If animation is the art of creating an illusion of motion and making objects and characters appear to move, the animation director is the artist who makes this possible.
An animation director is someone who is responsible for creating a vision of an animated film or series and executing it by using a particular animation style to make a good animated film.
What does an animation director do?
The key role of an animation director is to manage the entire animation process during the production of an animated film or television series. One of the pioneers of animation films, popular animation director Walt Disney is known for creating the classic and iconic character Mickey Mouse.
Be it 3D animation or stop motion animation films, the animation is a century-old art used for bringing characters and objects to life and creating a visually appealing world that feels real.
Imagining figures and characters, drawing them, and then bringing them to life using different animation techniques is an art that is created by animation directors.
From the edits to the animation frames and sound, an animation director has to oversee everything to ensure that the film is coming out exactly how he/she imagined and visualized.
When it’s a big scale animation film, there is one animation director and one film director who collectively ensure the overall execution of the film.
There are many popular animation directors across the globe who started their careers as an animator and then made it big in the world of animation movies. We will walk you through the list of the best animation directors of all times further in the blog post.
What are the different types of Animation?
Animation was invented back in the 1900s and has evolved drastically since then. There are different animation styles and techniques that have been used by animation directors in different films for creating iconic characters and classic films.
From 3D animation to stop motion animation, here are 5 popular animation styles used in films.
1) 2D Animation: One of the oldest and the most traditional animation styles used in filmmaking, Two-dimension animation is the process of creating an illusion of two-dimensional motion by combining different images of different widths and heights together without any depth.
2) 3D animation: This animation style needs no explanation. If you are a movie buff, you must have seen popular films like Avatar and Gravity which were made using 3D animation. It is the art of bringing characters and objects to life by placing them in a 3D space and creating an illusion of motion.
This animation style is widely used in films and video games. 3D animations are very engaging and help viewers connect with the characters in the film or video. A good 3D animation director should be able to make the movement of characters and objects extremely real, authentic, and visually appealing.
The 3D animation style was created in 1993 and became extremely popular after the massive success of 3D films like My Bloody Valentine 3D, Toy Story, A Christmas Carol, Avatar, How to Train Your Dragon, among others.
3) Stop Motion Animation: One of the oldest animation styles, stop motion animation was invented by British-American film producer and director J. Stuart Blackton with his 1898 film The Humpty Dumpty Circus.
This animation style involves capturing still objects in a particular sequence and creating an illusion of motion by stringing the images together.
4) Claymation: This animation style involves creating characters made with clay and capturing their movements in sequences to create an illusion of motion. Claymation animation films are very popular amongst kids and gave the world some iconic characters like Wallace and Gromit.
It is one of the oldest animation styles but is very time-consuming and labor-intensive. After artists have created characters and sets made from clay, the animation director places the models on the set and captures each frame while moving the models and objects to create an illusion of movement.
5) Typography Animation: This animation process involves creating animated text that is often used while showcasing the title screens and credit segments in films. It’s the process of using moving text to capture the viewer’s attention. Apart from films, it is used in commercials, music videos, and even websites.
History of animation films and animation directors
American filmmaker J. Stuart Blackton, also known as one of the pioneers of animation films, was the first filmmaker to make a film using animation techniques like stop-motion and drawn animation.
Also known as the father of American Animation, Blackton directed his first animated film titled The Enchanted Drawing in 1900. It was the first film with animated sequences and was recorded on standard picture film.
After launching animated films like Humorous Phases of Funny Faces in 1906, for New York’s pioneering Vitagraph Company, he started experimenting with stop-motion animation technique that involves creating an illusion of motion by moving objects rapidly when capturing each frame.
His 1907 film Haunted Hotel is one of the oldest surviving animation films today.
After making animated films like Little Nemo in 1911 and How a Mosquito Operates in 1912, American cartoonist and animation director Winsor McCay‘s animated short film Gertie the Dinosaur changed the dynamics of animation films.
The oldest animated film to feature a dinosaur, Gertie the Dinosaur transformed the art of animated films and gave birth to the very first cartoon icon.
After being confined to cinemas until the 1940s, the animation industry adapted television with the launch of channels like Nickelodeon and Disney. Shows like The Simpsons became extremely popular and made way for animation in the television industry.
For most of the world, animation and Walt Disney are synonyms and we all recognize animation and animated films through the lens of the creator of the iconic Mickey Mouse character. He has given the world iconic animated films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, and Saludos Amigos, among several others.
The film was directed by David Hand and won producer Walt Disney the prestigious Academy Award. The animation technique of rendering two-dimensional visuals on a transparent sheet of celluloid, also known as cell animation, was used in the film.
Movies like Fun and Fancy-Free, Melody Time, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and Lion King made him the king of animated films across the globe.
