Limited animation

Limited animation is a process in the overall technique of traditional animation of creating animated cartoons that does not redraw entire frames but variably reuses common parts between frames.

Early history

A gif-based example of limited animation. Note that only the mouth, eyes and arms are moving; the remainder of the image is completely static.

The use of budget-cutting and time-saving animation measures in animation dates back to the earliest commercial animation, including cycled animations, mirror-image and symmetrical drawings, still characters, and other labor-saving methods. In general, the progression was from early productions in which every frame was drawn by hand, independent of each other drawing, toward more limited animation that made use of the same drawings in different ways. Winsor McCay, a man who put an unprecedented amount of detail into his animations, boasted that in his 1914 film, Gertie the Dinosaur, that everything moved, including the rocks and blades of grass in the background. In contrast, his 1918 film The Sinking of the Lusitania progressed to using cels over still backgrounds, while still maintaining a level of detail comparable to that of Gertie.[1] The 1942 Merrie Melodies short The Dover Boys is one of the earliest Warner Bros. cartoons to extensively employ some of the processes of what would become known as "limited animation".[2]

Television era

Hanna-Barbera Productions used limited animation throughout its existence. When the company's namesakes, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, separated from the MGM studio in 1957, they opted to take a drastically different approach to animation than they had for their fully animated film shorts; as television screens were much smaller than theater screens at the time, limited animation, with its emphasis on character close-ups and dialogue-based humor, was a better fit for the more intimate home viewer experience.[3] The financial benefits of limited animation led to television animation companies relying on the process extensively in the television era. Jay Ward Productions relied on limited animation for those reasons,[4] compensating with its heavy Cold War satire and a style of deadpan comedy that would become a trademark of the studio's style.[5] The short-lived Cambria Studios turned out three serials using one of the most inexpensive approaches to animation possible: known as Syncro-Vox, it involved superimposing film of the voice actor's moving lips over a still frame of the character.[6] Bill Meléndez used a form of limited animation to adapt the Peanuts franchise to television and later film; in addition to the cost and time concerns (especially for his first special A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was given only a $76,000 budget and four months to produce 30 minutes of animation), Meléndez also noted that Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz had designed the characters with a flat style well-suited for limited animation.[7]


Japan is known for its use of limited animation as well [8] with scenes of mouth moving with occasional eye blinks, rendered long shots of detailed backgrounds and rare use of 2D fluidity on motion-blur filled action alongside reused drawings. It also has the benefit of lower cost productions and stylized content as opposed to realistic animation.[9][10]

See also


  1. ^ Canemaker, John (2005). Winsor McCay: His Life and Art (Revised ed.). Abrams Books. ISBN 978-0-8109-5941-5.
  2. ^ Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-betweens - A Life in Animation (PBS 2000)
  3. ^ Hanna, William; Ito, Tom (1996). A Cast of Friends. Taylor Pub. pp. 77–87. ISBN 978-1250040497.
  4. ^ "Rocky & Bullwinkle". Retrieved 2012-09-28.
  5. ^ "Alex Anderson interview". Hogan's Alley. 26 October 2010. Archived from the original on 26 October 2010.
  6. ^ "Don't believe your eyes! How 'Clutch Cargo' cuts corners as a television comic strip", TV Guide, December 24, 1960, pp. 28-29.
  7. ^ Mendelson, Lee (2013). A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition. It Books. ISBN 978-0-06-227214-0.
  8. ^ Anime's Great Deception-The Difference Between Anime and Cartoons
  9. ^ Is Anime a Legitimate Form of Animation?-Animator Island
  10. ^ Animation Styles: What Make Anime Unique-Show Me The
Alice of Wonderland in Paris

Alice of Wonderland in Paris or Alice in Paris is a 1966 Czech-American animated film directed by Gene Deitch and produced by William L. Snyder in extreme limited animation.

Animated cartoon

An animated cartoon is a film for the cinema, television or computer screen, which is made using sequential drawings, as opposed to animation in general, which include films made using clay, puppets, 3D modeling and other means. Animated cartoons are still created for entertainment, commercial, educational and personal purposes.


