I’m not quite old enough to have seen the birth of television, but they weren’t a common household item when I was a youngster. The pictures were a little scratchy compared to modern television and the sound systems were a little tinny, but they were still treasured windows into another world. Books were much more common. We were encouraged to read and use our imaginations, which were, as my mother was fond of saying, our ‘own little televisions. You just need your imagination to bring the pictures to life’.
Essentially that is what animation is all about, bringing still pictures to life. This has been achieved by painting images on cave walls with the limbs in various states of movement; painting bowls or cylinders and spinning them to give the illusion that the painting is moving through each sequential movement. Then the more modern flip books came along, with sequential drawings on individual pages, before animation moved to the ‘modern’ era of film. Apart from the first, all of these methods move the images one by one, at speed, so that the mind focuses on the drawings which appear to be moving.
While the commercial marketing and publishing of animated films may be the province of film studios, the actual production of animation is not outside the reach of the average person. There are sufficient materials and methods for anyone to be able to make non-digital animations, such as flip books. With technology, such as a mobile telephone camera, laptop and open-source software we can digitize the drawings to create an animated film. The methods may not be as sophisticated as a large film studio, but they are certainly achievable with time and patience (and perhaps, a little artistic talent).
As to why anyone would want to create complex animations that can be as complex an answer as the animation itself. Animations can be used purely for entertainment, for us as their creators or for others, but they can also be used as tools. They can be used to demonstrate concepts and procedures in the workplace or in classrooms. They can be used to learn these things too, by students from all levels of education. The only thing which limits their usefulness is our imagination. Which means my mother was right all along; to bring my pictures to life, I need my imagination. Oh boy I can hear her now . . .
“I told you so!”