Animation vs. Animations Animation vs. Animations

Animation vs. Animations

Does it bother you when someone calls multiple pieces of animation “animations”? Well, there’s a Facebook group for that: Stop Calling What We Do “Animations”. Frankly, it doesn’t bother me as much as it should. If the craft and creative instincts of the animation are solid, you can call it whatever you want. Plus, it’s a useful term to keep around for distinguishing who knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t.

  • Animation is already plural, by definition. This is just like the words sheep and people; we don’t say sheeps or peoples. Also, many seem to forget that ANY animation is part of a movie or film. When I was in college it was called animated film. Even calling it an animation (singular) implies that it is just a part of a scene of a film. Film is composed of scenes and sequences. The current use of the word is inadequate and misleading. Once again it comes down to education: actually knowing what you’re talking about. Don’t expect that these days.

    • Vincent Veidt

      “Animation is a non-countable noun like grass, water or paper. The gerund, “acting” is not countable either. You wouldn’t say the “the great ‘actings’ of Dustin Hoffman” right?”

      That’s pretty linguistically ignorant. A gerund is a nounal form derived from a verb, the -tion suffix specifies a noun that results from the relative verb. In this case, animation can be the process of animating or the result of said process. That said, it is not only acceptable, but logical to use the term “animations” in the plural form, just as one would say “constructions” or “relations” in similar sentence structures.

      The aforementioned notion of animation as inherently plural is rather ridiculous (for the same reason as film has both singular and plural forms), and the evidence presented is equally so. For one, peoples is a valid plural form of people (though not person), thus denoting multiple assemblies.

      Once again, it comes down to education (actually knowing about what one speaks). Don’t expect that in these days.

      • It is also cultural. Terry Gilliam called his work “animations” and it didn’t bother me; perhaps it was his charming accent and his confidence in what he was doing & saying. Usage also exists according to generational tendencies. Almost all students I have ever taught in the past 14 years have used “animations”. No one used it when I was in film school in the 70’s. Today they also never use the word cartoons, even though it is still on the cover of the famous Preston Blair book; “you can learn to animate cartoons”. The language is changing; whether it is evolving or degenerating is a matter of a subjective view, apparently. How about this one: Students call drawings “frames” and they cannot or will not stop even after a 15 week semester. The word drawing is becoming extinct. The running bison on the cave walls in Altamira, Spain were not frames. Yet the confusion is actually quite understandable when kids get a copy of Flash at home and teach themselves how to animate by viewing amateur videos on the internet. The drawings done on a Wacom, for example, ARE “frames” when drawn directly in Flash in the timeline. However, the renderings students do with a pencil on paper are not. Yet there is resistance. I share with them that it is wise to be educated, to know the differences, to develop a broad vocabulary so that they can consciously make choices and not make mistakes in language due to ignorance. Also, on the job, some directors will not have the patience to teach them vocabulary and there will be deadlines. Be smart, I tell them. PS. I know that when Popeye says “the woming folks” he means “women”, and it is funny. I also know the correct use of the word peoples, as in “indigenous peoples”. I had been referring to the incorrect use of the word, as in “how many peoples from our posse showed up at the Justin Bieber concert?”

      • Vincent Veidt

        “I had been referring to the incorrect use of the word…”
        Agreed, though this thread happens to be based on the opinion that the term “animations” is incorrect in all forms. Regardless, Amid’s opening post specifies the context of multiple pieces of animation.

  • Art Binninger

    Hmmm. This smells like a non-troversy to me.

  • Annoys me just as much as Americans calling LEGO… “Legos”!!

    • I tell people that technically they aren’t “Legos” they are LEGO bricks, and they all just look at me funny. But heck even though I know better I call them Legos because it’s more fun!

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Funny, I always called them Lego Blocks, but that’s just me.

      • Outside the America and Canada, people often use LEGO as the plural. e.g. “I’m missing a whole lot of LEGO.” Or “Lego bits”.

        “Lego’s” would be fine, much like “Disney’s” used to describe “his company”, but “Legos” is like saying “Disneys”. “There’s many Disneys screening at the cinema”. Ech.

