Animation: Take a look behind the scenes!


Do you enjoy watching cartoons or animated movies? I bet you do! After all who doesn’t love Simba or the Minions?! Have you ever wondered how they are created though? It’s a process called ‘animation. This is actually a very time-intensive process, but as we can see through awesome movies like Despicable Me and The Lion King, the effort is quite worth it.

What is animation? It is the illusion of movement through the persistence of vision.

Huh? What does that mean? Basically, it’s a technique used to trick the eye. A series of different still images are used to create the effect of movement in a character. Kind of like a flip book. For example, check out this video!


Pretty neat right? So this is how cartoons were traditionally made – by drawing them out. Nowadays though, most studios like Disney and Pixar that make long animation films use film cameras that take 60 frames or photos per second. This means large movies such as The Lion King and Despicable Me would have 60 drawings per second. That equals 3600 drawings for a minute of film!

Can you calculate how many drawings you would need to create an hour and a half long movie?

Think about how long it takes you to draw one picture. Now let’s calculate how long it would take to draw the thousands of pictures needed to make a 1.5-hour movie.

Let’s work it out: 1.5 hours = 90 minutes

1 minute requires 3,600 drawings, therefore 90 minutes will need 3,600 pictures x 90 minutes = 324,000 pictures you would need to draw!

Now multiply this by the time that you take to draw one picture and that’s how long it would take you to create a full length animated movie!). It takes months and sometimes even years to create just a few minutes of film. That epic 2 minute long scene in the Lion King of the wildebeest stampede took 5 animators 2.5 years to create!

Other forms of animation and newer technologies:

Japanese animation also known as Anime is also a very popular style of animation. It has its own unique style and follows a different format from the Western style of animation. Artists started to use this format to tell traditional stories in a modern form, for kids as well as adults. Popular anime characters are Astro Boy and Spirited Away.

Advances in technology and software such as Pixar’s RenderMan allows 3D animation. The movie Despicable Me is an example of 3D animation, while 101 Dalmatians would be an example of 2D animation.


Try this at home! Want to try a fun and easy way to make your own animated flipbook?

  1. Download the following images.
  2. Then cut and paste in a stack of post-it notes.
  3. Flip, and
  4. Enjoy your creation!

We’d love to see pictures of your flipbook — do share them with us in the comments section!


Written by: Tanika Thacker. Tanika is a writer by day and a foodie by night. She lives in San Francisco and nothing makes her happier than ice-cream on a cold, rainy afternoon. You can follow her meanderings on @tanikathacker and @boozefoodlatitude


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