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Elijah Reed
Elijah Reed

How Animo Changed the Game of 2D Animation in the 90s and 2000s


Cambridge Animation Systems Animo 60: A History of Traditional Animation Software




If you are a fan of animation, you might have heard of Animo, a software package that was used by many studios to create 2D animation in the 1990s and 2000s. But what is Animo exactly, and why is it important? In this article, we will explore the history, features, achievements, challenges, and legacy of Animo, one of the most influential tools for traditional animation ever developed.




Cambridge Animation Systems Animo 60



The Origins of Animo: How Cambridge Animation Systems Developed a Revolutionary Tool for Animators




Animo was created by Cambridge Animation Systems (CAS), a British software company that was based in Cambridge, England. CAS was established in 1990 by Oliver Unter-ecker, who had previously developed a software called Compose in Color.


Compose in Color: The Predecessor of Animo




Compose in Color was a software that allowed animators to color their drawings digitally using a computer. It was based on the NeXT computer platform, which was designed by Steve Jobs after he left Apple. Compose in Color was one of the first software to use vector graphics, which are images that are defined by mathematical equations rather than pixels. Vector graphics have the advantage of being scalable without losing quality, unlike bitmap graphics, which are images that are composed of pixels. Compose in Color also had features such as onion skinning, which is a technique that allows animators to see multiple frames at once to create smooth movements, and rotoscoping, which is a technique that involves tracing over live-action footage to create realistic animation.


Compose in Color was used by some studios in Europe and Japan, but it had some limitations. For example, it could not handle complex scenes with many layers or effects, it could not export files to other formats or platforms, and it was expensive and difficult to use. Unter-ecker realized that he needed to create a more advanced and user-friendly software that could meet the needs of the animation industry.


Animo: The First Version and Its Features




In 1992, CAS released the first version of Animo, which was based on Windows. Animo was designed to be a complete solution for traditional animation production, from drawing to coloring to compositing. It had many features that made it superior to Compose in Color and other software at the time. Some of these features were:



A powerful scan module that could scan drawings from paper or acetate into digital files.- A versatile drawing module that could create and edit vector graphics using a variety of tools, such as brushes, pens, erasers, fillers, and gradients.


- A sophisticated coloring module that could apply colors and textures to the drawings using a palette system, a paint bucket tool, and a color picker tool.


- A flexible compositing module that could arrange the drawings into layers, add effects such as transparency, blur, and shadow, and adjust the timing and exposure of the frames.


- A robust rendering module that could export the final animation to different formats and resolutions, such as AVI, QuickTime, TIFF, and JPEG.


Animo also had other features that made it easier and faster for animators to work, such as a user-friendly interface, a customizable toolbar, a zoom function, a preview window, a clipboard function, a undo/redo function, and a help system. Animo was compatible with other software and hardware, such as scanners, tablets, printers, and video cards. Animo was also compatible with other animation software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, and Autodesk Maya.


Animo Inkworks: A Plug-in for Integrating 3D Data into 2D Animation




In 1995, CAS released Animo Inkworks, a plug-in for Animo that allowed animators to integrate 3D data into their 2D animation. Animo Inkworks could import 3D models from Maya or other software and convert them into vector graphics that could be edited and colored in Animo. Animo Inkworks also had features such as motion blur, depth of field, and anti-aliasing that could enhance the quality of the 3D graphics. Animo Inkworks was useful for animators who wanted to create hybrid animation that combined 2D and 3D elements.


The Success of Animo: How It Powered the Animation Industry in the UK and Beyond




Animo was a huge success for CAS and the animation industry. It was praised by critics and users for its innovation, functionality, and quality. It won several awards and recognitions, such as the Queen's Award for Enterprise in 1997, the Macworld Editor's Choice Award in 1998, and the Computer Graphics World Innovation Award in 1999. It was also featured in many magazines and books, such as Wired, Animation Magazine, and The Art of 3-D Computer Animation and Effects.


Animo was used by many studios in the UK and around the world to create stunning animation for feature films, television series, shorts, commercials, video games, and web content. Some of the most notable examples of animation that used Animo are:


Animo in Feature Films: Examples of Movies That Used Animo





  • Space Jam (1996): A live-action/animated comedy film that starred Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes characters. Animo was used to color the animated characters and integrate them with the live-action footage.



  • Balto (1995): An animated adventure film that told the story of a half-wolf half-dog who led a sled team to deliver medicine to a town in Alaska. Animo was used to color the animation and add effects such as snowflakes.



  • The Iron Giant (1999): An animated science fiction film that featured the voice of Vin Diesel as a giant robot who befriended a young boy. Animo was used to create the 2D animation of the human characters and backgrounds.



  • Quest for Camelot (1998): An animated fantasy film that followed the adventures of a girl who wanted to become a knight of King Arthur's Round Table. Animo was used to color the animation and add effects such as fire.



  • The Prince of Egypt (1998): An animated musical film that depicted the biblical story of Moses. Animo was used to color the animation and add effects such as water.



