Planning your animation film

Planning your Film

By Ian Whitworth, winner of our animation drawing competition.


There are two ways of making a cartoon film. One is to say I am an amateur making an amateur film, so don’t expect too much. The other way is to say I may be an amateur but I will give it every thing I have.

Animation is such a demanding and time consuming art form, that I don’t see it as something which you can approach half hearted. A thing I have noticed about amateur animated films is that most of them fall down because of one thing, not enough forethought and planning have gone into them.

I know from past experience how disappointed I have been with my filmed results, after sitting for days or weeks at my drawing board, the reason being that I had not had a clear idea of what I was aiming for.

A Disney feature may take two years in production, but it could have been four to six years in the planning, so please take pains to plan every detail of your film before you start to animate. It is not as boring as it seems, and can be as exciting and challenging as the actual drawing, good planning can lift your film from an amateur to professional standard.

Another point before starting a film is don’t over stretch yourself, know your capabilities and work within them, if your drawing ability is not very good it would be foolish to try and animate fig. one, which would require almost full animation, whereas fig. two, is a more simplified style. It is also more suitable for limited animation, which would save a lot of extra work and time, also your backgrounds could be made simpler or even abstract as in the U.P.A. cartoons.

The first thing to think about before starting a film, is what medium you are going to use. Will it be on cels, or will it be on animation paper. If it is, the latter, some very good scenes can be built up using overlays, for back or foregrounds. The way to do this is to draw your back or foreground on a sheet of paper with registration holes, then cut away the area where the action takes place, a scene scan be built up using more than one overlay, also moving extended-overlays can be used to good effect especially on a walk cycle, or pan. The overlays I have used have been coloured with either crayon, or coloured pencils, the same for the characters, it’s a quick and easy method, water colour takes time and tends to crinkle the paper. Using this method can give the effect of cel animation, for far less cost. If you do use overlays, a piece of glass should be used to hold them flat, as they tend to curl up slightly and cast a shadow.

page 1 | page 2 | page 3