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Clip-Art Animation

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Something seems fishy about this picture.
"Guy drops a couple of jpegs in his cartoons and thinks he's like, the guy who draws the Lockhorns or something. And that guy knows funny!"
Strong Bad, Homestar Runner

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 and Cut and Paste Comic.


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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 — Animation 
  • 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.
  • NIMONA (2023): Nimona‚Äôs fairy tale in the trailer has a princess comprised and animated from what appear to be magazine clippings. Nimona in the same comic is a sketch clearly cut out from a notebook and there is a moment of dialogue comprised of a Cut-and-Paste Note.
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The introductory sequences in Monty Python's Flying Circus, and many of the shorts in it as well.
  • The opening titles of Desperate Housewives.
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Chase", shots of the Daleks' time machine pursuing the TARDIS through the Vortex are clearly achieved by moving cardboard cut-outs of the two ships on a painted background.
  • Good Eats does it on occasion as a Shout-Out to Terry Gilliam, Monty Python being one of the biggest influences on Alton Brown when he was conceptualizing the series.
  • The Ron James Show has the Li'l Ron segments animated through clip art.

  • 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.
  • The music video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Whatever You Like" is animated predominantly using pre-existing photos, albeit with the characters and products being heavily photoshopped to fit the video's absurdist tone. Weird Al's character, in particular, has lip syncing provided by at least a dozen different photos of his head.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • JibJab is famous for doing this for political parody.
  • Animutations, Flash animations featuring cutouts of random characters and things usually lifted from Google Image Search.
  • Homestar Runner
    • The animation "The Reddest Radish" consists of cutouts of the cast crudely colored in with crayon.
    • The Shirt Folding Store Manager in Teen Girl Squad Issue 11 is made up of various facial features cut out from a magazine article about Mary-Kate Olsen, as well as photos of Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
  • 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. It ranges from full-bodied cutouts to having the head just be a cutout while the body is drawn using CGI.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Adventures of Captain Vrungel is one of the few full-length series to be done in this style before computer animation, and the process of creating the 2 hours-worth of footage took about four years to complete. For some scenes using complicated simulated camera angles, though, they switch to cel animation.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cut Out Animation


The Morton Downey Jr. Show

After Downey does a monologue of a main topic in his show, it cuts the show's fact-paced intro of an animated picture of Downey with random things appearing around.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / AnimatedCreditsOpening

Media sources: