Are you in love with those old cartoons from the yesteryears? Those 2D animated ones are amazing, even to this day. Cartoons like Tom & Jerry, Swat Cats, Scooby-Doo, and Looney Tunes have been made possible thanks to a technique called cel animation.
So, what is cel animation?
It is the art of making 2D animation with the help of transparent plastic sheets called “cels.” All of the illustrations, characters and their actions in motion are drawn by hand over these plastic sheets. These cels were finally placed over painted backgrounds. This technique was pioneered by Walt Disney back in the 1930s, and it ended up revolutionizing how cartoons and animated features were made for a mass audience.
Animators first plan what action they want their scene to take. They transfer their drawings to cels. Every cel has one drawing all outlined on one side of the plastic and the other side filled with color.
Once done compiling the animation, the cels are placed beside a background, and then sequentially get photographed.
These photographed images are finally played back (usually at a speed of 12 or 24 frames), and you get to see how the magic happens right in front of your eyes. You see your characters and objects move, as if it was real life.
In the 21st century, cel animation has given way to computer-generated imagery (CGI) and powerful digital art tools that can make the most lush and complex imagery come alive.
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Is Cel Animation Still in Use?
All this being said, cel animation is an important method that teaches you about the process of crafting a story, of coming up with a storyboard and narrative, to finally using hand-drawn animation to make your vision come to life. And despite naysayers calling for its death for years now, cel animation is still used in selected cases. There’s really nothing like it.
A history of cel animation:
For example, cutout animation is a technique that relies on stop-motion animation with flat props, backgrounds, and characters that have been cut out from card, stiff fabric, paper or even photos. This animation technique constrains you in terms of the actions, motion, and scenes that you want to play around with, whereas with cel animation, the sky’s the limit.
Granted, cel animation is more costly than cutout animation techniques but it also gives you more freedom to make your creative vision come to life.
Cutout animation in action:
Here’s why cel animation continues to be popular. It:
- Gives you more flexibility. You can draw anything you like and do anything with them as you want. The comfort and flexibility afforded here has no parallel.
- Teaches you about the finer intricacies of telling a story.
- Is more dynamic and fluid. Cel animation still continues to impress audiences to this day.
Where can we use cel animation? The good thing about this technique is that even in the 21st century, cel animation can make an impact in telling a story where a more human touch is needed. These stories could be anything related to education, healthcare and non-profit concepts. If you want your message to resonate on an emotional and poetic level with your target demographic, you couldn’t go wrong with the ‘old is gold’ approach that cel-animation affords you.
Don’t believe us? Here’s an example of hand-drawn animation by Kasra Design:
Brands that Used Cel Animation for Their Campaigns
Some of the top brands in the industry today swear by what cel animation can do for their marketing efforts. We take a look at some brands that have employed hand-drawn animation to awesome effect.
One of the most famous American brands that specializes in quality sneakers for over a century, Converse is a household name. The company has been at the forefront of defining what footwear means. Be it sport, street, or creative culture, Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers have become a global icon.
Since Converse is all about using classic colors, materials and quality vulcanized rubber sole to define its best-selling product Chuck Taylor All Stars, the company wanted to shake up things for its upcoming successor Chuck Taylor II. It wanted to retain what made the predecessor so great, while also making sure how it could win over the Gen Z crowd.
For this, it recently tasked Blacklist and Complex Original to create a series of animations and GIFs for Converse’s launch of the new Chuck II Shield Canvas. Their task was to show off the extreme durability of the new shoes in their own unique way. The result is an eye-popping bright, stylized world bounding with energy.
Still think cel animation is on its way out? Think again.
Here’s what Zubroffka, an international film festival did to stand out from the rest!
The organizers tasked Ala Nunu Leszynska to come up with a creatively challenging yet catchy intro to promote the film festival. The Royal College of Art animation student got in touch with creative visionaries and directors Kasia Kijek and Przemek Adamski to produce a unique introduction video for the 13th edition of the Zubroffka 2018 festival. The directors have a reputation of pushing the limits of expression, something they say also affects their choice of the right material and right technique to tell the right story every time.
