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5 Great Examples of Cel Animation

Jun 10, 2024

Cel animation, with its hand-drawn frames and painted colours, offers a unique charm that continues to captivate audiences. While many associate it with a single style, cel animation boasts a surprising range of visual expressions. Let's delve into some iconic examples that highlight this variety within this classic art form.

1. Detailed Classic: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" exemplifies the peak of opulent cel animation. Its detailed backgrounds create a rich backdrop for its characters, while the animation itself is fluid and graceful. This style evokes a timeless fairytale atmosphere.

2. Bold and Striking: Samurai Jack (2001-2004)

Genndy Tartakovsky's "Samurai Jack" is a masterclass in stylised cel animation. Its sharp lines, angular shapes, and limited colour palettes create a striking, graphic look. The action is dynamic, with a focus on clear silhouettes and powerful symbolism that enhances the storytelling.

3. Simple Yet Expressive: The Peanuts (1960s-onwards)

The "Peanuts" holiday specials and TV series showcase how much emotion and humour can be conveyed through seemingly simple cel animation. The characters' expressive faces and subtle gestures are heartwarming and instantly recognisable, proving great animation doesn't always require complexity.

4. Experimental and Unbound: Mind Game (2004)

Masaaki Yuasa's "Mind Game" pushes the boundaries of traditional cel animation.  It features constantly shifting art styles, blending hand-drawn lines with washes, cutouts, and even 3D elements. This wild, experimental film is a testament to the potential of cel animation as a medium for artistic expression.

5. Textured and Dreamlike: The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Studio Ghibli's "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" evokes the beauty of traditional Japanese watercolour paintings. Its soft lines, muted colours, and delicate textures lend the film a dreamlike quality.  This style emphasises emotion through subtle movement and a focus on nature's beauty.


From lush Disney classics to bold cartoons and experimental masterpieces, these examples showcase the incredible diversity of cel animation. Its ability to evoke various emotions ensures its place as a timeless art form. While digital animation dominates today, the legacy of cel animation continues to inspire new generations of artists and animators.

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