Animation: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Contributor: Stefani Allegretti. Lesson ID: 13058

Can you guess why films are called movies? Why people are called actors? Not only do people move and act in films, but so can drawings! Learn (and try!) how animation makes the inanimate move!


Software and Applications, Visual Arts

learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start
  • Have you ever seen an animated movie or commercial?

If you've seen a Disney movie, a Pixar movie, or even a cartoon, then it's likely you have seen an animation. Animations seem to be everywhere these days! They are used in movies, commercials, video games, and more.

  • But how exactly do animations work?

Come and find out!

It is through the magic of animation that drawings, illustrations, and images appear to move on screen.

Animation is a technique in which pictures, drawings, and illustrations are manipulated and placed in a sequence to appear as though they are moving images. The word animate essentially means to bring to life or enliven.

The simplest way to understand animation is to understand how a flip-book animation works.

For example, if you take a notebook and draw a simple circle on each page of the notebook in a different location on each page, then flip through the notebook, the circle will appear as though it is moving.

This is one of the most basic forms of animation. The circle is not actually moving, but it appears to move as the pages are flipped. The faster you flip the pages, the faster the circle appears to move.

Check out the examples in this video!

Now that you understand the simplest form of animation, let's go a step further and bring film into the picture.

With the creation of film and photography, drawings on paper could be photographed in a specific sequence using film. Then, the film could be played back in sequence or flipped from one scene to the next, which creates the illusion of the moving image.

Through this process, drawings of characters and objects on paper became animated or seemed to be brought to life.

Watch this next video to learn how animation was created using film.

This video illustrates the basic techniques that one of the greatest animators of all time, Walt Disney, used to create his animations.

Drawing images on different pieces of paper, photographing them, and then running the film together, is essentially how Disney's first full-length animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and many others, were created.

Now that you have a basic understanding of animation, move on to the Got It? section for a quick quiz.

Image - Button Next