Animation is a method in which pictures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent celluloid sheets to be photographed and exhibited on film. Today, most animations are made with computer-generated imagery (CGI). Computer animation can be very detailed 3D animation, while 2D computer animation can be used for stylistic reasons, low bandwidth or faster real-time renderings. Other common animation methods apply a stop motion technique to two and three-dimensional objects like paper cutouts, puppets or clay figures.

Commonly the effect of animation is achieved by a rapid succession of sequential images that minimally differ from each other. The illusion—as in motion pictures in general—is thought to rely on the phi phenomenon and beta movement, but the exact causes are still uncertain.

Analog mechanical animation media that rely on the rapid display of sequential images include the phénakisticope, zoetrope, flip book, praxinoscope and film. Television and video are popular electronic animation media that originally were analog and now operate digitally. For display on the computer, techniques like animated GIF and Flash animation were developed.

Animation is more pervasive than many people realise. Apart from short films, feature films, animated gifs and other media dedicated to the display of moving images, animation is also heavily used for video games, motion graphics and special effects. Animation is also prevalent in information technology interfaces.The physical movement of image parts through simple mechanics – in for instance the moving images in magic lantern shows – can also be considered animation. The mechanical manipulation of puppets and objects to emulate living beings has a very long history in automata. Automata were popularised by Disney as animatronics.

Animators are artists who specialize in creating animation.

Animation in the United States in the television era

Television animation developed from the success of animated movies in the first half of the 20th century. The state of animation changed dramatically in the three decades starting with the post-World War II proliferation of television. While studios gave up on the big-budget theatrical short cartoons that thrived in the 1930s and 1940s, new television animation studios would thrive based on the economy and volume of their output. By the end of the 1970s and 1980s, most of the Golden Age animators had retired or died, and their younger successors were ready to change the industry and the way that animation was perceived.


Animerama (Japanese: アニメラマ) is a series of thematically-related adult anime feature films originally conceived and initiated by Osamu Tezuka and made at his Mushi Production animation studio from the late 1960s to early 1970s, perhaps intended as animated counterparts to the then-emergent pink films (a direct connection being Shigemi Satoyoshi as the scenarist for Cleopatra).

As well as the erotic themes, they are also defined by mixing more typical traditional animation with sequences of UPA and Yōji Kuri–influenced experimental use of modern design, limited animation, and still paintings akin to Tezuka's experimental short films and like those largely were all directed, sometimes sharing the billing with Tezuka, by Eiichi Yamamoto. The first, A Thousand & One Nights, was the first erotic animated feature film and, at 130 minutes, remains one of the longest ever animated films. The first two are also notable for having scores by famed composer and electronic rearranger Isao Tomita. The third, Belladonna, made without Tezuka's direct involvement, is more serious than its predecessors and more avant-garde still, telling its story largely through pans over still, panoramic paintings with narration.

The three films in the trilogy are:

A Thousand and One Nights (千夜一夜物語, Senya Ichiya Monogatari) (1969)

Cleopatra (クレオパトラ, Kureopatora) (1970)

Belladonna of Sadness (哀しみのベラドンナ, Kanashimi no Beradonna) (1973)All three were released onto DVD-Video by the video division of Columbia Music Entertainment, both separately and as a box set, in 2004 in Japan and re-released in 2006.

A 1991 original video animation based on part of Ihara Saikaku's The Life of an Amorous Man (released on VHS in the United Kingdom and Ireland as The Sensualist) made at Grouper Production is sometimes considered an unofficial successor to the trilogy, owing to the involvement of Yamamoto as screenwriter and its similarly both erotic and experimental imagery.

Clutch Cargo

Clutch Cargo is an American animated television series produced by Cambria Productions and syndicated beginning on March 9, 1959. The series was notable for its very limited animation yet imaginative stories; it was a surprise hit at the time, and could be seen on 65 stations nationwide in 1960.


Dumbland is a series of eight crudely animated shorts written, directed and voiced by director David Lynch in 2002. The shorts were originally released on the Internet through Lynch's website [1], and were released as a DVD in 2005. The total running time of all eight shorts combined is approximately a half-hour.

