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Clip-Art Animation

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Something seems fishy about this picture.
The cheapest way to create an animated short is, simply put, not to animate it at all. Rather than actually creating a new set of cel animation drawings, you can simply take some existing piece of clip art and just sort of... move it around on the screen. It doesn't have to look realistic; in fact, the more obviously fake, the funnier it will be. While this is sometimes done for Stylistic Suck, it can sometimes be done to give the impression of a comic book.

While forms of this have been around for as long as film, it was until recently mostly associated Terry Gilliam's sequences in Monty Python's Flying Circus and the subsequent films. Now, however, with the explosion of web-based video collages, the techniques have become democratized, and entire new genres based on it have arisen.

Compare and contrast Battle of the Still Frames.


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  • The Guinness Draught "Brilliant!" ads that aired in America featured this style heavily.
  • Health Hotline: Ellie and her grandma are clip-art images with added animated mouths.

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played straight in Birdemic, which has a lot of this in its bird effects.
  • Madeline applies this to the front covers of the first three Madeline books in its opening credits, and to title and "Fin" cards drawn in a similar style.

    Live-Action TV 

  • The music videos for The Chalkeaters' "It Just Works" and "Count to Three" animates every character by having them stiffly move about while being propped up from below, giving them the appearance of stick puppets. When a character speaks, the top of their head unhinges at an angle, Pac-Man style.
  • The music video for Talking Heads' "And She Was" is animated in this style, using the inherent surrealism of a moving photocollage to tie in with the lyrics about a girl that would regularly recount her acid trips to frontman David Byrne.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Jib Jab is famous for doing this for political parody.
  • Animutations, Flash animations featuring cutouts of random characters and things usually lifted from Google Image Search.
  • Almost all Flash Poop variants of YouTube Poop are done that way.
  • The Homestar Runner animation "The Reddest Radish."
    • Also, the saleswoman in the Teen Girl Squad animation about the girls going to camp.
  • The Spongmonkeys, a pair of lemurs wearing hats and sporting rather creepy-looking human faces that were featured in Quiznos sub shop commercials.
  • Inferno Cop uses it to its fullest parodic potential. The characters are cut-out models who don't change — they even get reused as different characters.
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device: Essentially runs on a bunch of Warhammer 40,000 artwork, along with some additions (the infamous Fabstodes for example, are literally just the Pillar Men with blackened custodes helmets replacing their heads. Exaggerated in the "historical" scenes, which have literal paper cut-outs with pencil art of characters on them held up by visible Popsicle sticks. Later seasons do add some basic animation, in the form of having people's arms move up and down, or otherwise folding, although it's still quite limited. Leman Russ, for example, technically has a walking animation, but his art can't have its legs separated so he does so by hopping around like he's in a sack race.
  • Epithet Erased uses it to great effect.
  • Steamed hams but it's the icons on my desktop, as the name implies, is a recreation of the "Skinner vs. the Superintendent" skit from "22 Short Films About Springfield" using only Windows icons wiggled around over the desktop background.
  • In Cas van de Pol's recap animation of Madagascar, Alex giving into his hunger and wild nature is symbolised by having him transform into a photo of a lion. Multiple photos of lions (and a hand, at one point) are moved about and used for scenes of him running, roaring and sulking.

    Western Animation 
  • The Marvel Super Heroes, one of the few uses not meant solely for comedy. It was like watching a comic book on TV with classic art by comic book greats like Jack Kirby.
  • Angela Anaconda: It's très interesting how they did this. They had models come in and take about 30 or so pictures for every mouth movement and a mouth movement for every letter in the alphabet. They then took the model's face and mouth movements and created each character.
  • Parodied in the "Badly Animated Man" shorts on Raw Toonage: the titular character is "animated" in this manner, while every other character is done in Disney's typical fluid style.
  • South Park was originally done like this, at least for the pilot - today, it's done in CGI drawn to resemble this style.
  • MAD does this when spoofing real people.
  • All of the land animals from Fish Hooks.
  • One episode of Arthur featured a parody of South Park where Arthur Read is kidnapped by aliens and Buster Baxter is crushed by their flying saucer.
  • Golden Book Video was known for doing this in their Animated Adaptations of their various Golden books, taking the illustrations from the books and adding cheesy limited animation effects at times, a technique Golden Book Video called "Picturemation."
  • Animaniacs used this in "The Presidents Song" in an intentional Terry Gilliam-esque manner, "animating" old portraits and photographs of the past presidents.
  • The storybook characters in Super Why!.
  • Wonder Pets! is animated with cut-out photographs.
  • Transformers Beginnings; based on the prequel comics for the film.
  • The [adult swim] cartoon Tom Goes to the Mayor was done using this. The people in the show appeared to be clip art photographs run through Photoshop's "Photocopy" algorithm to render them monochromatic (blue, looking somewhat like a mimeograph of a traced photo) and would usually Jump Cut from pose to pose, with occasional more "sophisticated" movement (like cutting the photograph's arm at the elbow and moving the forearm piece from side to side to make them appear to wave).
  • Giant Realistic Flying Tiger from Uncle Grandpa is done this way.
  • Twice Upon a Time uses a technique its director calls Lumage. The characters are made of small pieces of plastic or fabric that are moved on top of a light table. It also uses black-and-white photographs for the land of Din, which is meant to be the real world.
  • The Adventures of Prince Achmed uses a similar technique known as silhouette animation, which uses jointed figures made of black cardboard lit from behind. The effect is similar to Oriental shadow puppets.
  • Cartoon short Frank Film does this throughout, as Frank Mouris illustrates the story of his life with clip art animation. It's taken to the limit here as the clip art sometimes involves a bewildering number of clips flying by at blinding speed.
  • The animated Bibleman videos will have a Once an Episode sequence telling a story from the Bible done in a style resembling that of flannel.
  • The Red Book is an experimental short showing a woman with amnesia struggling to regain her meories, done with cut-outs against painted backgrounds.

Alternative Title(s): Cut Out Animation