  • Do people really have nothing better to complain about?

  • “Animation”… “animations”… I could care less ;)

  • The Gee

    You say LEGO, I say ROBOT BONES…..

    Seriously though, the animation/animations thing is partially– just a little– due to people having an allergic reaction to the word Cartoon.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Dunno. Howevah…..

    What does burn is the word “toon”.

    I believe the reason why peoples* use that word is also due to allergies….it ain’t any hipper to shorten the word. Embrace the word CARTOON despite its geekiness and its lowbrow nature. Once people just accept it and stop looking down on it because they hate it or like it too much then we’ll achieve An Age of Enlightenment… or something.

    *you see what I did there, my peeps?

    • Niffiwan

      “Seriously though, the animation/animations thing is partially– just a little– due to people having an allergic reaction to the word Cartoon.”

      I do indeed believe that this is the case… to quote Wikipedia, “While “animation” designates any style of illustrated images seen in rapid succession to give the impression of movement, the word “cartoon” is most often used in reference to TV programs and short films for children featuring anthropomorphized animals, superheroes, the adventures of child protagonists and related genres.”

      So it is not uncommon for people to avoid using the term “cartoon” for certain kinds of animation and to say “animated film” instead. But some people find “animated film” too wordy, so they say “animation” instead, and from there it’s a short step to making it plural. It’s mostly non-native speakers responsible for this.

  • Animation is a non-countable noun like grass, water or paper. The gerund, “acting” is not countable either. You wouldn’t say the “the great ‘actings’ of Dustin Hoffman” right? Animation like acting should be counted as a whole unless we need to specify. IE, “a piece of acting” or in this case “a piece of animation”.

    • Thank you!

      “Animations” annoys me well more than it should…

  • I’ve never heard anyone say “animations” before actually. What gets my goat is when people call stop-motion “Claymation” when it isn’t even clay and certainly wasn’t made by Will Vinton.

    • To be honest, that’s more of a debate than this whole “Animation v. Animations” dealio. I could see how it can be an annoyance, but when people talk about the “actings of Dustin Hoffman…” well, so what? I’ve heard people say that and I don’t care. As long as they watch cartoons is all that matters. For all I care, critics and viewers can call it “Too-Lousy Letracs” for all I care!

    • Funkybat

      I’m willing to bet that over 90% of the general populace has no idea that many stop-motion physically-molded animated characters are not made out of clay. I still catch myself saying “Claymation” when I want to refer to something from Aardman or Laika. I know that almost no one but students uses “clay” to model such characters, and that a lot of what some people think is “claymation” these days is actually 3D CGI. It’s become a “genre” in most people’s minds. Try saying “stop-motion” to your average person on the street, and they will probably give you a puzzled look. Say “Claymation” and they will instantly mention the Chevron cars, or Wallace & Gromit, or maybe even Coraline.

      As for “Animation” vs. “animations,” well, it’s another insider vs. outsider thing. I get asked about my “animations” by relatives fairly often, as well as “cartoons.” I personally prefer not to use an “s” after animation, but I have no problem with referring to any 2D animated character art as cartoons. I see the denigration of “cartoon” as kind of elitist. I do think it is not fitting for most 3D animation, to me, cartoons are hand-drawn affairs only.

  • keithlango

    Aardman Animations seem to be doing just fine, plural form not withstanding.

  • These days there’s a group for everything on the internets.

  • Wal-Marts

  • Bud

    Saying “animations” is a sure sign of an amateur. Like neal gabler.

  • I don’t think i’ve ever heard anyone say it the “correct” way before. i think it would sound weird to say “look at these two animation.” Do you need to say it like “pieces of animation” for it to be a correct plural?

    • hoops

      Yes. Pieces of animation is correct. Scenes of animation would also work. As would bits of animation. Or some animated you-tubes.

      My other internet pet peeve is “loose” confused with “lose”.
      As in “It makes me loose my mind”.

      • That “lose/ loose” thing makes me sew mad. I hate it to.

