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Virtual STEM: Animation

STEM activities for children ages 6-12

What is Animation?

Animation is a visual technique that creates the illusion of motion using hand-drawn illustrations, photographs, or computer-generated images.


Have you ever made a thaumatrope? This toy from the 19th century illustrates how optical illusions work, which is an important feature in animation. If images are shown quickly enough, they can trick the eye into seeing something that's not real. For animation, 24 images (frames) per second are needed to trick our brain into thinking that an object is moving naturally.

Types of Animation

Traditional (2D) Animation

Images are hand-drawn (each with subtle differences to the one before it) and presented quickly in sequence to create an illusion that objects are moving. Early forms of animation, including the very first animated movies, use this technique.

kineograph illustration      

Pictured: Kineograph/flip book (left), Zoetrope (right)

Stop motion animation

Many pictures are taken of real-life objects that are moved slightly from one photo (frame) to the next. Then the photos are played back in order to create an appearance of motion.

stop motion movie of a moving penny

Computer (3D) animation

Computer generated images are "rigged" using a skeletal 3D model that can be manipulated using computer software. The technique is similar to moving a puppet. Disney's Toy Story (1995) was the first full-length computer-animated movie.

screenshot of computer animated movie

Pictured: movie still from the Italian movie Trash (2020)

Sample Animation Projects

flower GIF

Pictured above: GIF of a sun and flower


Book Lists

STEM Careers: Animation

What is a career like in animation? Watch the following videos to learn about STEM in action at Pixar!



Using traditional animation techniques, design a Flip Book or GIF. 

Submit your project below!