From the early 1930s to till date, Walt Disney has not only produced several blockbuster animated films but also introduced the world to computer-animated films.
Toy Story by Walt Disney Pictures, which was released in 1995, was the first feature-length computer-animated film. Because of the immense response it received, the film was turned into a franchise with the release of Toy Story 2, 3 and 4. It is to date one of the most successful computer-animated films that transformed the world of animation films forever.
It was in the late 80s when the world was introduced to 2D/3D animation techniques and movies like Shrek, A Bug’s Life, Kung Fu Panda, Ice Age, How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, Frozen, Cars, Madagascar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Hotel Transylvania, and Big Hero 6 that transformed the world of animation.
However, with the growing technology and increase in the use of artificial imagery like VFX and CJI, animation might not be the only technique left to bring life into characters and make the reel world seem real, it surely is one of the oldest, most effective ways of making a film or video visually appealing, real, and unique.
10 Animation directors who transformed the world of animation films:
Rob Minkoff: The director of Academy Award-winning Disney animated feature film The Lion King, Rob Minkoff is one of the finest animation directors who is known for directing exceptional animated films like The Haunted Mansion, The Forbidden Kingdom, and Mr Peabody & Sherman.
After having a breakthrough debut with Walt Disney‘s The Lion King in 1994, he became a prominent animation director with the massive success of animated films like Stuart Little.
Seth MacFarlane: The creator of one of the most popular American animated sitcoms Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane is one of the finest animation directors who has contributed greatly to the world of animation movies.
With his exceptional work and vision in movies and series like The Cleveland Show, and American Dad, among others, he became one of the most prominent names in the animation industry.
Andrew Stanton: A popular Hollywood director, screenwriter, and animator, Andrew Stanton is one of the most prominent animation directors who is known for his excellent work in animated films like A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, WALL-E, among others.
Mike Judge: His career in the world of animation started with lending his voice for the popular character Cleveland Brown from the famous animated series Family Guy and has been transforming the world of animation with his brilliant work in movies and series.
He bagged a Primetime Emmy Award and two Annie Awards for King of the Hill as well as two Critics’ Choice Television Awards and Satellite Awards for his work as an animation director in Silicon Valley.
Rob Letterman: Having co-directed the iconic Hollywood animated film Shark Tale and bagged an Annie Award nomination for Writing in a Feature Production, Rob Letterman is one of the most popular animation directors.
He is best known for directing popular animated films like Monsters vs. Aliens, Gulliver’s Travels, Goosebumps, Detective Pikachu, among others. He is also the director of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the second-highest-grossing video game film adaptation.
Marjane Satrapi: The Iranian artist and animator who started her career through popular and critically acclaimed graphic novels Persepolis and The Sigh is one of the most renowned animation directors.
She bagged the Academy nomination for Best Animated Film for her debut animated film Persepolis which was based on her novel of the same name and later won millions of hearts with her excellent work in films like Chicken with Plums, The Voices, Radioactive, among others.
Phil Lord And Christopher Miller: The famous American filmmaking duo is known for their path breaking work in the adult animated sitcom Clone High. They also directed and wrote the famous Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which is an American computer-animated science-fiction comedy film produced by Sony Pictures Animation.
2014’s The Lego Movie is another great animated film directed by this duo that makes them the best animation directors across the globe. They also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature as producers of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Brad Bird: The popular American director, animator, screenwriter, producer, and voice actor started his career in animation as an animator for Disney for their films The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron.
The award-winning animation director later directed blockbuster animated films like The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Tomorrowland, Incredibles 2, among others.
If reports are to be believed, Bird’s passion for animation inspired him to complete his first short subject when he was only 14 years old. He was also the creative consultant for the popular show The Simpsons for 8 seasons.
He has received worldwide recognition and praise for his work as an animation director and his films have shattered many box office records.
Tim Burton: One of the most popular animation directors in Bollywood, Tim Burton is known for directing gothic fantasy and horror films.
Movies like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Frankenweenie, are some of his blockbuster animated films.
He is one of the finest animation directors in the history of animated films and has won several awards for his work in popular animated movies.
His musical adventure film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory received brilliant reviews and was applauded for the appealing visuals. His work in films like Alice in Wonderland and Batman Returns makes him one of the most celebrated animation directors in the world.
If you are someone who loves watching animation films and aspires to be an animation director, it is important to understand the whole process of creating a good animation film and characters.
Before becoming an animation director, one must understand the importance and art of storytelling through visuals.
In fact, for starters, you can also create your own claymation film and upload it online on YouTube. But it is important to understand the efforts, creativity, and patience that the process requires.
Animated films have been entertaining us for the past century and animation directors have introduced us to the world of Avatar, Spider-Man, Frozen, The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland, and many more. It is one of the finest art forms that can make people believe in the world of fantasies and dreams.