Here’s a behind the scenes look on how your favorite animated features and cartoons were made when the art was actually put in front of the camera, frame by frame.
An animated feature or cartoon begins with an idea that is ultimately used to create a story. Then the process of animation begins.
The animation department draws storyboards or inspirational sketches, depending on the details of the story they are telling. A storyboard, which looks like a giant-sized comic strip, is a series of drawings that visually show action, story development or camera movement. Inspirational sketches are used to provide a visual of the ideas and the emotions that will be used as the story evolves.
Before the animators begin drawing, the voice artists record the dialogue so that the artists will know how to animate the characters.
The animators make rough sketches of the characters, drawing out the entire film on paper. Eventually, each of these drawings will be “cleaned up” by artists and other artists known as “inbetweeners” will make the remaining drawings for the various scenes. A production drawing, considered by many to be the essence of the film, is created for each frame and sent to the ink department.
The ink department traces the animation drawing on to a cel. From there the inked cels go to the paint department where the cel is hand-painted on the reverse side. A hand-painted cel is made for each frame and sent to the photography department.
A production background is hand-painted for each scene. The production cels are laid on top of the background and photographed by a special camera with a lens that is mounted facing downward. The camera photographs each animation frame, one frame at a time, shooting twenty-four frames for each second of film. This process is what creates the illusion of movement.