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Thin-Line Animation

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Round eyes, simple designs, and a feeling of motion.note 

"You'll also notice that the designs of many of these characters is much more simpler than ones of the past. They do this 'cause it gives way to faster animation, while also allowing more time to focus on color, backgrounds, and of course, the story."

Thin-line animation is a stylistic trend that has emerged in The New '10s based more around thinner lines, rounder shapes and noodle-like appendages. All while still being distinctively western. This style may have emerged for a number of different reasons. The emergence of anime and their influences on western cartoonists have made them focused less on detail. Different coloring techniques with digital art may have removed the need for thicker lines, and thus it only remains when it's a stylistic choice. The need for quicker, cheaper animation after the economic downturn may also drive the desire for more cheap, yet still pleasing animation styles. It also may be due to the widespread adoption of High Definition (HD) televisions - before HD, small features such as thin lines in an image tended to flicker and/or disappear depending on their angle and motion; HD allowed the freedom for this new, previously unattainable style.

It is also known as the "CalArts Style", a pejorative term originally coined by The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi in a post on his blog John K. Stuff alleging that certain animated films and many animators in The '90s who graduated from the California Insitute of the Arts heavily copied Disney's animation and art style, note  which has since morphed into any animated work from the 21st century that uses this style that one considers "samey-looking", despite similar art styles being the norm since the infancy of the medium itself. Though the term tends to be used more specifically for works that not only have thin lines and round shapes, but also bean-shaped heads, bean-shaped mouths and worm-like teeth, so works that have the former but not the latter don’t tend to get labeled as such. As such, please do not include examples of shows that simply have thin outlines - they also need rounded/noodle-like styles to qualify.

Thin-line animation is actually Older Than Television, since many cartoon shorts during The Silent Age of Animation (particularly those made by Disney and Max and Dave Fleischer) featured rounded ball-and-noodle art-styles and thin outlines. However, it was often done out of necessity since the simplistic designs made things easier on the animators at the time.

Compare Puni Plush and Animesque, contrast with Thick-Line Animation. See also Tooth Strip, Sphere Eyes, Black Bead Eyes, Black Dot Pupils.


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  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya! zigzagged this trope, with its combination of rounded designs note  and angular designs.note 
  • One Piece is one of the few modern animes to use this trope. Its art-style, while far from simplistic, is noticeably more rounded and cartoony compared to other anime at the time of its initial premiere. It lessened over time, however, with the art-style becoming more angular and complex.
  • The Sun & Moon era of the Pokémon anime. Everyone looks much more rounded compared to previous eras, like a quasi Steven Universe with a Pokémon coat of paint. In fact, not only has the palette gone for a much more pastel inspired look, but also did the eponymous Pokémon themselves.

    Asian Animation 
  • The Chinese animated series Incredible Ant is notable for being a rare non-western example of this artstyle. Series creator Cheng Li has stated that this was intended to help the show stick out from the numerous animesque series produced in his country, with his own show's art direction being heavily inspired by the many popular Thin-Line western cartoons he himself is a fan of.

    Films — Animation 

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • The cutscenes for Marco and the Galaxy Dragon are animated in this style, with the usual simplified designs, bright colors, and fluid motion. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the visual novel, which uses a more detailed and proportional anime-style typical of visual novels.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation