Cameraless Animation

Cameraless animation, direct animation, drawing on film, scratch film... all these are names that describe films that are made using experimental techniques to create animated images without a camera or processing. Here is a bit about the history of drawing on film on the National Film Board of Canada's website.

This article by William Moritz talks about two artists known for this technique, Richard Reeves and Barbel Neubauer.

You can try out cameraless animation if you have some 16mm film - either film leader or film with images on it, and a projector. Using permanent markers, bleach, sharp tools like exacto knives for scratching, alter the film either frame by frame or experiment by altering a long strip without regard for the frames. Six feet of 16mm film is equal to 10 seconds of screen time (there are 40 frames per foot of 16mm). This is a good class project if every student alters 10 feet of film and you edit them all together. Then try out different pieces of music to see what fits and how it changes the mood.

Some students have posted a found-footage scratch film.


Even Martha Stewart likes Optical Toys!

Here's a link to Martha Stewart's website where they have instructions to make a Flipbook, Thaumatrope, and Phenakistoscope!


Cal Arts You Tube Channel

Cal Arts School of Film and Video YouTube Channel. I'm sure you can find lots of amazing student projects here.


Lots of tutorials and links here on Animatrick. I am just looking into this site now, but it certainly looks like a really useful collection of stuff!



I just came across this great 12 minute film, Animando, made during an apprenticeship at the National FIlm Board of Canada. Through a simple animated character, it shows a wide range of animation production processes. Highly recommended for students learning about different kinds of animation.


I Met the Walrus

This is a 2008 Oscar Nominee. I suggest going to the YouTUbe page and selecting view in high quality.


Independent Animation Blog

I found a link to this blog about independent animation under the links of indepdenent animator and animation teacher Steven Subotnik, who wrote a book I have used -- Animation in the Home Digital Studio. Looks like this blog has lots of interesting information about recent films and projects -- I'm looking forward to reading it:



Animation Cycles

Cycles -- beginning and ending with the same image -- are an important aspect of animation, saving work when creating repetitive actions.
Here are some walk cycles, drawn out by Preston Blair. Here they are animated.

10 Landmark Moments in Animation History

The magazine Mental Floss published this interesting look at 10 Landmark Moments in Animation History, with stories about Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, UPA's formation, and the Disney Strike.

I'd like to read 10 Moments in Experimental Animation History. Any suggestions?


Animation History Summary

Here is a recently published article from the website "Random History" that summarizes the History of Animation.


A Trip to the Moon

George Melies created Le Voyage Dans La Lune in 1902, a forerunner of all science fiction and fantasy films.

The South African Artist/Animator William Kentridge made this version of his own of the influential film.


Many Independent Animations now online

Just since last year, many important animated films have been posted online, some with their creator's approval, others without.  It is nice to be able to see these important films, though of course it is an entirely different experience from seeing them projected huge on a big screen.

Here are a few:

Online Videos by Veoh.com
Harpya by Raoul Servais

Drawing on Film Exhibition

Until July 24, 2008, the Drawing Center in Manhattan, NYC, has an exhibition of Drawing on Film, an ongoing video screening of works from the 1930's to the present, in their "Drawing Room" gallery in Soho.  

My family and I noticed it by accident when we were visiting the city, and had a nice treat resting our feet while we watched Len Lye's "Free Radicals" and Richard Reeves "Linear Dreams." If you are in the city in the next couple of weeks, check it out.


Any Requests?


I have been getting lots of hits from around the world -- so I thought I'd ask --

What would you like to see more of here on this site? Let me know, and I'll see if I can find it and post more often!

- Lynn


Oscar-Winning animation

You can find several Oscar-winning animated shorts here on this blog, created by ten-year-old Sam Saper, a young animation scholar.


When the Day Breaks

When the Day Breaks is a beautiful, sensitively made film made by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis at the National Film Board of Canada which recieved the Palme D'Or for short films at the Cannes Film Festival, and numerous other awards. Shot originally in digital video, it was printed out frame by frame as 4x5 inch images. Beak and snout masks helped to guide the artists as they turned the human actors into animal characters. The creators painted over the video and in the process, transformed the characters and backgrounds. Here you can read an interview about the making of When the Day Breaks.http://www.siegelproductions.ca/filmfanatics/daybreaks.htm


New York Independent Animators

In the 1970's and 1980's, artists working in New York City began to create projects outside of mainstream, commercial production. NYC is where the headquarters for Sesame Street and MTV Networks are located, both of which served as outlets for animation artists to have unconventional and experimental work shown MTV first popularized Bill Plympton's work. Also, commercial production served as the bread-and-butter for many of these artists. This article in Animation World Magazine profiles several independent animators who were working in NYC when the article was written: George Griffin, John Canemaker, Kathy Rose, Debra Solomon, Steve Dovas, Lewis Klahr, and Janie Geiser.
Here is another article about Independents in New York.

