Cel Shading: the Unsung Hero of Animation?

Cel Shader
Left: a computer graphics render with soft shadows. Right: a cel shader (also known as a toon shader) and border detection. This creates hard edged shadows with lines drawn around the model. Illustration from Hash Animation Master manual.

This is a guest post by Olivia Lennox.

As you’ll well know, there are far more animation techniques out there than the average movie-goer or TV watcher knows about. You can’t blame them for only really knowing about stop-motion animation, CGI animation, and what goes into shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. These techniques are what ‘make it big’, and what can be seen on screens, both big and small, all over the world. But there are plenty of other forms of animation that don’t get the credit they deserve.

Take cel shading for example. This lends animation a ‘cartoony’ look which can be very effective in certain media. This form of animation has actually only been adopted by a handful of film and television productions; however it has been used extensively in video games. Perhaps the reason for this is that cel shading is easier on the graphics processor, so games can look great even on less powerful hardware. When cel shaded animation does make its way into film and television, it’s usually used conservatively, but there are exceptions as we’ll see. There’s an important distinction to make before we get into the cel shaded world: whilst there are plenty of techniques that use block colours, cel shading refers specifically to the cartoony rendering of light and shadow.

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Don Messick: the man with a million voices

Father Bob Murphy meets voice artist Don Messick. Here is a quick Baby Boomer quiz that will give away your age: Which of the following groups of cartoon characters do you remember from your childhood: Group No. 1: Ruff of Ruff and Reddy; Boo-Boo, Pixie, and Iggy from the original Hucklebery Hound Show; and Tadpole … Read more

Don Messick: the man with a million voices – Page 2

About the same time on the West Coast, MGM Studios was shutting down its cartoon division. Two of its animators, Bill Hannah and Joe Barbera, left MGM with a vision of how animation could be financially feasible for television. They started their own company and perfected “limited” animation and this assembly line approach would have … Read more

The Rose of Baghdad

Giannalberfo Bendazzi’s lecture delivered to the Society for Animation Studies at Farnham – A Producer and His Film: Anton Gino Domeneghini and La Rosa Di Bagdad (The Rose of Baghdad). Précis by Ken Clark. Giannalberto Bendazzi’s self-appointed mission in life is to draw attention to La Rosa Di Bagdad (1949) which, he claimed, had largely … Read more

Halas & Batchelor Reformed

Report by Ken Clark. After 53 years continual production Halas & Batchelor Ltd. has been reformed and removed to 6 Holford Road, London NW3 1AD, not so very far from Jack Straw’s Castle public house off Hampstead Heath. This is John Halas new residence, and building is still in progress converting the sizable garage into … Read more

GILES – A 50 Years Celebration

On Tuesday 5th October 1993 the National Museum of Cartoon Art celebrated 50 years of Carl Giles art. Report by Ken Clark. “To all lovers of grandmas, cats, airedales, people, and so forth, I thoroughly recommend this.” – one of Giles baby twins had scrawled on the invitation. I am not quite sure whether it … Read more

Animation B.C. (Before Computers)

By Steve Archer After one years hard writing Wills O’Brien: Special Effects Genius is about to hit the shops. By strange coincidence both O’Brien and myself like things western, and much of O’Brien’s work contained western themes: Gwang, Mighty Joe Young, The Westernettes and The Last of the Oso Si-Papu, but more about that later. … Read more

Animation B.C. (Before Computers) – Page 2

After three months the work dried up and I returned to Shepherds Bush Odeon Cinema as a projectionist. Three years later I received a phone call from Culley’s cameraman, Gus Ramsden, and blue-screen technician, Dennis Barkleh, who told me that Ray Harryhausen was looking for an assistant for his new film, Clash of the Titans. I … Read more

Animation B.C. (Before Computers) – Page 3

Following the demise of Force of the Trojans, I was hired by Clearwater Films in Battersea – which no longer exists – to animate on various TV commercials. On most of these, I worked alongside Steven Asquith for directors David Mitton and Keith Turner. This led to more animation work on various other commercials for … Read more

Animation B.C. (Before Computers) – Page 4

My last animation work on a feature film was on the sequel, Gate II released in 1990 for which I contributed about half of the animation for special effects director Randy Cook (of Ghostbusters fame) at his Ruckus Studio. For Gate II (which went straight to video in this country and isn’t even available in Barnes) I … Read more