Cut-outs Vs Limited animation techniques

I thought that there might be some benefit gained by exploring the approaches to these techniques, similarities and differences.

There are distinct differences between cut-out puppets and limited animation which are often confused. Fundamentally, limited animation is a reduced form of more detailed hand drawn full animation. In the limited form the animator is deciding what parts of the action “must” move to produce the desired effect. It is a reduction method. The goal is to effectively tell the story with a reduced drawing and work load. If a character is talking the animator can “hold” most of the character and just move certain facial features, usually just the mouth but often more is needed. Layering provides a simple way to hold parts while other parts move above them in a separate layer or element. Computer software also aids in the limited process by allowing each layer to be manipulated with effects like rotations, this allows a single drawing to appear to move by changes in its position relative to other parts of the character. In true limited animation the animator only draws as much or as little of the character as the shot requires perhaps only their head and shoulders for a close up , etc.

Cut-out puppets are not normally approached the same as limited animation. Cut-out puppets are hinged and manipulated like their name implies “like a puppet”. The thing that often confuses many people between cut-out puppets and limited animation is the use of cell swapping of body parts inside the puppet “rig”. This reminds people of the “hold” and move aspect of limited animation. But cutout puppets tend to be animated in a more full animation style in that they almost always have all parts moving continuously from frame to frame as opposed to some holding and others moving. Although there are often fewer decisions involved in what to move and what to hold in cut-out puppetry and perhaps less drawings, it is actually a very labor intensive technique requiring significant key frame settings of each part of the rig on each frame. This is where it becomes extremely complicated because to have a cut-out not appear stiff and “puppet” like requires a lot of animation movements and is nearly as labor intense as full animation. Cut-out puppets are normally full body rigs and depend on the “camera” to move in or out for different shots, more of a live action approach.

From a composition perspective, limited animation is mostly composed more frequently in drawing view while cut-out techniques are totally composed in camera view. -JK