The series details the daily routines of a dull-witted white trash man. The man lives in a house along with his frazzled wife and squeaky-voiced child, both of whom are nameless as is the man in the shows. Lynch's website, however, identifies the male character by the name Randy and the child by the name Sparky. The wife is not named.

The style of the series is intentionally crude both in terms of presentation and content, with limited animation.

Edwin Gillette

Edwin "Ted" Gillette (August 11, 1909, Chicago – September 30, 2003, Los Angeles) was a cameraman and inventor notable for the development of the Syncro-Vox technique of limited animation, which was used in the series Clutch Cargo.

Flash animation

Adobe Flash animation or Adobe Flash cartoon is an animated film that is created with the Adobe Flash platform or similar animation software and often distributed in the SWF file format. The term Adobe Flash animation refers to both the file format and the medium in which the animation is produced. Adobe Flash animation has enjoyed mainstream popularity since the mid-2000s, with many Adobe Flash-animated television series, television commercials, and award-winning online shorts being produced since then.

In the late 1990s, when bandwidth was still at 56 kbit/s for most Internet users, many Adobe Flash animation artists employed limited animation or cutout animation when creating projects intended for web distribution. This allowed artists to release shorts and interactive experiences well under 1 MB, which could stream both audio and high-end animation.

Adobe Flash is able to integrate bitmaps and other raster-based art, as well as video, though most Adobe Flash films are created using only vector-based drawings, which often result in a somewhat clean graphic appearance. Some hallmarks of poorly produced Adobe Flash animation are jerky natural movements (seen in walk-cycles and gestures), auto-tweened character movements, lip-sync without interpolation, and abrupt changes from front to profile view.

Adobe Flash animations are typically distributed by way of the World Wide Web, in which case they are often referred to as Internet cartoons, online cartoons, or web cartoons. Web Adobe Flash animations may be interactive and are often created in a series. An Adobe Flash animation is distinguished from a Webcomic, which is a comic strip distributed via the Web, rather than an animated cartoon.

Hare Conditioned

Hare Conditioned is a 1945 Warner Bros. cartoon in the Looney Tunes series. It was directed by Chuck Jones. It stars Bugs Bunny, who was voiced by Mel Blanc. The Stacey's (pun on Macy's) manager was voiced by Dick Nelson. The title is a play on "air conditioned"; before air conditioning became widely used, it was sometimes advertised as incentive for the public to visit department stores, where they could avoid the heat of a hot day and, ideally for the store, make purchases. Hare Conditioned was the second Bugs Bunny cartoon in the Looney Tunes series.

Hare Conditioned uses many of the same limited animation techniques Jones had previously introduced in The Dover Boys two years prior, including rapid motions and sliding backgrounds.


Jerkiness, sometimes called strobing or choppy, describes the perception of individual still images in a motion picture.

Motion pictures are made from still images shown in rapid sequence. Provided there is sufficient continuity between the images and provided the sequence is shown fast enough, the central nervous system interprets the sequence as continuous motion. However, some technologies cannot process or carry data fast enough for sufficiently high frame rates. For example, viewing motion pictures by Internet connection generally necessitates a greatly reduced frame rate, making jerkiness clearly apparent.

In conventional cinematography, the images are filmed and displayed at 24 frames per second, at which speed jerkiness is not normally discernible.

Television screens refresh at even higher frequencies. PAL and SÉCAM television (the standards in Europe) refresh at 25 or 50 (HDTV) frames per second. NTSC television displays (the standard in North America) refresh at 29.97 frames per second.

Animated cartoon films are typically made at reduced frame rates (accomplished by shooting several film frames of the individual drawings) so as to limit production costs, with the result that jerkiness tends to be apparent, especially on older limited animation features.

Strobing can also refer to cross colour and Moiré patterning. Cross colour refers to when any high frequency luminance content of the picture, close to the TV systems colour sub-carrier frequency, is interpreted by the analogue receiver's decoder as colour information. Moiré patterning is where an interference pattern is produced by fine scene detail beating with the line (or even pixel) structure of the device used to analyse or display the scene.

