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"As a cartoon blues man might say, if it wasn't for limited animation, we wouldn't have no animation at all."

Back in the early start of The Golden Age of Animation, to make a cartoon, you would have to draw (or if it’s Technicolor, draw and color in) every single frame. And it was tiring. In fact, one minute of a cel animation cartoon played at 24 frames per second takes over one thousand drawings! To make this easier, a new kind of cel animation was created – limited animation.

Limited animation is the practice of using mix-and-match parts in animation, rather than having a completely new drawing for every new frame. This trope also covers using deliberately abstract character designs and backgrounds that will not obviously clash with the low production values.

The technique was popular in the early days of animation and can be seen in J.R Bray's first animations and early comedy shorts like the Colonel Heeza Liar series, since it had very stiff animation to the point of basically being moving comic strips.

The more detailed and realistic animation of Disney and Fleischer Studios would eventually take over and dominate the field, until the 1940s and 1950s, when two things happened: Chuck Jones's The Dover Boys short over at Warner Bros. and John Hubley's... everything at United Productions of America.

John Hubley from UPA was a well-known advocate of limited animation as art. He encouraged animators to experiment with primitivism and expressionism in the 1950s and 1960s, leading to the development of some pretty trippy stylized backdrops and character models that would became a major influence in the following years, with most Western television animation owing something to UPA shorts like Gerald McBoing-Boing to some degree.

Speaking of television, its place in the widespread reemergence of limited animation definitely cannot be forgotten. While Chuck Jones and John Hubley were playing with limited animation from an artistic standpoint, studios like Hanna-Barbera and Filmation quickly recognized it as a way to save time and money. Television work had much smaller budgets and required quicker turn-around times for a finished product than cinema, and limited animation provided a much-needed middle ground between expensive "full" animation and the motion comic style of previous television works like Crusader Rabbit. This didn't stop Jones, who believed that the best animation can be watched without a soundtrack, from being extremely critical of Hanna-Barbera's cut-rate animation style though, dubbing even this more comparatively lively approach "illustration radio."

The radio comparison isn't entirely inaccurate, however: limited animation leans heavily on its writing and voice acting due to the rather limited visuals. While most works live and die by the strength of their story, limited animation especially forces the creators to write well and for the voice talent to have excellent delivery, as the spectacle of fun cartoony or flashy action-packed animation will not save them... because there isn't any. Unless you're Studio TRIGGER, anyway. You see, Japanese anime also uses limited animation, but in a different way than the West. Alongside reusing drawings, things like less-frequent eye blinks keep down costs even more, while speed lines with abstract backgrounds, rendered long shots of incredibly detailed backgrounds, and a long list of visual tropes keeps the audience more visually engaged in a manner that is often lacking in Western productions.

Finally, in a certain sense, all animation is limited in one particular way: with very few exceptions, it's foreground animation over static backgrounds. Or, for something like a train passing behind some buildings or trees, background animation over static foreground. In very early animation (e.g., Gertie the Dinosaur), the environment was redrawn for each frame. In very short order, it became clear that drawing your characters separately and laying those drawings over that environment/location (that might not change for minutes at a time) was the best way to do things. Today, this technique is so universal it scarcely bears mentioning. Scenes where the background is not static are incredibly rare, very expensive, and can look pretty odd. CG animation operates under different rules, but the basic principle is still the same: focus the bulk of your time and processing power on the characters rather than any environmental elements they won't interact with.note 

Though, because there is a difference between Limited Animation and fully produced animation, it can become used for an Art Shift as contrast for the main work, which is especially popular for exposition or flashback narratives.

As technology has progressed, the ability to produce animated storyboards became more common with the advent of software like Adobe Flash and Toon Boom, which may be released to the public as promotional material. Its primary use is being able to use crude CG or hand drawn images on top of a similarly crude background for the more detailed animation to use as a guideline for final editing and vocal timing. The same process has been used for "animated comics" where genuinely hand drawn comics are animated via voice over, use of The Ken Burns Effect or simplistic effects plug-ins like smoke and fire. Video Games also use it by necessity. Nowadays on TV it is a Discredited Trope because TV animation has become fuller and fluid since the 1970's and the 1980's and onwards, but this method can be used for Web animations.

See also The Dark Age of Animation.

Common Sub-Tropes:

One extreme form is Synchro-Vox, which involves live-action lips mixed onto unmoving cel drawings. Compare Lazy Artist (which is sometimes associated with this trope), Stylistic Suck (when this trope is invoked as an intentional Shout-Out to low-budget cartoons), and Picture Drama (animations compounded by shots of still images). Contrast Disneyesque.

Since this is such a widespread trope, examples should be particularly notable, or play with this.

