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Free Content Frame of reference: toward a definition of animation

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Some animation scholars assert that framing animation in a formal definition would necessarily impose intellectual limits on inquiry, while others contend that any definition wide enough to encapsulate the full gamut of ‘all things animated’ must be too wide to be meaningful. International organizations of animation ‘experts’, who have taken on the responsibility of helping humankind to understand animation, fare poorly in terms of their commitment to the pursuit of a definition, citing ‘too wide a range’ of things qualifying as being animation, and that forcing a definition could create dissonance within the animation community of scholars. Despite being experts however, the group will not formally say what properties or commonalities unite the things that they consider to be animated. After a pointed and persistent effort at uncovering a definition through spirited queries and dialogue with these groups of animation experts, I was left with many unanswered questions. Why don’t international organizations of animation scholars believe that a definition of animation is necessary? Is a definition of animation necessary? If these organizations of animation scholars cannot define animation, who can? Who will? If an ‘animated thing’ is part of a distinct group of ‘things that are animated’, then what are the properties of the thing that makes it a part of the group of ‘animated things’? Moreover, who would benefit from a definition of animation, and who would not? The purpose of this article is to explore and discuss some of these questions, in the hope that knowledge and understanding will result from the central question: what is the core set of properties that makes a thing ‘animated’?
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Keywords: animation; apparent movement; definition; persistence of vision; practice; properties; theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Truckee Meadows Community College

Publication date: 01 March 2011

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  • Animation Practice, Process & Production is a journal presenting, analysing and advancing how animation is created and shown. From Pixar to Parn, Aardman to X-Men, Motion Capture to Mobile Phone, GUI to Gallery, all forms of animation will be revealed and assessed. Illustrated contributions are invited from practitioners and scholars of animation. Innovative models of critical presentation and analysis are especially encouraged. All topics engaged with the practice, process and production of animation, from a range of perspectives, will be considered.
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