Mr. Incredible and Pals

Mr. Incredible and Pals is a 2005 American animated short film produced by Pixar which was included as a bonus feature on the DVD release of its 2004 feature film The Incredibles. It features the characters of Mr. Incredible and Frozone from the movie, plus a "cute animal" rabbit sidekick named Mister Skipperdoo, chasing down and capturing the supervillain Lady Lightbug.

The film is animated in the style of limited animation that intentionally parodies the low budget and low quality television Saturday-morning cartoons that aired regularly during the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, television animation studios were contracted to turn out high quantities of product on low budgets, which resulted in a large number of television cartoons that have been derided and mocked by television critics, film and animation historians, and audiences in general. Mr. Incredible and Pals uses a number of the cost-saving techniques and tropes found in these shows, such as:

Still shots of drawn scenes, rather than actual frame by frame animation.

Actual footage of live actors' mouths moving instead of animated lips on the characters, a technique known as Synchro-Vox. The most well-known example of this form of "animation" was the Clutch Cargo series.

A Cold War era plot pitting true, freedom-loving American superheroes against a stereotypical "Communist" supervillain.

The sidekick being ensnared by the supervillain so that complete emphasis can be placed on the main hero, who nevertheless thanks the sidekick for his involvement in stopping the villain.

Frozone speaking in forced "beatnik" slang, showing the out of touch depiction of minority characters in animated works at the time.

A "cute animal" sidekick only added for "children's appeal." In this film, a glasses-wearing rabbit named Mister Skipperdoo does nothing but hop up and down, yet his actions are seen as crucial to solving the "mystery" that comprises the plot of the episode.Mr. Incredible and Pals is the first of three short films produced by Pixar Animation Studios which were animated in traditional 2D hand drawn animation instead of computer animation. The second film, Your Friend the Rat, was produced in 2007 and included as part of the DVD release of Ratatouille. The third, Day & Night, produced in 2010, was theatrically released with Toy Story 3. The latter two films feature a combination of hand-drawn and CGI animation.

Now Hear This (film)

Now Hear This is a 1963 animated short film in the Looney Tunes series produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. It was directed by Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble, and written by Jones and John Dunn. The title comes from a phrase used aboard American naval ships as an instruction to cease activity and listen to the announcement that will follow. The phrase was referred into another WB cartoon, Now Hare This, five years before this one.

This cartoon is notable in that it has no rings at the opening title sequence (see "Title Sequence" below). In addition, this cartoon is notable for resembling a UPA cartoon (whose cartoons had used limited animation techniques) more than a typical Warner Bros. short of the time.

Signature weapon

A signature weapon (or trademark weapon or weapon of choice) is one commonly identified with a certain group or, in the case of literature, comics, and film, where it is a popular trope, for both heroes and villains to be associated with and highly proficient in the use of specific weaponry. Examples include Robin Hood's longbow, Don Quixote's jousting lance, a wizard's wand, the Grim Reaper's scythe, the Monkey King's iron rod, a Jedi's lightsaber, William Tell's crossbow, Negan's bat, David's sling and James Bond's Walther PPK. The Colt .45 SAA and Winchester are ubiquitous in Westerns. Signature weapons enable viewers of limited animation superhero cartoons, comics, fantasy anime and mecha to easily distinguish between characters who are often nearly identical in appearance (e.g., the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Signature weapons are a common feature of role-playing games and video games, where their acquisition usually marks a newly heightened level of martial prowess and/or aids in the creation of a unique avatar.Non-fictional associations include samurai and their katana (which were restricted to the warrior class in feudal Japan), the U.S. General George S. Patton, who carried an ivory-gripped Colt into battle (and had two kills with it during the Mexican Expedition), the Nazi SS Luger, the Roman pilum, a knight-errant's battlefield regalia, the Thuggee garrote, and Prohibition-era gangster "Machine Gun Kelly", who cultivated his reputation for employing a Thompson automatic.

Characters with signature weapons are also found in the various epic poems, such as Zeus's Thunderbolt, Poseidon's trident, Thor's Hammer and Prince Arjuna's Celestial Bow.