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  • This was also put forward as one of the driving reasons behind early Humongous Mecha genre and spaceship shows such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Space Battleship Yamato. Big robots and spaceships are a lot easier to animate with minimal motion and fewer keyframes than organics, because if they look jerky and awkward, well, they're mechanical, so it does not look out of place.
  • Parodied in Cromartie High School, where even the characters sometimes complain about the obvious lack of animation.
  • Lampshaded in the Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! shorts (Nyaruani), where often the title card will say things like "Sorry, there's not much movement in this one". Of course, it's worth noting that Nyaruani was primarily made with Adobe Flash (a program that thrives on this method) as opposed to traditional animation.
  • This is practically Studio TRIGGER's signature style, most evident in Inferno Cop and Ninja Slayer, which are completely and partially animated with still frames, respectively. However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the limited animation is used primarily for casual or comedic scenes to make them even funnier, as well as avoiding budgetary issues that were so prevalent in the studio it was descended from, Gainax.
    • Kill la Kill, in addition to indulging with this to save the budget every so often (with episodes 4 and 22 being standout examples), makes it a character trait to Nui Harime, a cute, yet psychotic fourth-wall-breaker. A part of the off-putting, eerily wrong air she gives is the fact that she almost never seems to make full movements, but instead tensely jumps around or else floats between places with her Parasol Parachute. In battles, she appears to stand completely still aside from her primary hand most of the time, and even when she's jumping around to evade her foes, her character model spins around like a cardboard cut-out, stiff as a board.
      • A lot of Mako's animation seems to have been based on the same rules as Nui's, but in her case it's Played for Laughs.
    • All over the place in Space Patrol Luluco, most notably with Over Justice who is an Expy of Inferno Cop. With the exception of the flames, he only has a single frame of animation, until he gets serious and receives a massive Animation Bump.
  • The notoriously bad Chargeman Ken!, where the number of frames of animation in any given scene is usually in the single digits.
  • The 1985 OVA Twinkle Nora Rock Me! is even less animated than Chargeman Ken!, to the point where it often looks like they just colored in the storyboards and animated the mouths. Check out this "dance" scene.
  • The anime of Little Pollon, while not even close to being as bad as Ken or Nora, has animation so limited that it more resembles something from the 1960s than something made in 1982 (its year of release).
  • The animated version of Tonari no Kashiwagi-san is a motion comic, so it's not much more than a colorised manga with audio and Mouth Flaps.
  • Gainax took this to its logical extreme with Neon Genesis Evangelion. Because they used up most their budget for the show midway through, they had to use limited animation for non-fight scenes and outright ditched the planned ending (which later saw a feature-film adaptation) because it would've been too expensive. Nevertheless, Episode 26 resorted to using still drawings most of the time and little-to-no backgrounds. To quote RebelTaxi, Gainax "blew their budget on Evangelion so hard, they had to finish the final episode using goddamn Crayola markers." This became something of a Gainax trademark, also showing up in series such as His and Her Circumstances (with episode 19 standing out for depicting all the characters as paper cutouts instead of fully animating them).
  • Invoked with Teekyuu, where all characters have rapid-fire speech featuring only two mouth flaps per character.
  • Parodied in Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, with Sakamoto climbing a staircase multiple steps at a time to appear to simply glide up it. A bystander comments that it was a brilliant pantomime.
  • Used to impressive effect in this Love Live! Fan Vid.
  • Played with in Carnival Phantasm. Taiga's animation is really detailed in the first Taiga Dojo segment, with a number of Super-Deformed antics. Then in the next episode, it's revealed just how much that animation cost (325,000 yen - about $3,000 - for 40 seconds of animation), and to get back on budget, she's been reduced to line art, and her companion Ilya has no intermediate frames.
  • The "Bob Epic Team" segments in Pop Team Epic play with this, either going all out with animation or having very little animation at all. One segment, adapting the "complaint letter" strip, the writer complains that "Bob Epic Team" does not have enough keyframes and is poorly made, which is done against a completely static image of Popuko and Pipimi reading the letter. Popuko is so moved by the letter writer's complaint that she resolves to completely solve the issue, and then starts dancing at 60 frames per second in a clearly rotoscoped animation cycle, while Pipimi remains static.
  • A "good" example of this occurs in episode 16 of Fire Force, "We Are Family". Giovanni has Vulcan at his mercy and, when sufficiently angered, starts angrily rambling at him. The problem is that nothing moves on screen during alot of this and it's just a few static pictures that Giovanni—who is wearing a mask and therefore we can't see his lips moving—is talking over. When motion does return a few minutes later, it quickly gives way to what could easily be an animated GIF of Giovanni swinging his arm and cane as he smashes some of Vulcan's belongings in rage.
  • Fuuun Ishin Dai Shogun is often noted for two things: having gorgeous character designs with incredibly detailed outfits and accessories, paired with an atrocious animation made with Flash: at most, they animate the mouths of talking characters, but all other forms of movement are clumsly done with stiff effects or are actually still pictures with the camera panning over them, and in some other cases is plain badly done (for example, a case of breast bounce where only the clothed part of the breasts actually move). Most of the animation budget is spent for the giant mecha battles... which sadly tends to be rather short.
  • The 1997 adaptation of Berserk doesn't feature much movement in its fight scenes outside of brief moments, and uses the Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame with such regularity that you could probably set your watch to it. Kentaro Miura's artwork being far too detailed for fluid animation to mimic easily was likely a factor.
  • The Way of the Househusband's anime adaptation uses very minimal animation, looking more in the vein of a motion comic than a fully animated series (the anime's director, Chiaki Kon, used a very similar approach to Back Street Girls, another anime she directed). This was a deliberate choice by the anime's producer.
  • Detroit Metal City's OVA deliberately chose to use this style, making the show look like a motion comic made up of the panels from the original manga with colour, sound and music added. Movement and animation are present, but very limited and often used only to depict fast movement or action scenes.
  • The animation of Nobara no Julie is so limited that at times it resorts to cutting to live action footage.
  • Isabelle of Paris (made by the same company behind Nobara no Julie) has limited frames and moves the characters in a choppy manner.
  • Princess Diana: The anime was made on short noticenote , hence the animation being very choppy and noticably low-quality.

