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Line Boil

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Line boil is the wobble of hand-drawn lines, particularly noticeable when characters are redrawn in every frame even though they are standing still. Limited Animation deals with line boil by using the same drawing for parts of the character that aren't moving and only re-drawing the parts that move.

As usual, Tropes Are Tools. Early 20th century animators considered line boil an imperfection; characters constantly moving around when they're supposed to be stationary can very easily come off as sloppy animation. But on the other hand, deliberately attempting to avoid line boil can have the opposite effect and make characters seem frozen in place like statues, and so line boil and other types of wobbling and jittering can be purposely used or even exaggerated to add a bit more life to characters even when they're standing still.


Anime and Manga

  • The first ending to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood uses exaggerated line boil.
  • Powerful Beat from Tamagotchi! Yume Kira Dream. It's barely noticeable in Tamagotchi! with Mametchi, even though his outlines are mostly still.
  • The "Pop Team Cooking" sketches in Pop Team Epic make use of this trope as part of their particular art style, which seems to aim more for a "children's cartoon" look.
  • One of the FLCL eyecatches does this.


  • Red Bull commercials.
  • The Pop-Tarts commercials, which draw heavy influence from (but are not made by) Don Hertzfeldt.

Eastern European Animation

  • Manivald is a rare example of this effect on both the characters and the backgrounds.


  • The biography portions of Sita Sings the Blues have line boil, one of the four art styles in the movie since the creator didn't want the audience to lose interest.


  • Freelance cartoonist John Caldwell, whose work has appeared in MAD, animates with exaggerated line boil.


  • The music video for a-ha's "Take on Me". Funny enough, line boil was considered extremely undesirable in rotoscoping in the early days of animation.

Video Games

Web Animation

Western Animation

  • Ed, Edd n Eddy, at least the characters. Lampshaded in "Smile for the Ed", with Edd's line, "Eddy actually thinks he can pass off a crayon drawing as a school photo? I mean, the lines are all wiggly."
  • The pilot episode of Rocko's Modern Life (Trash-O-Madness) featured unusually squiggly lines.
    • Another Nicktoon, Doug, had squiggly animation in its pilot episode, "Doug Can't Dance".
  • The 1974 British cartoon Roobarb and its second season/sequel, Roobarb and Custard Too, upon where everything including the coloring wobbled. This was down to the use of 'Magic Markers' for the colouring.
    • A similar effect in the Yugoslavian animated short 'Passenger, Second Class'
  • Henry's Cat, from the creator of Roobarb. Imagine an acid trip, but for toddlers.
  • The PBS Kids P-Pals.
  • The Cat Came Back
  • One episode of Arthur featured a parody of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, with all of the characters drawn this way (see its entry below).
  • Most of the shorts on O Canada, which included Bob and Margaret, that later became its own show, though seasons 3 and 4 of Bob and Margaret did not feature the line boil effect
  • The Killing of an Egg (or Ei om Zeep), a 1977 short by Dutch animator Paul Driessen that ran from time to time on Nickelodeon back in the early 1990s.
  • John K's Simpsons couch gag varies between extremely still lines and extremely boiling lines.
  • Cartoons animated in Squiggle Vision:
  • Stickin' Around which used software by the name of Boiler Paint unrelated to SquiggleVision. The first season, as well as the 1994 shorts, had both paint and line boil. After that, the line boil was dropped.
  • Winsor McCay's groundbreaking 1911 short based on his Little Nemo comic strip features this, as well as boiling colors, since each character in the cartoon was hand-drawn and hand-colored.
    • 1914's Gertie the Dinosaur, also by McCay, features it in the background, as the entire drawing had to be retraced for every frame. McCay actually liked the effect, as the unsteadiness of the lines seemed to make the whole scene come alive.
  • The Big Snit has exaggerated line boil for its characters.
    • As did Getting Started from the same director, six years prior.
  • The 1960s Filmation cartoon The New Adventures of Superman has a bit of line boil.
  • The Henry Hugglemonster episode "The Mighty Heromonsters" uses this during scenes in Henry's comic book. The background as well.
  • Shown most of the time in Tamagotchi Video Adventures.
  • Your Face and other early works by Bill Plympton feature this, since Plympton drew each panel by hand. It helps reinforce the surreal atmosphere of Plympton's work.
  • The outlines of the characters constantly wobble in BB3B.
  • Black Fly
  • While Samurai Jack normally doesn't feature this trope (its art style usually doesn't have lines at all), there is some line boil during the Art Shift sequence in the horrifying episode "Jack and the Haunted House".


Video Example(s):


Roobarb Theme

The intro to the animated series Roobarb, one of the defining examples of the line boil technique.

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Main / LineBoil

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