There are many other independent animators working in NYC. There are two DVD compilations called Avoid Eye Contact.


Blood Tea and Red String

We've been talking about the uncanny in animation-- particularly stop-motion and 3-d animation. Here is a good example of a recent feature length animated film that is currently screening in festivals. Blood Tea and Red String by Cristiane Cegavske..


NFB Films

There are some wonderful films available online at the National Film Board of Canada's website. The Focus on Animation page is a good place to start, with links to the Film Board's history, techniques, and key filmmakers.

Here you can see fifty films, and read a little about each one. Be sure to look at the work of Caroline Leaf, Paul Driessen, Narman McLaren, and many of the others. The newly available resource is one of the best places on the web to see influential experimental animation.


The Hubleys

John Hubley, a political activist and labor advocate throughout his career,was targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted in Hollywood for refusing to name names. When he married Faith Elliott in 1955, who had worked her way up in the film industry since she was 18, they vowed to make a film together each year they were married. They formed a company in New York called Storyboard (they couldn''t use the name Hubley because of the blacklist). After John's death, Faith continued to make beautiful films drawing on artistic and spiritual traditions from around the world. She taught at Yale, and was an inspiration to many independent animators. (She spoke at a screening of independent films, Life Cycles and Life Lines, that I curated, the day after my wedding in 1995).

Their creativity certainly rubbed off on their families -- daughter Emily Hubley is a respected independent animator, who created the animated sequences for the film Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Youo can visit Hubub, Inc., her production company. Georgia Hubley is drummer for the band Yo La Tengo.
You can read about the Hubleys and their creative partnership on the website for the PBS documentary about their lives, Independent Spirits.

The Onion AV Club has a 2000 interview with Faith Hubley here.


UPA Studio

Several artists left Disney after the 1941 labor strike ( you can read another Tom Sito article about the strike here). Some of the artists joined UPA Studios, including John Hubley, Jules Engle (founder of Cal Arts Experimental Animation program) and Bill Melendez (who went on to make the Charlie Brown Specials). UPA studios was created Gerald Mc Boing Boing and Mr. Magoo, among other programs, featuring modern design and human characters rather than anthropmorphized animals.

Tex Avery

Here are some links about the director (for Warner Bros., later MGM)who mastered exaggeration in animation: Tex Avery.
The Genius of Tex Avery
Tex Avery Tribute


Lotte Reiniger

Lotte Reiniger, using finely-made silhouette cutouts, made what may have been the first feature-length animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, begun in 1923 and finished in 1926. She also made many other short and long films using this technique. Unfortunately, many of the films are not available in their original form any more. Here you can read what William Moritz, the animation scholar, has written about Lotte Reiniger.

Papercutting is a folk art in many cultures (there are Chinese, Mexican, Jewish and other traditions of papercutting), and was often practiced by women. In Germany, it is called scherenschnitte. You can read a little bit more about the history of papercutting here.


Absolut Panushka - visual music

For less than a year in 1997 there was a wonderful website on experimental animation, Absolut Panushka, (sponsored by the vodka company) curated by animator Christine Panushka. I don't know why, but the site was taken down.

Many of the fifty short essays on animation history, by William Moritz, can be found here now. They are an excellent resource for background on independent and abstract experimental animation.


Visual Music & Abstract Animation

Synethesia is the idea that different sensory stimuli have connections and similarities, for example, a certain sound can evoke a certain color. This idea -- that abstract movement, light, color, and shape can connect with aural stimuli (music or sound) has long interested artists.

Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter, Oskar Fishinger and Walter Ruttman were among the first artists to explore this connection through abstract film.

Center for Visual Music
Article about Visual Music
Hirschorn Show 2005
Len Lye

Oskar Fischinger

Mary Ellen Bute

Jules Engel


Stop Motion Animation

One of the first animated films is The Cameraman's revenge, an incredible, bizarre, and funny film made in 1912 by Wladyslaw Starewicz, using actual insects.

He later went on to make a stop-motion masterpiece, The Mascot, which has an incredible sequence that clearly influenced such contemporary animators as Tim Burton.  (My own short, Paper Stairs, which you can see on my portfolio website was inspired by the tiny little scrap of paper characters you see here and there in  this sequence).

This is jumping ahead a bit, but here are some good stop-motion shorts and websites:




La Linea

La Linea, a stylish Italian animated series, was created in 1969 by Osvaldo Cavandoli. You can watch the shorts here.
can watch the short films here.

Steamboat Willie

This famous film made by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks stars Mickey Mouse, and is reputed to be the first sync-sounds animated film, although a couple of others actually came first. You can read more about it here.


Vintage Animation Online

There are a lot of public domain classic cartoons available at this


Classic Cartoon Blog

You can find lots of stills and even some animated cartoons on the Classic Cartoon Blog.

And at ASIFA Hollywood's Animation Archive Project, you can read about a project to restore a classic cartoon, and watch the restored animation "Swing You Sinners." (Scroll down their page to find the link).