    Comic Books 
  • The entire "motion comic" genre is built on this, taking stills from comic art and composing them together, often with text bubbles redacted from the scene and voice acting used in its place. Usually this is a montage of stills, but often mixed up with slow pans and zooms, or some slight shifting in positions of objects to give the impression of motion. Several video game franchises have used these as tie-in materials, such as Metal Gear, Dead Space, and Halo: Evolutions all having motion comic adaptations or side-stories.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The 3 Little Pigs: The Movie is a strange case, as while some shots are very well animated, the rest of the animation on the whole is pretty choppy and frequently uses walk cycles, with well animated shots often sandwiched between what feels like shots done at 4 frames per second.
  • Disney:
    • One of the earliest uses of limited animation was the "Baby Weems" segment of the 1941 Disney film The Reluctant Dragon. It tells the story of a baby genius in storyboard sketches with occasional bits of movement, to show how story artists plan a cartoon.
    • Experiments with it in such shorts as Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom and The Saga Of Windwagon Smith.
    • Implementing it on a feature film: Robin Hood (1973) uses anime-style limited animation, reusing bits of animation not only from within the movie but from previous movies as well.
    • Fantasia has one of the most ambitious uses of this ever devised — the five-minute long "Ave Maria" sequence, comprised of holy people traveling across the landscape, has barely any animation at all. Almost all of the "movement" is done by the camera, including a 160 second ending shot pulling into a gorgeous sunrise.
    • In Wreck-It Ralph, the Nicelanders are animated less smoothly than the other characters, to mimic the limited animation of 8-bit video games.
    • In Turning Red, this is used in a couple scenes:
      • When Mei pushes Stacy back into the bathroom stall only Mei's arm moves and Stacy simply slides back.
      • Whe Mei and her friends peek into the Daisy Mart, their heads slide in in unison with a fixed expression on their faces.
  • Yellow Submarine, Depending on the Artist (a who's who of British animators worked on the film). Ironically, The Beatles saw it as a throwaway project and assumed that it'd be animated in the style of their 1965 cartoon, which was done Hanna-Barbera–style by the same people. They changed their minds after seeing the finished film.
  • The opening sequence of Watership Down, storyboarded by John Hubley, who died before its release. The hallucination sequences are drawn on the same model, notable for its Art Shift to detailed naturalistic animation and back again.
  • Subverted by The Thief and the Cobbler parts of which look like limited animation but was in fact painstakingly crafted cel-by-cel by its lead animator over a 30-year period, only to be farmed out to other studios for completion.
  • Ironically, Williams's first film, The Little Island, actually did use limited animation. This is partially justified in that The Little Island was his first animated film and because of the incredibly deep philosophical background of the film.
  • Done for deliberate stylistic effect (and to avoid essentially hand-drawing each frame on the desktop, thus enforcing the trope all over again) on a lot of modern Thick-Line Animation and Flash animation.
  • The animated Spaghetti Western West and Soda has limited, television quality animation and a UPA-ish art style.
  • Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins is one of the first examples of digitally-produced 2D animation, and boy, does it show. One fight scene near the end is about five minutes long, but seems to have about one minute of unique animation in it, with multiple short sequences being reused multiple times. Most obviously, a scene with an army of Tarakatans charging out of a cave has all the Tarakatans using the same running animation.
  • Played for Laughs in the post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. When Spider-Man 2099 arrives in the world of the 1967 cartoon series, not only is the animation the same as the old cartoon, but Miguel's animation is changed to it as well. This makes his temper tantrum over them pointing at each other hilarious as he's just hopping in place. In the sequel, Spider Man-67 appears again as he tries to apprehend Miles with a dramatic swing...only to miss him completely due to only having two frames of animation.
  • Hercules (Pure Magic) has a few scenes where the same animation is clearly being looped enough times in a row to be conspicuous. In some cases, the start and end frames of the loop don't line up well at all, causing a clear skip in the animation.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: It's subtle, but the animation was all filmed on threes to emulate the "jerky" stop-start quality of the stop-motion Rankin/Bass Productions which inspired Tim Burton.
  • Bolívar, el Héroe has animation so rough that it makes Hanna-Barbera look like Avatar. Large portions of the film consist of the characters just standing around and talking, and when they do move it's in a very janky and marionette-like way.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Terry Gilliam's famous animations on Monty Python's Flying Circus consisted entirely of this. Though he used it to cope with tight deadlines, he adds that it also helped with comedic timing when characters weren't drawn making flowing, graceful movements, and instead jerked quickly from point A to point B.
  • Mr. Show (which is influenced by Monty Python) had a few particular sketches with this, most notably the animals in the Biosphere sketch as well as the "who you meet in Heaven". The birds in the Intervention link are (slightly) better about this. Overlapping with Roger Rabbit Effect.
  • Poked fun at repeatedly in this sketch entitled "Cheapo Cartoon Man" from London Weekend Television.
  • Reconstructions of Doctor Who Missing Episodes do this a lot, as any motion usually has to be extracted from still images or painted on top of them. Characters talking will be an edited slideshow, Daleks will move around like paper cutouts (with their head bulbs flashing as they speak correctly), occasionally there will be an animated sandstorm or a CGI flame, but everything else is usually just production slides. Even the cartoon reconstructions suffer from this due to the very low budgets, although how much depends on what studio is making them. Some will take the easy route and use Flash, but others such as Planet 55 Studios will take painstaking lengths to create breathtaking visuals.
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert uses this for their recurring "Cartoon Trump (Hillary, Putin, etc.)" characters, who have only three or maybe four moves that they repeat unless an extra is added as The Reveal for a punch line. These are animated in time for a same-day broadcast.
  • Jake Tapper on CNN hosts a short segment called "State of the Cartoonion," where he discusses recent political events over the backdrop of self-drawn political cartoons. Most of the caricatures only have animated faces.
  • Uncle Mistletoe, a local Chicago kids program that aired on WENR-TV from 1948-52, featured a "cartoon" segment which was produced in a most peculiar way. Artist Sam Singer (of later The Adventures of Paddy the Pelican and Bucky and Pepito infamy) and his assistant Bill Newton would sketch cartoons on acetate sheets that would be projected via two overhead projectors onto two screens, each of which had a TV camera focused on it. By switching quickly between the cameras, a crude form of animation could be achieved. Like most early TV programs, Uncle Mistletoe aired live, and Singer and Newton drew the cartoons while on the air, making it the closest anyone got to achieving "live animation" (no one knows if they suffered from terrible wrist pain in the process).

  • The display animations in Avengers: Infinity Quest have practically no in-betweening, with characters either moving around the screen while holding the same pose or simply snapping between poses.

