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Cartoons and animation are two terms that have often been used interchangeably not only for ease of communication but also because they share several similarities that blur the boundaries between the two. However, there are certain distinctions and characteristics that differentiate them from one another, not only for purposes of categorization but also conceptually. Better understanding what both these terms signify is the first step towards grasping the essence, function and importance of each.
Critical for storytelling, filmmaking and communication at large, animation can broadly be defined as the art, process and technique of creating an illusion of movement by piecing together a series of live action images while utilising a variety of digital tools. Animation can signify a wide range of methods which encompass but are not limited to hand drawings, stop-motion, mechanical animation, digital and computer animation etc.
Broadly speaking, cartoons are a form of animation. They can largely refer to two things. The first is a non-realistic and often comical or humorous rendition of a situation, of characters and of people. The other is the type of art that we often come across in newspapers and magazines which make for a subtle yet satirical comment on the socio-cultural milieu that they are a product of. Cartoons, however, is also a term that is frequently used to refer to a short film or a television programme that makes use of animated techniques and methods often for the perusal of children. The word cartoon itself originates from the Italian ‘cartone’ which refers to a heavy paperlike cardboard. With time and advancements in technology, there have been a variety of new techniques that are now deployed, ranging from stop-motion to pixelation, and so animation has evolved and developed. With the introduction of CGI, the whole scenario of animation changed. The boundaries became blurred and the possibilities were multitudinous. From simple 3D cartoons to hyper-realistic live action scenes, animation encompassed it all.
To put it simply, cartoons can be defined as drawings which are caricatural, satirical, humorous in nature and are generally intended for children. Animation, on the other hand, can be described as the art or process of creating films through drawings, photographs or static objects to create an illusion of movement.
Traditionally and historically animations have been created and broadcasted for younger audiences. Despite this, animated shows and movies are watched and enjoyed by both children and adults. As we trace the history of animation we find that they were originally created by piecing together a sequence of images or drawings together in an attempt to create the illusion of movement and motion. The history of animation is long and multifaceted. It’s evolution has been diverse and it continues to adapt, change and transform. What we know as animation today, however, came into existence during the 1800s as the world witnessed the advent of the magic lanterns and the zoetrope. As animation entered cinema, it went through a series of developments to become what we popularly know and dearly love today. It is the principle of persistence of vision which stipulates that images when shown in quick succession offer the illusion of movement. It is this theory that animation owes its existence to.
Apart from carving a place for itself in the film industry, animation also plays a significant role in other facets of modern business. From advertisements and digital branding to daily communication, animation is frequently employed to relay information effectively and retain the attention of audiences. Especially for a younger audience, animation can be incorporated as an effective teaching and educational strategy. At its very core, it is a form of self expression. As the youth of today learn the nuances and various facets of animation, they have the opportunity to not only explore the tools and techniques, but through it, also better understand themselves.
Today, stepping into the animation industry has become easier and more lucrative than ever before. Softwares aren't as expensive as they once were, technology has developed leaps and bounds to make various tools easily accessible and most modern computers can support animation tasks without much hassle. Despite this, however, animation still takes time to master just as any other technical skill. It requires the right kind of guidance, a sound theoretical base and lots of practice. Creativity, a problem-solving outlook, an ability to think outside the box and most importantly a deep interest, curiosity and a desire to express oneself through a variety of techniques is most important when it comes to learning the intricacies of animation.
A KPMG-FICCI report estimates that the digital media industry in India is expected to grow at 22% and reach INR 425 billion by 2023. The future of animation is exciting to say the least. The quality of films and cartoons are steadily getting better, more nuanced, and the digital intricacies more refined. Animation and cartoons continue to enchant, delight and teach audiences as they cut across geographical borders and blur age gaps, cultural and often even social divides. Advancements and developments in technology only bode well as the possibilities become limitless.
Communication Design is one of the fastest growing design disciplines today and animation is among the most popular fields within this domain. A degree in communication design for anyone interested in learning animation is a good place to start. Apart from animation, students have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with a variety of different audio-visual techniques in order to design and communicate messages. Every aspect of our lives involves communication in one form or the other. Institutes need to provide hands-on and practical approaches to understanding design. Right from the conceptual stage to the final product, students must be encouraged to experiment, explore, learn, unlearn and relearn. A multi-disciplinary and collaborative environment will push students to evolve into versatile designers and thinkers. An education that is not limited to classrooms or textbooks, the Communication Design degree equips students with the skills, knowledge and aptitude required to keep up with changing times and design for a better future.
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