The Art of Animation: Rotoscoping and the Cell

By Lindsey Allmon


Walt Disney and his company single handedly perfected the art of animation. They set a precedent for animation that other companies have been scrambling to match ever since. But there are certain techniques that aid to make Disney the king of animation. Continue after the page break to learn about two ways Walt brought his vision to life…

 


The problem with being the first in your field means you have nothing to work off of. Yet Walt would settle for nothing short of excellence. So, when you have nothing to work off of, you make your own reference. Introducing the method of rotoscoping. Rotoscoping is quite simply the act of filming real people acting out a scene and then tracing over it frame by frame to create the animated version. Disney used this method of animation in Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan among others.
 

 

While the artists did not copy line for line, the actors help to make a characters movement fluid and realistic. While Disney no longer takes the time to film out entire scenes, characters facial expressions and movements are often brought to life by the animators. This is why, especially in later films, you often find strong resemblances between the voice actors and their animated counter parts. Rapunzel is the spitting image of Mandy Moore and Vanellope Von Schweetz is a miniature version of Sarah Silverman.
One of the other prominent methods of animation that Disney used for decades was the art of the cell. Cell comes from the word cellophane. Artists would draw an image and then copy the imaging by painting it onto a piece of cellophane. These cellophane sheets were then laid over a previously painted backdrop, the combo resulting in a single frame of film. While the backgrounds were reused throughout the frames, every single frame of a film required a separate cell.
 
 
 
Fortunately for me, my grandparents have an extensive collections of cells that I have been able to enjoy over the years. Whenever I watch Sleeping Beauty or Pinocchio I look for those moments on the screen. It’s amazing to know that I grew up with pieces of Disney history hung on the walls.

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