    Video Games 
  • Nintendo:
    • The early Game & Watch systems used LCD screens (the same architecture used in calculators), so limited animation was a technical constraint. Carried over into Mr. Game & Watch in Super Smash Bros., who moves in herky-jerky single frames.
    • Wario also does this in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, as a reference to his lack of animation in many of his own games. From the fourth games onward, Wario averts this trope instead.
    • A third example would be Pit, who had only appeared in an NES and Game Boy game before he was added to the Super Smash Bros. series. Despite this, most of his animation averts this... the exception being when he picks up the Hammer, for which he uses the jerky two-frame mallet animation from his own series as a reference. This also applies to his Moveset Clone, Dark Pit.
    • Mega Man also has this in order to emulate his 8-bit incarnation.
    • Steve has this replicated in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate where a lot of his attacks are very choppy to reference the style used in Minecraft.
  • Some of the animation bits in Final Fantasy VI can be downright funny because of the video game's limits. For example, it looks like Locke is throwing Terra around in one scene.
  • Metal Gear:
    • The series mixes in-game cutscenes with CODEC conversations - whenever the protagonist talks over the radio, small pictures representing the characters are shown, with only the lips moving. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty upped it slightly by including full animations of the characters, which led to a Hong Kong Dub effect - lips were wildly out of sync with what the characters were saying. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was even more limited - whoever Snake was talking to was represented by a still picture, and Snake himself was in the shadows. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots avoided this entirely by showing a full video of whoever Snake was talking to. This has the interesting side-effect of implying the technology improves over time (3 is a prequel).
    • The PSP games used limited, motion comic-style animation in the cutscenes as a stylistic choice. It's actually still quite impressive.
  • Cutscenes in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars are represented by very limited animation - unless the characters move their heads, even their lips don't move.
  • Most of the beginning cutscene in Ultima VI looks like a bunch of paper dolls - the figures are moving, but not animated. This was fairly common in late 80s-early 90s games.
  • Pencil Whipped depicts it's onscreen graphics - enemies, the players, deathtraps, and even burning fire - as static still frames, meant to look like pencil drawings coming to life on a notebook.
  • Pokémon games have used different variants in the later 2D-era games.
    • In Pokémon Emerald and all Generation IV games, Pokémon battle sprites alternate between two distinct frames upon being sent out/encountered, but with some rotation and flashing to create the illusion that there are more frames than there actually are.
    • Pokémon Black and White's animated battle sprites use rigs to connect the moving body parts to each other.
  • Dragon Quest IX renders some characters with polygons, but not all of them. The inkeepers at Stornway become 3D only when you talk to them behind the bar.
  • In Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, Phoenix Wright's mouth isn't in sync with his words, and in his Level 3 Hyper animation, it just looks like his mouth alternates between a smug smile and hanging open. This was to emulate the text based nature of his games that only had a couple of voice clips each, as in those games someone's mouth would just flap open as the text entered the screen. Also, in said Hyper Combo, the affected opponent would stay in one static pose devoid of animation even as they gave anguished screams as a reference to his games' limited frames of animation.
  • Played with in Guilty Gear Xrd: the game is fully rendered in cel-shaded 3D, but the animation was made intentionally choppy to emulate the aesthetic of classic 2D fighting games.
    • Played straight in all of the other games in the series and pretty much every Arc System Works fighting game in general: large and gorgeously drawn 2D sprites, but the tradeoff is Street Fighter II-era animation.
  • The Paper Mario series began using mix-and-match parts to build its characters after the first game, which combines with the already-present Thick-Line Animation to create a visual effect very similar to an Adobe Flash cartoon.
  • Swamp Sim simply had Shrek as a T-posed model that slid across the ground when appearing and chasing you. A later update eventually gave him an actual running animation.
  • Hotel Mario spawned many memes, particularly a YouTube Poop intro which goes, "Where there's smoke, they pinch back." This comes from a combination of two of the game's infamous lines: "Be careful, when you pinch Wendy's pennies, they pinch back," and, "Remember, where there's smoke..." which clearly shared cels for Mario, to the point that you could paste the "smoke" bit before the "pennies" bit and only the background would change. Mario would not move one iota.
  • School Days and Shiny Days somewhat subvert this trope. The game is entirely animated, but there are a lot of still shots, and when there is animation, sometimes it's just the mouth.
  • Tales of Symphonia has limited animations for most of the cast when it came to talking. Almost everyone shares the "hand on hip, other hand gesturing" animation cycle whenever they speak.
  • The 2D cutscenes in Ed, Edd n Eddy: The Mis-Edventures are similar to Ed, Edd n Eddy, but with less frames and more limited animation.
  • Battle for Wesnoth tends to subvert this trope as new updates often add animations to units which didn't have them before.
  • The first four Ace Attorney games and the Ace Attorney Investigations spinoffs have limited animation due to both time and budget constraints. This doesn't make the characters any less expressive and might, in fact, work towards them instead of against them.
  • Final Fantasy had very limited animations before the series made the leap to 3D. Player character sprites had very few frames of animations (weapon swinging, walking, and spell casting all had only two frames of animation), but as the series continued, player characters would gain greater range of animations to make them look, well, more animated. Enemy sprites, however, were static and had no animations other than a brief white flash to indicate that they were attacking and a red/purple fade out when they were slain (the few games that did make them move just moved the sprite rather than animate movement). Having enemy sprites using no animation was likely done to save costs and stay within the space limitations of the NES and SNES cartridges.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy 5:
    • The Pixel family of foes appear as static images which slightly float back and forth, vibrating or flashing when struck, attacking or killed. Given their 16-bit appearance and their exclusivity to Glitch Areas, its quite fitting.
    • The Sketch Bosses also appear as static images (of pencil drawings, naturally), either being moved by an unseen force or flashing briefly when attacking, and jerking back when taking damage. GunKat-800XL is the only Sketch Boss to get an actual animation, which consists of a pencil redrawing it in its original position when it goes offscreen.
  • While Super Robot Wars is now known for its meticulously-crafted attack animations, the animation in the series' first decade (even longer if the Game Boy Advance entries are counted) is best described as two completely static mecha sprites sliding around each other with weapon effects crudely pasted on top of them. It became especially awkward in the Saturn/PSX era, as those games had full voice acting, high quality audio... and worse animation than what the average Super Famicom strategy game could pull off. Even Super Robot Wars Alpha, the very first "fully animated" game, uses countless shortcuts such as easily-reusable detatched arm sprites for Beam Rifle and Beam Saber animations.
  • The tortoise from Uncle Albert's Magical Album has no walking animation, so if you take it to the racing mini-game, it will just slide to the finishing line.
  • Due to having to be made for an 8 MB Nintendo 64 cartridge, Doom 64 doesn't have proper pumping/reloading animations for the standard and super shotgun, respectively.

