Tooned In to Animation

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Grades 4–7

Class Description

Animation means to bring something to life; to make something inanimate (a drawing, a figurine, etc.) move as it would in the real world (or oftentimes a fantasy world). While there are many different styles of animation, there are important commonalities in the process. This class helps students understand how animated cartoons are created step-by-step through watching a series of clips before creating their own flip books.

All classes are interactive, with guided discussion designed to encourage active observation and critical thinking.



As a group, provide definitions for the following words and concepts, which will be referenced during the class.

ANIMATION: A filmmaking technique where the illusion of motion is created frame-by-frame. The word comes from the Latin word, "anima," meaning "life" or "soul."

ANIMATOR: The person who draws the moving character in an animated film.

BACKGROUND: A flat piece of artwork that is the setting for a moving character in an animated film.

CEL: Short for celluloid, a cel is a clear piece of plastic on which the animator's finished drawings are painted. The cel is clear so that when placed over the background, the animated characters appear to be in a setting.

FRAME: An individual still picture on a strip of film. Twenty-four frames equal one second of a motion picture.

FRAME-BY-FRAME: The filmmaking technique in animation where each frame is exposed one at a time and the object being photographed is slightly altered for each picture.

IN-BETWEENS: Drawings that are positioned between the drawings that are at the beginning and end poses.

INK AND PAINT: The step in cel animation in which the animator's drawings are placed on cels to be photographed. A drawing is outlined on the front of the cel with black ink, while the back of the cel is painted.

SCRIPT: The written story of a film that supplies dialogue, camera moves, background, staging, and action.

STORYBOARD: A storyboard is a visual representation of a story. Pictures can be sketched on pieces of paper and pinned to a large board, or they can be drawn on a large piece of paper, comic-book style, to represent scenes in a film. A story sketch should show character, attitude, feelings, entertainment, expressions, and type of action, as well as tell the story of what's happening.


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For even more details about the animation process, check out this video about the making of a different Cartoon Network show, We Bare Bears.