      • “you-tubes” is no different to “animations”. In my opinion they’re youtube videos or clips. But people should be able to describe things in a way that makes sense to them. So long as the meaning is clear, there’s no fair reason to judge someone’s intellect by they’re understanding of established jargon. The best animator in the world may call them “animatronics cartoons”, for all the impact it has on their output and ability.

        Often the ones most out of the loop are the ones who are busy doing actual work.

      • Funkybat

        I would never say “let me show you some YouTubes.” As far as I know, there is only one “YouTube” in existence. I’m glad I haven’t heard this from anyone I know…

    • You can use “scenes” or “sequences of animation”
      or even “animated clips”.

  • I don’t think anyone dedicated to this industry really gives a shit, do they?

    • The Gee

      You can Live and Let Live all you want.

      But, I’m guessing you’ve never encountered a producer who has used the word “animations” or “toons” or “cartoon funk” (to describe wonky-looking design) or any term that made it seem like they were coming at it from an angle that says, ” I’m trying to sound like an old hand who knows what they are talking about.” “I’m hip to the cartoon jive talk.”


      If you haven’t then your dedication to this industry has paid off handsomely, sir.

      There are people who use the terms loosely and some of them are in some corners of the industry. But, I’m getting all anecdotal over here.

      • Perhaps my comment wasn’t clear enough.
        This isn’t a matter of live and let live.
        This is a matter of “there are 4016 other things more worthy of examination in this industry”.
        As usual, those who work and contribute to the industry have different motives and priorities than those who hover around the edges.

      • The Gee

        I can’t speak for anyone else and typically I don’t try to do so.

        But, I understood where you are coming from. You’re right there’s more important stuff, years of important trends and developments spanning from production, work issues, quality control, creativity, etc. And that is just the Industry stuff…not the Art part of it…

        For me, it isn’t about the word “animations”, exactly.
        It is just that mindset which causes some of the frustrations. Some producers seem to know the right people better than they know the industry they are in. I’ll say that without clumsily giving an example from personal experience.

        In a perfect world, respect breeds good things. That might be a remedy for some problems.

        Didn’t mean to be flip by summarizing your thoughts as Live and Let live, btw. It just came out.

  • The Gee

    Oh and I realize how silly it sounds to wrote about people not wishing to use cartoon/cartoons.
    After all, this very site isn’t called Animation Brew….

    But, really, some folks can be snotty when it comes to cartoons, The Word.

  • I don’t have an opinion about this and I feel just terrible about not having an opinion

  • m(_ _)m

    I can’t think of any instances where i picked up on people saying “animations,” but in the Japanese animation crowd you get a ton of people saying “animes.” “whats your list of top animes?”/”favorite animes?” etc. It sounds unnatural, and seeing as how “anime” is nothing except animation shortened, it should be the same situation.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Really should be (especially since the Japanese like to shorten western words all the time).

  • Amid, I agree with everything you are saying…BUT, I can’t stand the term! It makes my skin crawl.

  • Trevor

    I’m glad people are fighting the good fight to elevate animations by making a facebook page

  • Animations are done by good drawers.

  • With a company named “Michael Sporn Animation”, I found trouble. The NYTelephone company insists on calling my company “Michael Sporn Animations” and after 32 years it’s time to give in. They must know something I don’t.

    What it means is that the English language is going to pot. If you have any interest in the language, per se, I think you care, but you’re outnumbered.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I blame Aardman for that too (they did do it on purpose I feel)!

  • andreas Wessel-Therhorn

    yes, ‘ animations’ is like nails on a chalkboard. and it’s not just a matter of taste, its grammar, like ki innes pointed out

    • Chris Sobieniak

      And that’s how I feel about the whole matter too. Though I don’t know where or when to pinpoint how this happened, I think the usability of the net and the emergence of digital technologies have led to a kind of illiteracy that askew our former views of the term. Replacing the tools we knew best with the simplicity of buttons and screens which takes away any real thought or knowledge of what to do, as long as you know how to press those buttons, you had something to say despite your personal skills which should not be ignored.