Alice Comedies

Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney made the Alice Comedies between 1924 and 1927, featuring a live action little girl in a cartoon world. A cat in the series , named Julius, bore a remarkable resemblance to Felix.

Here is some background on the Alice series, and a list of the Alice Comedies.

For the Library Dance, each of you needs to come up with a short silent-era style bopping-dance cycle in black and white. Contemporary animators sometimes look back at the history of animation as inspiration for their work.

Here you can see a complex cycle from such a film, from Happy and Gay, a work in progress animated by Lorelei Pepi who teaches animation at Harvard.

Another animator who has looked back at early animation for inspiration is Sally Cruikshank. You can see some of her work on her website, Fun on Mars.

If you have any sites or resources to add while doing your research that might be helpful to others, please post them below.

Early Animation

Felix the Cat, drawn by Otto Messmer for Pat Sullivan's Studio, was a very popular character in 1920's cartoons. His character, antics, and black suit, were inspired by Charlie Chaplin.

Koko the Clown, Felix the Cat, Oswald the Rabbit...You can start your investigation into the style of early cartoon animation here.

What are some of the characteristics that silent era animated cartoons had in common? As you plan your Library Dance cycle, you can talk about ideas in the coments below.


Post your pitch!

Your first writing assignment is to pitch a movie about an early film innovator. Post it in the comments below.

Eadweard Muybridge

You can read about Eadweard Muybridge and his photographs capturing still images of people and animals in motion here.

Here is a short project made using Muybridge's photographs, from the website http://theabstractions.com


Stop-Motion Precursor

In 1902,Edwin S. Porter, (famous for directing The Great Train Robbery in 1903), made a short trick-film, Fun in a Bakery Shop, that was a predecessor of stop-motion animation. You can see clips and read about other early American animation at the Library of Congress website, Origins of American Animation.


The Father of American Animation - J. Stuart Blackton

The first film with a bit of animation -- a so called "Trick Film" made in America was The Enchanted Drawing, made in 1900, by vaudeville performer J. Stuart Blackton, working with Thomas Edison. In 1906 he made a film called Humorous Phases of Funny Faces. You can see it and read about it at the Library of Congress.

Fantasmagorie by Emile Cohl

French Animator Emile Cohl created Fantasmagorie in 1908. You can read more about his intriguing life an his pioneering efforts in animation here in French, or here in English.



Here is an article about an ancient Persian pot which has sequential images decorating it. The animated the images -- you can download a clip.


Optical Toys

Pre-cinematic inventions and optical toys that led to the invention of film and animation can be seen here.

Optical Toys include these:

This French site has several demos of old flipbooks.

Here is how to make a flipbook.
You can make an online "Flipbook" here.

The Kinetoscope, an advance in moving pictures, was invented by Thomas Edison.

Here is a link to two collectors who specialize in Optical Toys.

Here is a flipbook made by a student in the summer of 2008:

Make a flipbook (online or on paper) and post it in the comments below.

Magic Lantern

The Magic Lantern is a pre-cinematic invention that sometime had "animated" slides. It is a precursor to the projectors, and was very popular in Victorian times. You can read more about the history of the Magic Lantern here.

Another optical device that led to photography is the Camera Obscura.



The Zoetrope, or Wheel of Life, was another early optical toy. Looking through the slits created the illusion of a moving cycle. Here is more about Zoetropes from Ruth Hayes' Random Motion site.

Also, here is an article about how you can make a Zoetrope from a Salad Spinner.

Zoetrope cycles have to be very simple, and are made of only 12-14 images. What would make a good animation cycle for a Zoetrope? Photograph your zoetrope strip -- or better yet, if you can, videotape it spinning in a zoetrope and post the video below.

Here are some Zoetrope Strips we made in class!


The Thaumatrope is an optical toy that uses what has been called persistence of vision. Persistence of vision has been called a myth - read about the controversy here.)

Ruth Hayes, an independent animator and professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, tells how to make your own thaumatrope here.

A Thaumatrope Simulator.

The bird in the cage is a classic Thaumatrope design. What other pairs of images would be well suited to this device? Make a Thaumatrope, photograph each side, and post it below in the comments.


Hi -- I am a independent animator and a professor of animation. I often use an unusual technique with clay-on-glass, plasticine-type modelling clay, spread thinly on glass, and underlit. This is a kind of under-the-camera animation. Recently I have been collaborating with children on a variety of cut-out animation projects. The Girls of the World project and Shopping for Utopia are two of these collaborative projects. I am intrigued by the history of animation that you don't usually hear about-- independent artists, studios that broke with the Disney tradition, international animation, and animation's prehistory. This blog will be used as forum for research and discussion for my class, to be taught in the summer of 2006 at Cornell University, from June 26- August 8.

If you are interested in the course, you can visit the course listing at Cornell Summer Session.

Assignment #3

This is an assignment made by my class in the summer of 2004.