Cutout animation is a form of stop-motion animation using flat characters, props and backgrounds cut from materials such as paper, card, stiff fabric or photographs. The cut outs are used as puppets for stop motion. Cut-out animation puppets can be made with figures that have joints made with a rivet or pin or, when simulated on a computer, an anchor. These connections act as mechanical linkage, which have the effect of a specific, fixed motion.
The technique of most cut-out animation is comparable to that of shadow play, but with stop motion replacing the manual or mechanical manipulation of flat puppets. Flat, jointed puppets have been in use in shadow plays for many centuries, such as in the Indonesian wayang tradition and in the “ombres chinoises” that were especially popular in France in the 18th and 19th century. The subgenre of silhouette animation is more closely related to these shadow shows and to the silhouette cutting art that has been popular in Europe especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Cut-out techniques were relatively often used in animated films until cel animation became the standard method (at least in the United States). Before 1934, Japanese animation mostly used cut-out techniques rather than cel animation, because celluloid was too expensive.
While sometimes used as a relatively simple and cheap animation technique in children’s programs (for instance in Ivor the Engine), cut-out animation has also often been used as a highly artistic medium that distinguishes itself more clearly from hand-drawn animation. Today, cut-out-style animation is frequently produced using computers, with scanned images or vector graphics taking the place of physically cut materials.
Of most relevance to my work here are:
– puppets manipulation of cut-out photographs, drawings and other flat materials.
– manipulation of drawings and paintings in natural media like charcoal and scraperboard to produce expressive lines
For other types of stop motion see my research and own work in:
History and Evolution
The world’s earliest known animated feature films were political cut-out animations made in Argentina by Quirino Cristiani. He generally animated on his own. One film could take 7-8 months. Unfortunately the films were burned in a fire, and not much remains.
Made extraordinarily elaborate silhouette animations. She invented the multiplane camera with background, middle ground and foreground and lit from below to give the illusion of depth.
She used a similar technique to produce different monochrome and coloured styles with different degrees of ornament and abstraction in the cut-outs.
Her earliest animations were: Das Ornament des Verliebten Herzens (1919); Amor und das Standhafte Liebespaar (1920); Der Fliegende Koffer (1921); Der Stern von Bethlehem (1921); Aschenputtel (1922); Das Geheimnis der Marquise (1922, advertisement for Nivea); Dornröschen (1922) and Barcarole (1924, advertisment for Mauxion).
Her most famous film is “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” 1926 – the oldest surviving full-length animated film. Pre-dating Disney by a decade.
She continued to make dozens of shorts throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Other projects were her fantastical short animation, “Papageno” (1935), and a dazzling struggle between the Frog Prince and a covetous octopus. She moved to London to escape from Hitler in 1938 and worked and lived in the United Kingdom until her death in 1982.
Japanese cut-out animation
Before 1934, Japanese animation mostly used cut-out techniques rather than cel animation, because celluloid was too expensive.
Some modern Japanese animators have also used cut-out with painted puppets.
Russian cut-out animation
!! More research needed
Czech animator Dagmar Doubková created several short cut- out animations, often with a feminist message and very distinctive painted style:
– as Oparádivé Sally (1976) (broadcast in the USA as About Dressy Sally on Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel)
– Sbohem, Ofélie (Goodbye Ophelia) (1978)
– Královna Koloběžka první (Queen Scooter First) (1981)
– The Impossible Dream (1983)
– Shakespeare 2000 (1988)
She later co-founded 3D Art And Animation Studio with her husband.
United States and Canada
Digital cut-out animation
Many digital software programmes can now produce different types of cut-out puppet animation styles.
Physical cut-outs can be filmed in Stop Motion using Stop Motion Studio on the iPad or Dragon Frame on the pc.
Software like Adobe Animate and Adobe After Effects have 2D puppet rigging features to manipulate photos of physical puppets or imports of digital puppets from digital drawing programmes like Illustrator or Photoshop.