Animation Dictionary
Not sure what something means that has been mentioned in an article or somewhere else on the site? This dictionary of important words and techniques will fill you in!


Animation Drawing
Different to cels, these are the actual drawings the animator draws. Usually on animation paper.

Animation Paper
Just regular blank paper, but with peg/registry holes punched in the bottom of it.

Comes in different sizes and formats.

Abbreviation of "Background."

(or Cell depending on where you read) is the final piece of art that is photographed to be used in the film.

Usually a clear plastic sheet to go over a background. Traditionally made out of celluloid. Has registry holes.

A series of charts that the animator will put in a corner or side of the paper to work out movement for either themselves or their assistant(s).

Clean Up
The job of "cleaning up" the animation drawings that make up a scene and/or to transfer the drawings to a cel.

Abbreviation of "Frames per Second" 1 second of film traditionally is 24 frames long; so therefore it's 24fps.

Full Animation
Typically used on feature films or high budget television shows, "Full Animation" is when an animated character is drawn in full detail and includes things like "Secondary Motion."

"Full Animation" is more expensive and takes a lot longer to produce.

When an animator will take their extremes as a reference to where the character starts to where they end, and with that information, begins to draw in the drawings inbetween those extremes. Sometimes drawn by an animator's assistant. An artist whose job primarily drawing inbetweens (to save time for the animators) are called "Inbetweeners." OR The middle most drawing in a sequence.

Key Frame(s)/Extreme(s)
The drawings an animator will usually do first. They are the extremes of a movement. If you want your character to go from A to B, then the "extremes" would be the "A" and "B" drawings in the animation. Usually specially indicated on the animation paper or on a chart.

Light Box/Table
A table with a light bulb shining under a transparent piece of plastic. Used during clean up, or when the animator to see previous drawings in a sequence as they work, for tracing, etc.
(See "Onion-Skin in modern animating programs")

Limited Animation
The opposite of Full Animation, "Limited" is when the work is animated with limited resources, fewer frames to animate a character moving, and removing small details of a character's motion; things like "secondary motion" making the animation quicker and cheaper to produce.

Usually reserved for television and other short form projects.

On 1's (2's, 3's, etc.)
"On 1's" mean taking a picture of a drawing once, "On 2's" mean taking one drawing's picture twice, "On 3's" mean taking the picture three times, and so on.
When shooting a sequence, the animation may run too quickly "on 1's", so the more pictures you take of one drawing, the slower the movement will look when it runs.

On Model
"On Model" means when a character actually looks like the character in question; They're in the right style and proportions.

An "Off Model" character can be seen as badly drawn or ruin consistencies with said character.

An animator can acceptably take a character "Off Model" when animating them using a technique such as a Smear.

"Pegs" or "Register" are measured

Pencil Test/Rough Animation
"A Pencil Test" or "Rough Animation" is when an animator will take animation drawing (drawn with pencil) and shoot the sequence to see how it runs .

Secondary Motion
Any movement that is effected by environment or the motion of a character.

Smears are a way for an animator to move a character quicker in a situation then they could achieve with individual frames of the character. Like if you waved your hand quickly past your face, all you'd see is a blur. Smearing a character often result in a "ugly" warped version of the character, multiple eyes, or multiple limbs, but they can also just be a smear of color.

Timing/Exposure Sheet(s)
A chart that helps an animator, or assistant, visually plan out a scene's timing when photographing the animation.

Helps with planning out dialogue.


2D Animation
(Also can be known as "Traditional Animation" when it uses paper) is what people usually think of when they think animation. Made from differing drawings in a sequential order to move a character.
More modern examples are done digitally.

3D Animation
Also known as Computer Animation or CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) Is the technique of using digital 3-dimensional graphics to create the content.

Stop-Motion Animation
Traditionally using clay (also can be called "Clay-Mation"), the animator moves a physical miniature doll/figure progressively frame by frame on a three dimensional set.


Abbreviation of "Close Up"

Abbreviation of "Off Screen"

Abbreviation of "Voice Over"


The Disney Renaissance
A time period in the late 1980's and the 1990's where Disney had a resurgence in their feature animation popularity since Walt Disney's death in 1966. Started with The Little Mermaid (1989) and ended with Tarzan (1999). This was thanks to a change in company management with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner right before.

It is said that Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013) brought in a second (3D) renaissance.

Walt's 9 Old Men
These were Walt Disney's leading animators that worked on every major project. They helped pioneer animation techniques and coined the important "12 Principles of Animation".

They were:
Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Frank Thomas

Sulley in Monsters Inc. had a total of 2,320,413 individual hairs on his body that took around 12 hours to render.

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