation would be more eerie and improved as compared to what is trending in the contemporary world. Just like “Avatar” brought out the new dynamics in 3D animation, and same “Lions King” in 2D animation technology, more and more films will bring out innovations that are necessary for the growth of the movie industry.

Work Cited

Bénard, Pierre, et al. "Stylizing animation by example." ACM Transactions on Graphics (TOG) 32.4 (2013): 119.

Bendazzi, Giannalberto. Animation: A World History: Volume III: Contemporary Times. CRC Press, 2015.

Du, Daisy Yan. "Suspended animation: The Wan Brothers and the (In) animated Mainland-Hong Kong Encounter, 1947–1956." Journal of Chinese Cinemas (2017): 1-19.

Pierson, Ryan. "Whole-Screen Metamorphosis and the Imagined Camera (Notes on Perspectival Movement in Animation)." Animation 10.1 (2015): 6-21.

Shao, Zhaopo. "Summary of three-dimensional animation creation based on ethnic culture element." SHS Web of Conferences. Vol. 25. EDP Sciences, 2016.

Wells, Paul. "Body Languages—Early Sporting Animation." Animation, Sport, and Culture. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014. 30-57.

Yoon, Hyejin. "Globalization of the animation industry: multi-scalar linkages of six animation production centers." International Journal of Cultural Policy23.5 (2017): 634-651.

December 15, 2021

Technology Movies

Subject area:

Invention Animation

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