Limited animation

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Limited animation is a process of making animated cartoons that does not redraw entire frames but variably reuses common parts between frames. One of its major trademarks is the stylized design in all forms and shapes, which in the early days was referred to as modern design. The short cartoons and feature films of Walt Disney from the 1930s and 1940s are widely acclaimed for depicting animated simulations of reality, with exquisite detail in every frame. However, this style of animation is very time-consuming and expensive. "Limited" animation creates an image that uses abstract art, symbolism, and fewer drawings to create the same effect, but at a much lower production cost. This style of animation depends upon animators' skill in emulating change without additional drawings; improper use of limited animation can be easily recognized as unnatural. It also encourages the animators to indulge in artistic styles that are not necessarily bound to the limits of the real world. The result is a new artistic style that could not have developed if animation was solely devoted to producing simulations of reality. Without limited animation, such ground-breaking films as Yellow Submarine, Chuck Jones' The Dot and the Line, and many others could never have been produced.

The process of limited animation mainly aims at reducing the overall number of drawings. Film is projected at 24 frames per second. For movements in normal speed, most animation in general is done "on twos," meaning 12 drawings per second are recorded meaning that each drawing uses two frames of film. Faster movements may demand animation "on ones," while characters that do not move may be done with a single drawing (a "hold") for a certain amount of time. It is said that the Disney average was about 18 drawings per second, pretending that all characters of a scene share the same sheet of paper. Limited animation mainly reduces the number of inbetweens, the drawings between the keyframes which define a movement, and can cause stuttering if inbetweens are poorly setup.

Overall, the use of limited animation does not necessarily imply lower quality as it allows the use of many timesaving techniques that can improve the quality and flow of the keyframes and overall presentation of an animation.



The use of budget-cutting animation measures in animation dates at least to the 1930s; a handful of the Bosko cartoons in the early years of the Looney Tunes series used several visible tricks (such as mirror images and repeated scenes) to give the shorts the comparable appearance of the Disney shorts of the same era, even though they were produced on a budget of just over half of their Disney counterparts. The 1942 Merrie Melodies short "The Dover Boys" was a particular early prototype of the use of limited animation, though pressure from Warner Bros. curtailed much further use of the technique.

Limited animation was originally founded as an artistic device, though it was soon used widely as a cost-cutting measure rather than an aesthetic method. The UPA studio made the first serious effort to abandon the keyframe heavy approach perfected by Disney. Their first effort at limited animation, Gerald McBoing-Boing, won an Oscar, and it provided the impetus for this animation method to be accepted at the major Hollywood cartoon studios, including Warner Brothers and MGM. However, the real attraction of limited animation was the reduction in costs: because limited animation does not require as many drawings as fully keyframed animations, it is much less expensive to produce. The 1950s saw all of the major cartoon studios change their style to limited animation, to the point where painstaking detail in animation occurred only rarely.

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