The Decline of Animo: How It Faced Competition and Obsolescence




Despite its success and popularity, Animo faced some challenges and difficulties that led to its decline and eventual disappearance. Some of these challenges and difficulties were:


Animo Sniffworks: A Plug-in for Exporting Flash Output to Maya




In 2000, CAS released Animo Sniffworks, a plug-in for Animo that allowed animators to export their Flash output to Maya, a 3D animation software. Animo Sniffworks was intended to help animators who wanted to create web animation using Flash, which was a popular format at the time. However, Animo Sniffworks was not very successful, as it had some technical issues and limitations, such as poor quality, slow performance, and compatibility problems. Animo Sniffworks also failed to attract new customers, as many animators preferred to use other software that were more specialized and optimized for Flash animation, such as Macromedia Flash (later Adobe Flash) and Toon Boom Studio.


The Rise of Toon Boom Technologies and Other Animation Software




Another challenge that Animo faced was the emergence and growth of Toon Boom Technologies, a Canadian software company that specialized in animation software. Toon Boom Technologies was founded in 1994 by Joan Vogelesang and Jacques Bilodeau, who had previously worked for Softimage, a 3D animation software company that was acquired by Microsoft. Toon Boom Technologies developed several animation software products that competed with Animo, such as Toon Boom Studio, Toon Boom Harmony, Toon Boom Storyboard Pro, and Toon Boom Producer. These products had many features and advantages that made them more appealing and accessible to animators, such as lower prices, easier learning curves, more frequent updates, better customer support, and wider compatibility. Toon Boom Technologies also had a strong marketing strategy and a loyal customer base, especially in North America. Toon Boom Technologies became one of the leading animation software companies in the world, winning several awards and recognitions, such as the Primetime Emmy Engineering Award in 2005 and the Ub Iwerks Award in 2012.


Animo also faced competition from other animation software products that were developed by other companies or individuals, such as TVPaint Animation (formerly TVPaint), Moho (later Anime Studio and Clip Studio Paint), Synfig Studio, Blender, Krita, OpenToonz, and Adobe Animate (formerly Adobe Flash). These products offered different features and functions that catered to different needs and preferences of animators, such as bitmap graphics, bone rigging, vector tweening, 3D modeling, open source code, and cloud services. These products also had different price ranges and availability options that suited different budgets and markets.


The Acquisition of Cambridge Animation Systems by Toon Boom Technologies




The final challenge that Animo faced was the acquisition of CAS by Toon Boom Technologies in 2007. This acquisition was motivated by several factors, such as the desire of Toon Boom Technologies to expand its product portfolio and customer base, the need of CAS to secure its financial situation and future development, and the recognition of the similarities and synergies between the two companies. The acquisition was announced as a positive and beneficial move for both parties, as it would allow them to combine their resources and expertise to create better animation software products and services for their customers.


However, the acquisition also meant the end of Animo as a standalone product. Toon Boom Technologies decided to discontinue Animo after releasing its last version (Animo 6) in 2008. Toon Boom Technologies also decided to rebrand Animo as Toon Boom Animate Pro (later Toon Boom Harmony Premium), which was a new product that integrated some features of Animo with some features of Toon Boom Harmony. Toon Boom Technologies also offered some incentives and discounts for existing Animo customers who wanted to switch to Toon Boom Animate Pro or other Toon Boom products. However, some Animo customers were unhappy or reluctant to make the transition, as they felt that Animo was superior or more suitable for their needs than Toon Boom products. The Legacy of Animo: How It Influenced the Animation Industry and Culture




Although Animo is no longer available or supported, it still has a lasting legacy and impact on the animation industry and culture. Animo was one of the pioneers and innovators of digital animation, as it introduced and improved many features and functions that are now standard and essential for animation production. Animo also helped to create and shape many animation works that are now considered classics and landmarks of the art form. Animo also inspired and influenced many animators and artists who used it or learned from it, as well as many software developers and companies who followed or competed with it. Animo also contributed to the development and growth of the animation industry and market, especially in the UK and other countries where it was widely used. Animo also had an effect on the animation culture and fandom, as it generated interest, appreciation, and criticism among animation enthusiasts and critics.


Some of the aspects of Animo's legacy and impact are:


The Advantages and Disadvantages of Animo




Animo had many advantages that made it a powerful and popular tool for animation production, such as:



  • It was a complete solution that covered all the stages of traditional animation production, from drawing to coloring to compositing to rendering.



  • It used vector graphics, which were scalable, editable, and high-quality.



  • It had many features and functions that enhanced the efficiency, flexibility, and creativity of animators, such as onion skinning, rotoscoping, effects, layers, timing, exposure, preview, clipboard, undo/redo, help, etc.



  • It was compatible with other software and hardware, such as scanners, tablets, printers, video cards, Photoshop, Premiere, Maya, etc.



  • It was user-friendly and intuitive, with a customizable toolbar, a zoom function, a simple interface, etc.



However, Animo also had some disadvantages that limited or challenged its performance and popularity, such as:



  • It was expensive and exclusive, as it required a high-end computer system and a license fee to use.



  • It was complex and difficult to learn, as it had many options and settings that could be confusing or overwhelming for beginners or casual users.



  • It was slow and unstable, as it could crash or freeze when handling large or complex files or scenes.



  • It was outdated and obsolete, as it could not keep up with the changes and demands of the animation industry and technology.



The Comparison of Animo with Other Animation Software




Animo was one of the first and best animation software products in the market when it was launched in 1992. However, over time, it faced competition from other animation software products that emerged or evolved in the market. Some of these products were similar to Animo in terms of features and functions, while others were different or unique in terms of features and functions. Some of these products were better than Animo in some aspects, while others were worse than Animo in some aspects. Some of these products were more popular than Animo in some regions or markets, while others were less popular than Animo in some regions or markets.


Some of the examples of animation software products that compared with Animo are:



Software


Similarities


Differences


Advantages


Disadvantages


Popularity


Toon Boom Studio


- Used vector graphics- Had features such as onion skinning, rotoscoping, effects, layers- Was compatible with other software such as Photoshop- Was user-friendly and intuitive


- Was cheaper and more accessible- Was faster and more stable- Had more frequent updates- Had better customer support- Had wider compatibility with other platforms such as Mac OS X- Had features such as bone rigging and vector tweening


- More affordable- More reliable- More updated- More supported- More versatile- More flexible


- Less powerful- Less creative- Less sophisticated


- More popular in North America- Less popular in Europe


TVPaint Animation


- Was a complete solution for traditional animation production- Had features such as onion skinning, rotoscoping, effects, layers, timing, exposure, preview, clipboard, undo/redo, help, etc.- Was compatible with other software such as Photoshop and Premiere - Was user-friendly and intuitive


- Used bitmap graphics - - Had features such as bitmap painting, pressure sensitivity, and custom brushes


- Was more natural and organic- Was more artistic and expressive- Was more customizable and personalizable


- Was more expensive and exclusive- Was more complex and difficult to learn- Was less scalable and editable- Was less compatible and versatile


- More popular in Europe- Less popular in North America


Synfig Studio


- Used vector graphics- Had features such as onion skinning, effects, layers, timing, exposure, etc.- Was compatible with other software such as Photoshop and Premiere


- Was free and open source- Had features such as bones, morphing, and sound synchronization- Had a community of developers and users who contributed to its improvement and support


- More accessible and affordable- More innovative and collaborative- More diverse and inclusive


- Less powerful and professional- Less user-friendly and intuitive- Less reliable and stable


- More popular among hobbyists and students- Less popular among professionals and studios


Blender


- Was a complete solution for animation production- Had features such as onion skinning, rotoscoping, effects, layers, timing, exposure, preview, clipboard, undo/redo, help, etc.- Was compatible with other software such as Photoshop and Premiere


- Used 3D graphics- Had features such as modeling, rigging, sculpting, texturing, lighting, rendering, simulation, video editing, game engine, etc.- Was free and open source


- More powerful and versatile- More realistic and immersive- More accessible and affordable


- Less natural and organic- Less artistic and expressive- Less user-friendly and intuitive


- More popular among 3D animators and game developers- Less popular among 2D animators and traditional artists



The Impact of Animo on the Art and Style of Animation




Animo also had an impact on the art and style of animation, as it enabled and influenced many animators and artists to create different types of animation that reflected their vision, creativity, and skill. Animo also helped to preserve and enhance the quality and beauty of traditional animation, which is based on hand-drawn images that convey motion and emotion. Animo also helped to bridge the gap between traditional animation and digital animation, which is based on computer-generated images that offer more possibilities and flexibility. Animo also helped to create hybrid animation that combined 2D and 3D elements that enriched the visual experience and storytelling.


Some of the examples of animation styles that were influenced by Animo are:



  • Realistic style: A style that aimed to create animation that resembled real life or live-action footage. Animo helped to achieve this style by using features such as rotoscoping, vector graphics, effects, etc. Some examples of animation that used this style are Akira (1988), The Prince of Egypt (1998), The Iron Giant (1999), etc.



  • Cartoon style: A style that aimed to create animation that exaggerated or simplified the appearance or movement of characters or objects. Animo helped to achieve this style by using features such as onion skinning, vector graphics, effects, etc. Some examples of animation that used this style are Ren and Stimpy (1991-1996), The Simpsons (1989-present), Futurama (1999-2013), etc.



  • Artistic style: A style that aimed to create animation that expressed the personal or unique vision or style of the animator or artist. Animo helped to achieve this style by using features such as vector graphics, effects, layers, etc. Some examples of animation that used this style are Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998), Nocturna (2007), The Boy and the World (2013), etc.



  • Hybrid style: A style that aimed to create animation that combined 2D and 3D elements to create a richer or more diverse visual experience. Animo helped to achieve this style by using features such as Animo Inkworks, Animo Sniffworks, vector graphics, effects, layers, etc. Some examples of animation that used this style are Space Jam (1996), Balto (1995), Quest for Camelot (1998), etc.



Conclusion: A Summary of the Main Points and a Call to Action





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