The artist-directors quickly got to work with their latest project, infusing their peculiar brand of simplicity and creativity to deliver this aesthetic masterpiece done entirely using cel animation technique:
The results speak for themselves.
Gatorade, the maker of the world-famous sports drinks, has its job cut out for it. It has to tap into popular culture, and touch on themes that today’s and tomorrow’s athletes are so passionate about.
Case in point, telling the story of the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt. And what better way to tell this story of a boy who almost never became the superstar he was destined to be with.
Introducing The Boy Who Learnt to Fly, a very intriguing and entertaining look at the Usain Bolt story. The sports drink brand tapped Moonbot Studios to make this short:
Way to make an impact, right?
The world-famous coffee franchise wanted something that could celebrate the spirit of giving, especially during the holiday season.
It approached BUCK, a talent-driven, global creative company to come up with a playful yet poignant little video that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. BUCK went to the basics with its lively hand-drawn animations. The animators also relied on a pseudo-3D transition effect because well, they are just that good at what they do.
We will let you judge the rest:
Beautiful isn’t it?
Last but certainly not the least, Coke Brazil rolled out a memorable advertisement for X-Mas season.
The global beverage brand has a knack for partnering with the best animators and storytellers out there, and this time it wasn’t any different. Coke tasked animation agency J. Walter Thompson to put forward a playfully different concept for it. And boy did they deliver.
Animator Jardeson Rocha worked with director Ralph Karam, designer Santiago Oddis and illustrator Matheus Muniz to create the fluid and free-flowing visual style for the promotion.
The results speak for themselves: https://jardeson.com/coke.
Where to Learn Cel Animation Techniques?
All this is cool, but where can you learn these amazingly breathtaking techniques for yourself? We’re glad you asked.
Classical Animation Workflow & Techniques by Henrique Barone
To start with, we recommend checking out Henrique Barone’s full-fledged classic animation course for Adobe Animate. You will be able to create 2D work with professional vector-based software. By the end of it, you will be on your way to mastering frame by frame animation with the help of 3 projects.
This traditional cel animation course by Henrique is aimed at Beginners. And you can enroll yourself today here.
Complete Animation Course by Aaron Blaise
Want to learn the secrets of the trade by a pro? Especially from a legendary animator from Disney who has done The Lion King, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast among many others?
Say no more. Aaron Blaise takes you through the key principles of animation step by step. You get to learn the Fundamentals of Animation that were passed down from Walt Disney himself. Once you familiarize yourself with the basics, you can move on to advanced courses like Animated Scene Approach that will help you animate a scene and bring it to life.
This course also comes with additional videos, original drawings, PDF printouts and more. Take the plunge as a traditional animator with this course today.
Frame by Frame Fundamentals by Motion Design School
If you thought that frame by frame animation is quite difficult, well think again.
This beginner-friendly course gives you a crash course on the basics of classic frame by frame animation. And the best part? It’s free. You will be using Adobe Animate and Toon Boom Harmony in no time to create amazingly lively animations. Once you’re familiar with these programs, you will also get to learn how to achieve the same results with Photoshop.
This 2 hour course can be learnt here.
Animation for Beginners by Bloop
Can’t tell your frame from keyframe? What about breakdowns and in-betweens? Well, fret not, because this course helps you get up to speed with the world of animation in no time.
If you ever found yourself asking – ‘where do I start?’ – this course has got everything you need to help you get into the animation industry. But make no mistake, this massive course is aimed at beginners first and foremost.
You get to learn about:
- Basic concepts of animation
- Design Vocabulary
- 12 principles of animation
- Software and Hardware used to design rich worlds and characters
This course assumes that your barrier to entry remains as low as possible, suggesting everything from free software tools to design amazing animations.
This comprehensive course is aimed at beginners, and you can start learning about it here.
The wondrous worlds that you see on your screens every day have been made possible thanks to the work of creative pioneers and animators. If you were ever interested in learning how much of an impact animations have in storytelling, you too can learn it. Cel animation set the world on fire when it debuted almost a century ago, and it still retains that same charm for many of us today.
So what are you waiting for? It is time you put those creative juices flowing, bringing lush new worlds to come alive with brand new characters and stories that can potentially change the world.