Almost all kids (and most adults!) can instantly name their favorite animated character. From human characters that embody traits we want to emulate to silly animated animals whose antics are fun to watch, it’s clear that animated characters bring out something special in us.
But how are these characters brought to life? The art of animation has evolved greatly over the years, and the developments in character animation have been just as impressive. Today we’ll look at how character animation has changed and where it’s going in the future.
The Basics of Character Animation
Character animation is a specialized part of animation that involves bringing characters to life. Character animators are often called “actors with a pencil” (or a mouse, as most animation is now done digitally). They decide everything from how the character will look, act, move, and interact with their environment. Character animators work closely with other teams, such as sound engineering and general animations, to make their characters come to life.
From 2D to 3D
Although the roots of animation go back thousands of years, true character animation did not develop until animated shorts were gaining popularity in the early 1900s. Gertie the Dinosaur is widely accepted as the first animated character, who appeared in an animated short film of the same name. After Gertie received a warm reception by audiences and critics alike, animated characters became the backbone of the animated films of the time. In the 1930s, Walt Disney made character animation a focus of his animation studio, producing characters that are still popular today like Pinnochio and Dumbo.
These 2D characters were created using traditional animation techniques, which required animators to hand-draw each frame, which were then combined to simulate movement. This process was time-intensive, and animators were limited only to animations that they could draw by hand.
As technology advanced, however, animation went from the page to the screen with the invention of 3D modeling. Toy Story, released by Pixar 1995, was the first computer animated feature film, and it permanently altered the art of character animation. Audiences were transfixed by the engaging character of Woody, Buzz, and the other toys, and the possibilities of the characters that we could create became endless thanks to 3D technology. Since then, the major animation studios like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks, have created 3D characters we all know and love, from friendly ogre Shrek to lovable Olaf of Frozen.
Looking to the Future
Since its beginnings, character animation has captured audiences through creative characters that display genuine emotions, realistic behaviors, and fantastic artistry. 3D animation technology continues to become even more realistic, and the possibilities of what today’s animators can create seem to be limited only by their imaginations. We can’t wait to see what the animators of tomorrow will create!