    Web Animation 
  • Every Faggot Ever has VERY limited animation. All the characters are stiff figures who glide along the floor, reverse the wording on their clothes when facing the opposite direction, and only move their mouths when talking.
  • Red vs. Blue averts this. They use existing models from the Halo series, so you would think they could just be slapped together, but the episodes require a lot of painstaking work given Machinima limits what the characters can do (walk, Head Bob, crouch, jump, attack), and outside of vehicles they can only be seen either standing or lying down. Later seasons avert it entirely with some scenes utilizing motion capture.
    • Played straight in seasons with Monty Oum's character animation. Oum had stated that he kept a pose library full of already keyframed animations and used Poser because the animations could be easily reused among different rigs. This also makes it a case of 3D limited animation. In addition, the show hides some unpolished animation in creative ways, like angling the camera and adding artificial Jitter Cam to hide an arm glitching out from mocap data mishaps, along with having clipping and duplicated model extras justified by the original format.
  • RWBY, another Monty Oum project, uses limited animation much more conspicuously (though some of the aforementioned techniques are still used). Monty reused animations from previous projects with the show's characters and modified MMD character models, and the first season consisted entirely of playblasts (i.e., the quick unrendered animation that a 3D animation program gives as a preview of the final, rendered product) with the only lighting being prebaked environmental lighting. The seasons up to Volume 3 also had a limited number of background extras that would be reused over and over, sometimes leading to instances where one could spot "twins" in crowds. This was averted from Volume 4 onwards, as the series grew in popularity and the team transitioned over from Poser to Maya full-time.
  • Elemental Goddess zigzags with this trope. The first episode and second episodes are limited, but soon got an Animation Bump with The Mentor's Origin Story. Soon after the mentor's first fight, the animation changed to just being still shots with voices added to them. Word of God states that the latter will be the norm from now on.
  • YouTube Poop is fond of limited animation, largely due to how easy it is to edit clips of video that don't change much. Its popularity is also aided by attempts to derive comedy from how awkward-looking such animation can be at times, particularly when Off-Model, and it often additionally serves as a way of emphasizing a video's silliness and strangeness. As a result, the most common sources for Youtube Poop typically have this as a defining trait, such as the Super Mario World cartoon, and the Zelda CD-i games.
  • Inferno Cop consists of cut out models moving across photo backgrounds with voices dubbed in. Also, things explode in live-action.
  • Neurotically Yours started off with limited animation in its early years. Characters doing actions, such as typing, would only have a few frames of exaggerated animation and would loop endlessly as long as the action was being done. When the characters weren't doing anything, they would be incredibly stiff and just blink most of the time. The series has improved movement animation a lot since then, though movement of arms are covered by a quick motion blur and the characters are still not animated for walking.
  • The extent of the Ducktales characters' animation in Ducktalez is just the addition of angry eyebrows.
  • Girl Chan In Paradise parodies this to no end (when it's not delving into Deranged Animation instead.) Main character Kenstar is almost always seen with the same vaguely determined expression on his face (which in some cases is even just sloppily copy-pasted on,) and Kotomaru is almost always in the same "arms-crossed, eyes closed and looking kind of irritated" pose. Other scenes are blatantly recycled (including Yusuke falling down an identical flight of stairs from earlier in the the middle of the desert.) Also done semi-in-universe as well after Green Guy's Heroic Sacrifice; his voice actor is angry that his role ended so early and convinces the localization team to add him back in "as cheaply as possible," leading to a poor quality cut-out of Green Guy copy-pasted into random scenes (including on-top of Yusuke in one shot.)
  • The Happy Cricket's Solar Eclipse spin-off short
  • The work of Irish animator George White is almost a shrine to this. Lips barely move. It is more motion comic strip than animation.
  • GoAnimate videos are almost always this style, due to the technical limitations of the platform.
  • Greeny Phatom is barely it, with each scene being one frame of MS Paint drawings edited together in Windows Movie Maker.
  • Epithet Erased has very limited animation for the most part, much like Brendan Blaber's other web series So This Is Basically.... The characters each have a limited set of expressions and poses rather like portraits in a Visual Novel and move around like paper cutouts; sometimes the characters will simply be depicted as icons moving around the top view of a room, inspired by the story's origins as an RPG campaign on virtual tabletop site Roll20. However, there are moments of Animation Bump where scenes are fully animated, such as the opening credits.
  • Universe Falls: The Series mostly has visual-novel style limited animation, much like Epithet Erased.
  • The Mappy web show was produced on a shoestring budget, and the animation quality is low to match. Characters lack mouth flaps and if somebody is walking, their legs will usually not be in shot. The show sometimes pokes fun at this: In one episode, a poorly animated walk cycle is accompanied onscreen by a visual of a $30,000 request for a "walk cycle animation" being rejected.
  • For its storytelling and character movement, Dr. Crafty employs some principles of Motion Comics. Most animation on the show is represented by still images sliding around on the screen. Tons of reusable assets are at the show's beck and call, especially the expansive sets of reusable poses for the Crafty-original characters. These presentation choices keep the characters' contributions interesting but unobtrusive to the art production footage shown onscreen. Whenever the show requires fresh assets, it generally presents them under the same limitations as the rest.
  • The Goddamn George Liquor Program was the very first cartoon series created entirely using Adobe Flash and the first cartoon series created for the internet. However, the series was also created back in 1997, a time when computers still ran primarily on dial-up and when Flash was still a new thing. So combined all that with a low budget and the show's got some very minimal animation.
  • Similar to The Goddamn George Liquor Program, Happy Tree Friends was created when Flash animation was still at its bare minimum and when computers still mainly used dial-up, so the animation quality started off being very janky and with a low frame-rate. This lessened over time, however, as technological advancements over the course of the series' run allowed for smoother animation quality.

