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6 Things Animators Can Learn From Experimental Animation

ben marvazi 2020

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Expand Your Animation Studio Boundaries With Experimental Animation

Exploring the world of experimental animation is like unlocking endless new creative possibilities. 

It's an area of animation that invites you to push beyond the usual boundaries, to mix and remix ideas, techniques, and storytelling methods in ways that conventional animation might not. 

Think of experimental animation as your playground—a space where the rules are flexible, and the potential for innovation is boundless.

a lab flask exploding after substances are mixed

GIF Ben Stillman via GIPHY

Experimental animation encourages animators to experiment with their craft, blending traditional elements with cutting-edge techniques to create something entirely new. 

This approach doesn't just open the door to unique visual experiences; it also sharpens your skills, broadens your creative horizons, and deepens your understanding of animation's narrative power.

In this post, we’ll dive into experimental animation and how animators can learn from it. Consider it an exercise in creative freedom. 

Embracing experimental animation is about producing something unconventional and enriching your toolkit as an animator. It's about learning to use your medium to its fullest potential, conveying stories and emotions in novel and impactful ways. 

Here’s how…

1. What is Experimental Animation?

At its core, experimental animation is about breaking free from the conventional narrative and aesthetic confines of mainstream animation. 

a black and white animation of a character creating an explosive mixture

GIF by Fleischer Studios via GIPHY

It’s a realm where animators dare to explore, question, and redefine what animation can be. This exploration is not just for the sake of novelty; it’s a deliberate pursuit of new ways to express ideas, emotions, and stories through animation.

Imagine you're painting, but instead of using brushes, you decide to use your fingers, the wind, or even the movement of light. 

Experimental animation allows for a similar level of exploration and innovation but within the context of animation. It challenges you to think of animation not just as a series of moving images, but as a canvas for expressing complex ideas and emotions in dynamic, unconventional ways.

The beauty of experimental animation lies in its versatility. You can blend traditional techniques like hand-drawn animation with digital effects, or combine stop-motion with live-action footage. 

The possibilities are endless, and each experiment opens up new avenues for storytelling and visual expression.

2. Embracing Creativity and Innovation

a scientist bobbing his head looking at lab equipment


One of the most valuable lessons from experimental animation is the importance of creativity and innovation. 

In this space, animators are encouraged to let their imagination run wild, to invent and reinvent, and to see every project as an opportunity to try something new. It’s about viewing animation as an ever-evolving art form, one that thrives on fresh ideas and perspectives.

Think of your animation projects as laboratories for creative experimentation. Whether it's experimenting with narrative structures, visual styles, or animation techniques, each project offers a unique opportunity to explore and push the limits of your creativity. 

A practical tip for embracing this creative freedom is to start small. Experiment with a single aspect of your animation, such as the color palette, the animation style, or the way you frame your shots

Notice how even minor adjustments can dramatically alter the mood, tone, or meaning of your work. These small experiments can lead to significant insights about your creative preferences and capabilities.

3. Exploring New Animation Techniques and Technologies

a stop-motion geographic animation

GIF by LoupBlaster via GIPHY

Diving into experimental animation opens a world where the latest techniques and technologies are not just tools, but playgrounds for creativity. 

This exploration is about more than mastering new software or gadgets; it's about understanding how these innovations can transform storytelling, visual aesthetics, and audience engagement in animation.

Imagine integrating virtual reality (VR) into your animation to create immersive experiences that allow viewers to step inside your stories. Or, consider how augmented reality (AR) could bring animated characters to life in the real world, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. 

Another avenue worth exploring is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in animation.

a robot walking and flying happily

GIF by Tony Babel via GIPHY

AI can automate certain aspects of the animation process, such as in-betweening or colorization, freeing up time for animators to focus on more creative tasks.

But beyond practical benefits, AI can also be a collaborator in the creative process, generating unique patterns, textures, or even story ideas that can inspire new directions in your work.

4. Learning to Work with Limited Resources

One of the most empowering lessons from experimental animation is learning to create impactful work with limited resources. 

This aspect of experimental animation teaches resourcefulness, adaptability, and the ability to see potential in the simplest tools and materials.

Consider the use of everyday objects in stop-motion animation, where items like clay, paper, or even food can become the stars of your story. 

These materials, while simple, offer a tactile quality and charm that can’t be replicated with high-end software. They remind us that creativity, not budget, is the driving force behind compelling animation.

a paper-drawn animation of a dancing robot

GIF by Kasper Werther via GIPHY

Working with limitations also encourages problem-solving and innovation. Faced with constraints, animators learn to think creatively, finding alternative ways to tell their stories or achieve a particular visual effect. 

A practical tip for working within constraints is to focus on the strengths of the resources at your disposal. Instead of lamenting what you don’t have, look for ways to maximize what you do have. 

5. Developing a Personal Style

a black an white line animation of different moving objects

GIF by adamploomis via GIPHY

Perhaps one of the most significant contributions of experimental animation to an animator’s journey is the opportunity it provides for developing a personal style. 

Through experimentation, animators can explore various facets of their creativity, gradually honing a distinct voice and aesthetic that sets their work apart.

This process of self-discovery involves trial and error, exploring different genres, techniques, and narratives to see what resonates with you and your audience. It’s about embracing your unique perspective and experiences and allowing them to inform your work.

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A practical step toward developing your style is to create passion projects—animations that are driven purely by your interests and curiosity. These projects allow you to experiment freely without the constraints of client briefs or market demands. 

Over time, the themes, techniques, and visual elements that consistently appear in your work will begin to define your personal style.

Remember, developing a personal style is an ongoing process. It evolves as you grow as an animator and as a person. By continuing to explore and experiment with experimental animation, you not only refine your style but also keep it fresh and relevant.

6. The Role of Experimentation in Problem-Solving

two sticks solving a shape puzzle

GIF by Equal Parts Studio via GIPHY

One of the most transformative aspects of engaging with experimental animation is its role in enhancing problem-solving skills. 

This process isn't just about overcoming technical challenges; it's about viewing every obstacle as an opportunity for creative innovation. 

By adopting an experimental mindset, animators learn to approach problems from multiple angles, often discovering solutions that are as unique as the animations they create.

Experimentation encourages a mindset of curiosity and persistence. When faced with a challenge, instead of opting for the first solution that comes to mind, take a step back and consider a range of possibilities. 

experimental jungle animation

GIF by LoupBlaster via GIPHY

Ask yourself, "How can I approach this differently?" This open-ended question can lead to creative breakthroughs that not only solve the problem at hand but also elevate the overall quality of your work.

A practical way to integrate experimentation into problem-solving is to allocate time for brainstorming and prototyping. Before committing to a particular approach, experiment with several solutions.

Embracing failure as part of the learning process is crucial. Not every experiment will succeed, but each attempt provides valuable insights that contribute to your growth as an animator.

Get Ahead of the Curve With Experimental Animation 

Experimental animation is more than just a style or genre; it's a mindset that can transform the way animators approach their craft. 

an animated virtual lab icon

Image by Freepik via Flaticon

Through the exploration of new techniques, technologies, and storytelling methods, animators can push the boundaries of what's possible, unlocking new levels of creativity and innovation. 

As we've explored the various facets of experimental animation, it's clear that this approach offers a wealth of opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Want to learn how to grow your skills and your animation business? If you’re an animator who’s looking to start your own studio or grow your career, check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio and GET FREE TRAINING to kickstart your animation career today.

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