Cel animation is a type of animation where pictures are drawn by hand on transparent sheets called cels. These cels are then layered on top of each other and photographed in sequence to create the illusion of movement. It's like drawing a flipbook, but instead of flipping through the pages, a machine quickly shows one picture after another to make it look like the characters are moving! This technique was used in many classic cartoons you might have seen, like Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry.
Cel animation is a highly intricate and time-consuming process that requires a great deal of skill and patience from the animators involved. Each individual frame of animation must be carefully planned and executed in order to ensure that the movement of the characters and backgrounds is smooth and fluid. This means that even a short animated sequence can take weeks or months to create.
The hand-drawn nature of the animation allows for a level of detail and nuance that is difficult to achieve with digital techniques, which can often feel cold or sterile by comparison. This is why many classic animated films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, and The Little Mermaid continue to be loved by audiences today.
Despite its popularity in the early days of animation, cel animation has largely been replaced by digital techniques in recent years. This shift has been driven in large part by advances in technology that have made digital animation faster, cheaper, and more versatile than traditional methods. However, there are still some animators who prefer to work with cel animation for its unique look and feel.
There is also a trend towards trying to replicate cel animation styles using modern techniques. Cartoon Saloon are particularly adept at this making Song of the Sea, Wolfwalkers, and The Secret of Kells. They work digitally, using Moho animation software, but they have developed a style that looks like it was created using traditional cel animation techniques.
In addition to its use in animated films and TV shows, cel animation has also been used in other forms of media such as video games, commercials, and music videos. One notable example is the popular video game Cuphead, which was created using traditional cel animation techniques to give it a distinctive 1930s cartoon style.
While cel animation may no longer be as widely used as it once was, it remains an important part of the history and evolution of animation as an art form. Its unique look and feel continue to inspire new generations of animators, who are constantly finding new ways to push the boundaries of what is possible with this timeless technique.