Animator reveals the complete 2D animation process
The entire process of animating cartoon characters for a feature film, or just a quick 2D animation for YouTube is a process that, depending on the project, requires a lot of time and effort. A 5 min animation can take from 1 day to 2 months. Really? How do I know if my project is going to last 1 day or 2 months? Well, you have to answer, how good do you want your cartoon animation to look? Simple = 1 day, Incredible = 2 months.
Either one needs to go through the entire process.
It all starts with an idea. An idea turned into a script that can then be transformed into cartoon characters affecting each other in a 2D animated story. That idea is visualized in the head of the producer or director (usually the same person in the NO BUDGET projects) who then decides what style the project is going to have.
The style can be cut out characters like Cartoon Network, more classic like Disney, or maybe you want Anime style. Then you have to design the main characters and decide which one best suits your project. What will your cartoon characters look like? How do they look from behind? Front? Up? down? How do they look in different poses?
After that, according to the budget and the style, the producer decides the software where all the animation will take place. If the style needs a cut out, with a lot of 3D and traveling cameras, perhaps After Effects or Flash are the choice, or if the series are more classic, or anime, in which a cut out is not sought, but a more organic aspect, like anime or Disney, then Toon Boom or Anime Studio may be the choice.
Then you bring in the voice actors to record all the dialogue and basically produce your story for a radio show, where you hear footsteps and sound effects. This will give animators the right time to perform actions with their cartoon characters organically.
After making all the necessary decisions, it’s time to visualize the cartoon animation story in a series of drawings. Graphic script. There the animator and the director put their knowledge of cinematography into practice, decide the shots and from where the cartoon characters are best represented for each moment of the story.
Then, once the storyboard is complete, he does a storyboard animation, where he puts the storyboard and audio together with the correct timings, and then, makes big decisions like, maybe change some lines, or see the character from another angle and so on, remember, the most important thing in your 2D animation story is to make people feel something. So these decisions are KEY.
After that major milestone, the preparations begin. In a large studio, one team is in charge of assembling the cartoon characters and the other draws the different backgrounds and sets of the story. But in a very low-budget project, it’s usually the same person who does the rigging and scenery for the character.
Finally, after all that, which is almost 70% of the work, comes the fun part. The animation. The one where you bring the story to life, you make your cartoon characters affect each other, get angry, cry, laugh, fall in love, whatever your story is about, this is where you bring it to life.
In this step, all the hard work pays off. And of course, when the project is low budget (less than $10,000) or even NO BUDGET, the writer, producer, director, storyboard artist, character designer, background artist, and animator, is a team that consists of 3 people, or sometimes it is the same person, an author. But even then, when your cartoony animation has your heart in it, the hard work pays off.