Syncro-Vox (sometimes spelled Synchro-Vox) is a filming method which combines static images with moving images, the most common use of which is to superimpose talking lips on a photograph of a celebrity or a cartoon drawing. It is one of the most extreme examples of the cost-cutting strategy of limited animation. The method was developed by cameraman Edwin "Ted" Gillette in the 1950s in order to simulate talking animals in television commercials. Gillette filed the technique on February 4, 1952, and obtained patent #2,739,505 on March 27, 1956.Because animating a mouth in synchronization with sound was difficult, Syncro-Vox was soon used as a cheap animation technique, such as in the cartoons produced by Cambria Studios: Clutch Cargo, Space Angel, and Captain Fathom, in which actors' lips voicing the scripted dialogue were laid over the animated figures.Syncro-Vox is frequently used in comedies and parodies as a gag, often mocking cheap and limited animation, but it was almost never used seriously, the three Cambria Productions' cartoons were some of the few examples, viewers instantly realized how it was crude, and also disturbing and even scary, Cambria realized this and abandoned the technique when making The New Three Stooges, Syncro-Vox is a good example of something that is regarded as a cliché and frequently parodied, but never had widespread use in serious form.

The Last Halloween

The Last Halloween is a Primetime Emmy Award-winning live action-animated Halloween television special produced by Hanna-Barbera. It premiered and first aired on CBS on October 28, 1991. The visual effects and animation were provided by Industrial Light & Magic and Pacific Data Images. It was the only time Hanna-Barbera would use CGI animation instead of traditional limited animation.

The Ruff and Reddy Show

The Ruff and Reddy Show (also known as Ruff and Reddy) is an American animated television series and the first made by Hanna-Barbera Productions for NBC. The series follows the adventures of Ruff, a smart and steadfast cat and Reddy, a good-natured and brave (but not overly bright) dog and also was presented by Screen Gems, the television arm of Columbia Pictures (now Sony Pictures Television). It premiered in December 1957 and ran for fifty episodes until April 1960, comprising three seasons.

Hanna and Barbera created the series as the first of their fledgling television operation, first named H-B Enterprises. The "buddy" theme had previously been explored in their Tom and Jerry theatrical shorts, but unlike Tom and Jerry, Ruff and Reddy are not adversaries, but housemates and best friends. The series is notable as one of the earliest original animated television programs, and a pioneering use of limited animation techniques.

Traditional animation

Traditional animation (or classical animation, cel animation or hand-drawn animation) is an animation technique in which each frame is drawn by hand on a physical medium. The technique was the dominant form of animation in cinema until the advent of computer animation.

UPA (animation studio)

United Productions of America, better known as UPA, was an American animation studio active from the 1940s through the 1970s. Beginning with industrial and World War II training films, UPA eventually produced theatrical shorts for Columbia Pictures such as the Mr. Magoo series. In 1956, UPA produced a television series for CBS, The Boing-Boing Show, hosted by Gerald McBoing Boing. In the 1960s, UPA produced syndicated Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy television series and other series and specials, including Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol. UPA also produced two animated features, 1001 Arabian Nights and Gay Purr-ee, and distributed Japanese films from Toho Studios in the 1970s and 1980s. Gerald McBoing-Boing (2005–2007) is a more recent television series based on UPA's memorable character and licensed and co-produced by Cookie Jar Entertainment and Classic Media, for Cartoon Network. A French-American reboot television series of Mr. Magoo, another one of UPA's memorable characters has been announced by Xilam as their first collaboration with DreamWorks Animation, and is set to premiere on France 3 in France and Universal Kids.UPA Pictures' legacy in the history of animation has largely been overshadowed by the commercial success and availability of the cartoon libraries of Warner Bros., MGM and Disney. Nonetheless, UPA had a significant impact on animation style, content, and technique, and its innovations were recognized and adopted by the other major animation studios and independent filmmakers all over the world. UPA pioneered the technique of limited animation. Although this style of animation came to be widely used in the 1960s and 1970s as a cost-cutting measure, it was originally intended as a stylistic alternative to the growing trend (particularly at Disney) of recreating cinematic realism in animated films.

The UPA library was later purchased by Universal Pictures, after their successful acquisition of DreamWorks Animation.

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