The Basic Work
Images are painstakingly drawn on clear celluloid sheets (hence the name cell) one frame at a time. One second of smooth motion requires 24 separate frames. Here is how it goes- The character is first developed by a Character Developer, then the Animator roughly draws the key frames (the most important motion movements in one second). A Clean-Up artist neatly traces it out on celluloid again after which a person called an In-Betweener draws all the remaining scenes in between. The finished images are scanned and colored on the computer. And finally the Director assembles the movie. Till a few decades ago even the coloring was done by hand!
Cell Animation Examples: Loony Tunes, Aladdin, Mickey Mouse, Prince of Egypt, Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Snow White and Lilo ‘n’ Stitch to a certain extent
The Money Factor
Classical animators are highly valued abroad unfortunately in India Cell Animation pays peanuts. An In-Betweener starts at just Rs 4000 while a Clean-Up artist might start off at 8,000. The highest paid is usually the Animator who could start-off at 10,000 which could go up to 25,000-30,000. Animation studios have their own rates though! UTV Toons, Crest and Pentamedia are supposedly the highest paymasters.
British, French and US Studios do outsource their work to Indian studios but that is just the production, i.e. the tedious job of in-betweening, cleaning-up and colouring cartoons. The more significant pre-production work like story concept, character design and voice tracks are still done abroad. For instance UTV Toons is associated with Disney and has worked on the animation for Toon Disney’s cartoon series Toad Patrol – the storyboard and the character development was done abroad, the animation was done by UTV Toons. The Crest team has worked on several foreign projects and is currently developing an independent project – an animation that is similar in style to Toy Story!
When it comes to classical animation, the academic side hardly matters. What really matters is your talent. Of course an Art School might be helpful in terms of training but it isn’t necessary! All you need is a flair for drawing and a passion for animation. Be prepared to really slog ’cause initially the pay is rather sad, but once you gain the necessary experience you can move on
“The best tools in animation are a pencil and paper” – Ram Mohan (Founder of UTV Toons, considered the father of Indian animation)
> Illusion of Life
> The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams
> Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair
> Human Anatomy by Victor Peradd
> Making of Final Fantasy
> Art of Matrix
Once you do get into a good animation studio, make sure you are nice to your seniors, they are your best teachers!
A lot of private institutes have cropped up that promise to teach you cartooning. Save your money instead approach animation studios directly. You don’t even have to be a graduate or have an art school background! Almost all animation production houses have a rigorous test and once you clear that they will train you for free, eventually absorbing you! Some studios like UV Toons (Mumbai), Penta-Media (Chennai) and MAAC (Mumbai) have extended their in-house facility to a training school where people can pay up and join. Not everyone can get into animation, you MUST have a flair for art and fantastic powers of observation. Simply doing a course is not enough. Conceptualizing, animation and a knowledge of how the body looks in motion are all essential pre-requisites. In India an Art school degree degrees does hold a value, esp if you want to do an animation course at NID or IDC (Industrial Design Centre at IIT, Powai). They only accept BFAs. Abroad, your talent counts and that is why many students who don’t have an art background go West for specialization.