    Western Animation 
  • The cartoons from UPA are responsible for popularizing this trope with their simplistic character and background designs boiling down animation to its bare essentials. They used it as a strictly stylistic choice unlike many other examples.
  • Name any animated television series that predates Hanna-Barbera's entry in the field in 1957 and chances are very good that it will barely have any animation, often due to being forced to work on very small budgets:
    • Colonel Bleep is barely animation, most scenes utilizing two frames at the most. Some sources claim Joseph Barbera had a hand in making this before founding Hanna-Barbera.
    • Crusader Rabbit seemed to have put most of its meager animation budget towards the opening credits, as most of the "animation" is simple movements (some of which were very obviously done by filming the cel being moved instead of doing it frame-by-frame) and still shots talked over by a narrator.
    • The mostly lost Jim and Judy in Teleland features very simple and obviously recycled animation. It makes a very poor job of hiding the fact that Jim, Judy and Captain Smith's limbs are on different cels from their bodies in several scenes.
    • The Adventures of Paddy the Pelican was basically pencil tests submitted as finished cartoons, and while the artwork was decent, the animation consisted only of obvious one-second loops and panning shots.
  • Just about everything made by Hanna-Barbera, which for better or worse put its stamp on the trope as associated more with production values and Hanna-Barbera's own distinctive children's animation style more than anything else. Most famously, of course, The Jetsons, The Flintstones and Yogi Bear. Also, Scooby-Doo. Most obviously, they used the same walk and run cycles over and over again on different Wraparound Backgrounds. The original series got even more use out of the gang's run cycle by putting it on the standard Episode Title Card.
  • Animaniacs:
  • The animated segments of Uncle Croc's Block; including Fraidy Cat, Wacky and Packy, and M*U*S*H.
    • In the Fraidy Cat short “Cupid and the Cat”, Lulu the cat’s pose never changes.
  • Many early Flash-animated cartoons from the late 90s' and early 2000s often had to enforce this trope due to technological limitations. Even today, with more advanced technology, this still applies to many flash cartoons, especially ones not originally from the Anglosphere.
  • Clutch Cargo, taken to the point of it not being animation so much as still photography of cut-outs with superimposed live-action lips.
  • In the same vein of Clutch Cargo, the other Cambria Studios animations (Captain Fathom and Space Angel) were done using the same technique.
  • "Mr. Incredible and Pals", from The Incredibles DVD, copies the Clutch Cargo style, complete with Synchro-Vox. Mr. Incredible and Frozone's commentary track lampshades this, among the cartoon's many other shortcomings.
  • The Beatles, mentioned above, is an odd example, since they were producing essentially music videos of Beatles tracks up through Revolver for a Saturday morning children's TV show.
  • Even Disney dabbled in UPA-style animation for a few shorts, though Walt was not very happy to say the least. Ward Kimball directed the Adventures in Music Duology (Melody and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, the latter of which ended up winning an Academy Award). Jack Kinney also directed a short with this style, the 1954 adaptation of the short story satire Pigs Is Pigs (1954). Also, Bill Justice (the creator of Chip 'n Dale) directed a couple of shorts that used this style: Jack and Old Mac and A Cowboy Needs A Horse.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle
    • Heck, just about anything that the Mexico-based Gamma Productions animated on would have really limited animation, and not just Jay Ward's work (the aforementioned Rocky and Bullwinkle), but Total Television used them as well (most notably on Underdog).
  • Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. If it wasn't for the squiggly outlines and characters having visible lip-syncing, the series would have just been a slide-show.
  • Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Space Ghost only has a limited number of poses. If there's ever a time in which Space Ghost needs to walk, it will just be a stock pose of him bobbing up and down. Zorak has even fewer poses, some of which were recycled from the '60s Space Ghost cartoon. All of Moltar's poses were recycled from the '60s cartoon. Very little is actually animated on the show. Naturally, this was lampshaded in many episodes. It should be noted that almost all of Zorak's poses were colored differently (he would be a different shade of green, and he'd alternate between a blue and red vest). Some of them had a completely different animation style.
    • Cartoon Planet had a similar animation style as well as characters, and had Brak comment on his lack of animation, though he had much more movement in his own spin-off, The Brak Show, which is entirely composed of new animation cels colorized in computers. This is generally a rule for other original animated series by [adult swim], with a few exceptions; for example, the cast of Aqua Teen Hunger Force mostly just wiggle, float, or roll around when they move, and the one human main character, Carl, is usually just seen standing still and, when he does walk, it's usually with his legs out of frame, and otherwise movement is conveyed by just cutting to another setting or from wide-shot to close-up and then back to wide with the characters moved slightly, suggesting they took a few steps off-screen before being stopped by another character. Season 12 of Aqua Teens, however, has noticeably more fluid animation such that the characters aren't as static as they were previously.
  • Sealab 2021, being made almost entirely from recycled footage of an old, short-lived Hanna-Barbera cartoon, relies on this and uses this for several jokes. Sparks, who's only ever seen sitting down, claims that he's paraplegic before later admitting he's just really lazy. In the original cartoon, he was just never shown doing anything besides sitting at his control panel.
  • Frisky Dingo has very limited animation, especially in its pilot episode, where the characters just barely move their limbs around so that the series wouldn't look like a slide show. Thankfully, the animation slightly improves over time, but just by a small margin.
    • Archer, which shares much of its creative team with Frisky Dingo, still has traits of this. It's an uncommonly high-budget form of this, with the characters being basically a pile of pre-drawn parts that get puppeteered into various poses. (Count the number of times you see someone in a 3/4 pose.) Also, scenes that'd be difficult to animate have a habit of going offscreen. The "high-budget" part comes in the number of episodes that require completely new parts (whether in the form of new characters or new outfits for existing characters), and the globetrotting aspects of the series require a constant stream of new backgrounds.
  • The early episodes of South Park had this type of animation, although the pilot was the only one to use actual paper cut-out animation.note  In the later episodes the characters have a wider range of movement: for example, instead of shuffling when they walk, their legs are actually seen moving. Lampshaded in The Movie.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head utilized limited animation in earlier episodes before the show got popular enough to get a proper budget. Notably, the episode "Burger World" had a two-frame animation of Mr. Anderson repeatedly honking the horn of his car — an animation so simplistic, it can easily be made into an Overly Long Gag.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series and about anything else from Filmation, actually. Which is expected, since they produced their shows on a shoestring budget to the point where they make Hanna-Barbera look like Disney in comparison.
  • The Krazy Kat shorts from the 1910s. Yes, this is Older Than Television. Behold.