      Essentially, we’re not getting our hands dirty enough anymore as I view it. Learning to read, write and language is still very important if one wants to be understood. Of course then you’d be complaining about the public education in this country and where that ends up.

  • It’s neither “animation” nor “animations”.
    The proper word is “toon”. It may be pluralized without offense: “toons”.

    • Jorge Garrido

      That’s true. The shortened term lets everyone know it’s only a casual hobby, a cool thing to like, it’s something we say so much we HAVE to use shorthand.

  • Is this similar to the “anime” versus “animes” argument? Or is that entirely different?

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It’s mostly a language problem there in how the word should be translated. Essentially pluralizing words isn’t really present in the Japanese language, and the word itself, “Anime”, is really a shorten term for “Animation” (itself a loan word in their language as they write it using kana characters). Most foreigners usually ignore that simple fact and think calling it “Animes” works as well.

    • Iritscen

      “Animes” is infinitely more annoying than “Animations”.

  • I have to say it secretly bugs me but you won’t see me correcting anyone, I don’t want want to sound like a snob. If someone outside the industry is even talking about animation, I don’t want to discourage that!

    • m(_ _)m

      And that’s how the internet is killing knowledge. Education/intellectualism is becoming demonized as elitist snobbery by the illiterate.

      This is a good read:

      • Interesting read but I’m still not going to call someone out on it as I can’t imagine the fall of society hinging on whether people are saying animations & not animation. It’s not really a huge flippin’ deal.

        If I’m talking to a colleague who is also in this industry and THEY say animations, then yes I might be more inclined to correct them as they should probably know better.

        In the end, I’m just grateful that people are talking about animation whether they are pronouncing it correctly or not.

  • Up North

    You can say “animations” as it goes with the quality of your “educations”.
    Who gives a shit about the English language, anyways?

    • AJ

      The English language has changed and adapted so much over the centuries to the point that saying “animation” or “animations” isn’t really going to change anything at the end of the day.

  • It sorta bothers me. People will say ” Cool animations” I make animated shorts so I would much rather prefer my work be called simply ” Cartoons”.
    If they say ” Cool animations on one specific character/ scene/ something” it’s not as upsetting. But calling the work as a whole “animations”… me gusta.
    I’m a young guy, I noticed people who aren’t really good at animation or just work in flash on the side tend to use the term more, but maybe thats just in my area.

  • although its a bit off topic, I’ve heard people freak out when their stop motion projects were called clay-mation

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I wouldn’t be surprised if people think that way about anything stop-motion even if clay isn’t used in that production.

      • GW

        That’s for when they don’t assume it’s computer animation.

    • Funkybat

      I think it would truly dismay stop-motion animators who get bent out of shape about this to know just how prevalent the idea of “claymation” is.

      To the vast majority of the mainstream audience, “clay” or something similar is how all such animation is done. The only people I know who are even aware of Sculpey or foam latex are other artists, or their significant others.

  • Neutralgo

    It’s enough to drive a person to go watch the masturbations of Ron Jeremy.

  • Ryoku

    Nope, “animations” is close enough for me.

    Much better than terms like “epic” and “beast”

  • I make animations because maths was too hard.

    “Maths” drives some of my friends insane (though I know the British say “maths” and not “math”). I usually poke my head into the project lead’s office whenever I need to have work reviewed and I say “I HAVE ANIMATIONS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ANIMATIONS?”

    Naturally, I’m going to have to say “animations” more often now just to spite naysayers. And I do believe Stephen Fry has something to say about this:

  • Wow, you tv cartoon guys need to get over yourselves.

    There are like a hundred totally valid uses for ‘animations’ as a plural in a professional context. What if you were working on a film or campaign that had a specific number of animated segments, to integrate with non-animated material, and someone said like “we need three animations?” or “when are the first three animations due”. Would you totally murder them?

    The same would apply to about a million things in the breakdown of a special effects workflow.

    I can’t believe I even have an opinion on this.

  • i personally love watching animations.