  • The 1967 Spider-Man cartoon, as well as Rocket Robin Hood, very seldom had unique animations/cells on different backgrounds. The few times they did ended up getting reused in later episodes, most extremely using the cells from an episode of the latter in the former, just replacing Robin and John with Spider-Man and changing a few lines of dialogue.
  • The 1990s Spider-Man was guilty of this as well, sometimes using scenes from earlier episodes with different dialog.
  • Family Guy:
    • In its early run, it had some animations that made the characters seem off and other animations that were clearly recycled for when characters repeated a physical action several times. For the former, the animations were limited on the mouth when characters talked but it greatly improved as the series went on. For the latter, an example of this can be seen in the episode "I am Peter, Hear Me Roar" where in one scene, a group of elderly people are watching soft core porn and one of the men punches his crotch several times to "wake up" his penis so it can get erect. One of the ladies next to him glances to the man when he hits his crotch, but her eyes dart back to the TV screen when the man pulls his fist back, and then they fall back to the man when he punches his crotch again. You can see the lady's eyes twitching back and forth between the man and the TV as the punching animation plays over and over. Cases like these faded as the series went on. But as a compromise, everyone became stiffer, stuck in 3/4 view, and their movements looked like they were trapped in an eternal fast-forward and overall lacked the fluidity of the older episodes.
    • This in itself was lampshaded in the conclusion of the episode "Lethal Weapons" when Peter starts insulting Fox repeatedly, causing Lois to warn him against offending the network. Peter's response was to remark that all they could do is cut the show's budget. The final scene is a static cel with a static Peter basically zig-zagging his way to the kitchen.
    • One scene from "And I'm Joyce Kinney" had Peter mentioning that half the background characters don't move at all and just stand there blinking a few times.
      • Family Guy developed a bad habit of doing this when the series switched to HD, with many episodes including at least one scene where the only motion by the one visible character is them blinking once in a while to remind you they're not a taxidermy or your TV's not broken, while off-screen characters spend minutes talking without getting any response from the visible character.
    • A really glaring example comes from the notorious Ratings Stunt episode "Life of Brian". Brian is hit by a car, and the camera focuses on him lying in a mangled heap in the middle of the road. The show cuts away and cuts back. The camera is now at a different angle, but Brian is lying in exactly the same pose.
    • American Dad! and The Cleveland Show also share the same limited animation techniques as Family Guy.
  • Every single animated series produced by Bento Box Entertainment (with the sole exception of Hazbin Hotel) utilizes this technique, such as Bob's Burgers, Brickleberry and its Spiritual Successor Paradise PD, with animation so stiff and unexpressive that they make Family Guy look like Superjail! in comparison. Legends of Chamberlain Heights takes this to extremes, where every character has exactly two frames of animation.
  • The Marvel Super Heroes shorts took limited animation about as far as it could go, at times doing nothing but panning the camera across still images. Fortunately, they used original Marvel art, drawn by the greats like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, along with faithfully adapting the original stories to make it look like the precursor to the motion comic.
  • Many series with Thick-Line Animation, such as Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls (1998), and My Life as a Teenage Robot, used limited animation to great stylistic effect.
  • The Simpsons has always relied on limited animation, although the animation has become fuller over the years. In typical fashion, they have lampshaded it on more than one occasion:
    • When Bart and Lisa are given a tour of the Itchy and Scratchy studio, the hallway is a Wraparound Background, with what is clearly the same couple of doors passing over and over again, complete with the same water cooler and the same janitor.
    • Bart once ordered an original Itchy and Scratchy cel over the mail. It turned out to be a mostly empty cel with a tiny little arm painted on it.
    • In "Itchy, Scratchy and Poochie", after Poochie's first appearance doesn't go over very well, Homer records a passionate speech for his second cartoon, apologizing to the fans and asking for a second chance. The studio clearly don't go for it, as the scene freezes just before the speech and a different voice over says, "I have to go now. My planet needs me," followed by a VERY low frame-rate footage of the cel of Poochie sliding away to the top of the screen.
    • In one scene, Homer criticizes the quality of South Korean animation, and for the next few seconds his mouth is detached from his face and floating in front of him.
    • Fox execs had the animators redo the HD opening because it was animated too well.
    • Played straight with the early shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show from 1987-1989. It was after all the very end of The Dark Age of Animation after all. Seriously, go back and look at how many times they reuse a model of one of the characters from an earlier short! It often looks jarring when contrasted with the constant Art Evolution of the anthology.
    • Like Family Guy, the art and backgrounds have progressively become more redefined and detailed, but at the cost of making the overall animation more lifeless and stiff. Though this issue has slowly been getting less frequent since Season 33.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Spoofed in the 1992 short "Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers", where aliens are replacing all of Bugs Bunny's adversaries with "pale stereotypes" filled with dull, non-confrontational personalities. The copies embody every conceivable bad TV animation cliché out there, from being drawn Off-Model in thick lines to fake Daffy Duck even having Clutch Cargo–style superimposed human lips in one scene.
    • Played straight with the shorts from 1964-1969 after the original Termite Terrace shut down. Due to considerable budget cuts, the animation was stiff and constantly being recycled. This is especially apparent in the Seven Arts-era, at which point the cartoons heavily resembled late 50s/early 60s Hanna-Barbera cartoons. In particular, the 14 shorts produced at Format Films (most of which starred Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner, though three of them were Daffy/Speedy shorts) suffer badly from this because the studio specialized in television animation.
    • Downplayed with the shorts made from the mid-50s to early-60s, during the original Termite Terrace's final years. As the budgets dropped lower and lower, the animation quality took a bit of a hit over time, although they were still ahead of most television cartoons. It's most evident in Robert McKimson's cartoons, since after the studio came back from its brief 1953 shutdown, he arrived too late and got saddled with the animators that Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng didn't want. Freleng himself often fell back on Recycled Animation, especially in the 60s. Ultimately, by 1963 (when the original Termite Terrace shuttered for good), the shorts were only slightly more fluid than the aforementioned 1964-1969 shorts. Of course, this didn't really affect the cartoons' quality, and the studio managed quite well in spite of everything.
    • Chuck Jones was known for experimenting with limited animation for a stylistic standpoint; The Dover Boys and Now Hear This are two of his best-known examples (the latter in particular even uses a style very similar to UPA's).
    • Two other experimental one-shot shorts used this: Robert McKimson's Bartholomew Versus the Wheel (which uses a style reminiscent of a children's picture book) and Hawley Pratt's Señorella and the Glass Huarache (which heavily resembled the limited style used in the DePatie-Freleng Enterprises-produced shorts; fittingly, it was the final cartoon before the Termite Terrace shutdown).
  • The Fairly OddParents! is an example of limited animation. In addition, it actually lampshaded the trope in one of the specials, specifically the Wraparound Background.
  • The Peanuts films and specials rely on this as a visual style. This was originally caused by the Christmas special's rushed production (the production team was given six months to complete the special, and didn't start animating it until the third) and the fact that animation at the time wasn't exactly impressive. Nevertheless, the stiff, corner-cutting animation of the Peanuts cartoons have more or less stuck with the franchise, and the cartoons have kept this type of animation as an art style, mainly due to how much it's stuck with the series. Even the 2015 film keeps the stiff, jerky animation style of the older specials to retain the classic Peanuts feel.
  • On the subject of TV specials, the 1969 Rankin-Bass Frosty the Snowman special unsurprisingly also uses this style.
  • Parodied in an episode of Raw Toonage with Badly Animated Man. Who is actually a rather meticulously animated example.
  • Both Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. fall victim to this, which is odd since despite being massively divisive in terms of writing, Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) usually has very fluid animation.
  • An interesting case occurs in the TV special The Great Bear Scare. While the characters' eyes and mouths are fully animated the rest of their bodies move every couple frames and walk in an animated storybook style; one theory is the studio probably ran out of time and money and quickly edited it together.
  • Johnny Test in later seasons, to the point that the characters don't move like actual living beings.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants seasons 5 to 9A are notable for having much more stiff animation than the rest of the series. Season 9B onwards, meanwhile, goes the completely opposite route by having the characters be very expressive and overanimated.
  • When not depicted in live-action, human characters from The Amazing World of Gumball intentionally invoke this by resembling Filmation-era cartoons and having very stiff and choppy animation to boot. The show itself lampshaded it in their debut episode, even showing that the background crowd members cannot move their position but are more like cardboard cut-outs. It comes up again during an episode focused on extras when two members of the crowd only move by awkwardly shuffling themselves around.
  • The Canadian cartoons Katie and Orbie and Pumper Pups, aimed at preschoolers, are a unique example in that they don't have any actual animation, rather, the drawings and scenes change like a slideshow, to give them a storybook feeling. The fact the characters in both series never speak (but make sound effects) and instead narrator Leslie Nielsen tells all the story adds to this.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1979) had your usual cheap 70's TV animation.
  • The later Woody Woodpecker shorts of the 1960's and 70's which where directed by Paul J. Smith, not only were the movements more limited but the character designs were also simplified and less detailed.
  • The Wander over Yonder episode "The Cartoon" has Lord Hater ordering his minions to make a propaganda cartoon starring him. The result ends up an extended parody of the worst parts of limited animation, including misplaced cels and clumsily reused animation cycles.
  • The animation company Rabbit Ears Productions was well known for using dissolve animation where the characters from the illustrations would dissolve into the next panel whenever there is movement from the characters. Also, the style of the animation consists mostly of moving the camera across the illustrations to give the story a sense of movement.
  • The Spanish animation studio D'Ocon Films Productions constantly recycled animation in their cartoons; The Fruitties and Scruff are perfect examples. One exception is The Frog Show, which D'Ocon Films co-produced with French company Ellipsanime.
  • The French cartoon Les Shadoks, having premiered in 1968, has noticeably limited animation in its first season that was made using a machine prototype, the animographe, and paper offcut. The machine prototype broke down by the time Season 1 finished, but every subsequent season used similar limited animation techniques to keep with the spirit of the show.
  • Hammerman. While the intro contained some decent animation, the rest of the series seems to have been animated without the use of in-betweens, resulting in VERY jerky animation. Much of DIC Entertainment's work around the time Hammerman premiered falls into this more often than not combined with a healthy dose of Off-Model.
  • The works of Genius Brands International often fall into this trope. Notably, co-founder Andy Heyward was also one of the founders of the aforementioned DIC Entertainment, a company whose library frequently relied on limited animation.
    • Secret Millionaires Club has stiff character animation and rather unnatural movements, which are usually a few frames at best. The characters are seldom seen from the front (mostly the sides), and seldom emote other than a default "happy", "sad" or the occasional "angry". The first episode has an entire animatic in the final scene.
    • Thomas Edison's Secret Lab is even stiffer than Secret Millionaires Club, in that the characters seldom move and mostly stand around and speak, while other characters occasionally blink. Furthermore, the characters are seemingly stuck in one default expression, and seldom emote; for example in "Fungal Bungle", Kent reacts with disgust upon seeing the lab covered in fungus, but doesn't change his expression to match him being shocked. Similar issues appear in other episodes.
  • VeggieTales: This trope is the whole reason why the characters are limbless vegetable people. In the beginning the creators had a very limited animations budget and were working with technology that was very new at the time. Having characters with no arms or legs allowed them to put a lot more of the budget into animating the characters' eyes, which was more important for making the characters look alive.
  • Kid Cosmic has very stilted animation done to achieve a comic book-like effect.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures didn't usually do this, but the three episodes animated by Encore Cartoons had some scenes where the only thing moving on-screen were characters' mouths. Because the show had otherwise fluid animation, it comes off as jarring.
  • The Patrick Star Show is definitely prone to this, the show's animation feels extremely slow and stiff and very often has errors.
  • Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood has quite stiff animation with unnatural-looking movements. The only angle it uses is a medium shot, which is done in Real Time. You could say that the works of Filmation are more fluid than this show, which came out in 2012. The animation became even more stiff with the movie Daniel Visits a New Neighborhood, which lacks the 'bounciness' that the previous seasons and specials had.
  • Fudêncio e Seus Amigos had a stiff, basic Flash animation, that the creators described as being "their own style"; because the production team was very small, and they had only a few weeks or months to make every episode, this was a necessity of them. To compensate for this, the animators did add varied moviments and diverse animations to the episodes, which often were recycled in later ones as well. Justified as the series' aesthetic is highly inspired by Hanna-Barbera both in art style and the backgrounds, and uses several tropes from The Dark Age of Animation, such as: Everybody Do the Endless Loop, Laugh Track, note  Ring Around the Collar, Unmoving Plaid, Wraparound Background, Wheel o' Feet, among others.


'Eco-Friendly Anime'

Aoi Shouta is rescued by all the other versions of Popuko and Pipimi who assist in his battle... with varying animation.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / MediumBlending

Media sources: