What is Character Animation and Why is it Great for Business?

26.01.2022 Animation
Molly Howe

Animated characters have played an integral part of modern life since they first appeared on the screen in the early 20th century, thanks to pioneering animation studios like Disney. Character animation is a specialised component of the animation process in which animators bring still character designs to life through expressive movements and relatable personalities, providing viewers with memorable viewing experiences. 

In the past few decades, character animation has been used increasingly outside of just the entertainment sphere. Its value as a business tool is hugely apparent, whether it be through use in branded, corporate, charity, healthcare, or educational films.

But what really is character animation and why should you think about using it in your next video? Read on to find out….. 

Robot Character

So, what exactly is character animation?

Character animation is a type of animation that uses movement, speech and tone to bring a character to life. Animators can shape characters to take on a desired personality, experience specific emotions, or embark on a physical or mental journey. 

Homer Simpson, Mickey Mouse, and Scooby Doo are just a few of the most well-known animated characters throughout the world and have achieved unprecedented levels of longevity. As these examples demonstrate, characters don’t have to be humanoid for us to relate to them; in fact, the strangest-looking characters frequently seem to be the most understandable. They simply need to express feelings and ideas in a way that people can comprehend, which is generally accomplished using simple animation motifs. (puppy eyes, exaggerated smiles, steam out of ears for anger)

Something to note…. Character animation differs from creature animation whereby animators create photorealistic animals and creatures that replicate how they would act in real life, without human-like personalities. 

How are animated characters created?

The role of a character animator is comparable, in some sense, to that of a film or stage actor. This is why they have come to be known as ‘actors with a pencil’ (although now more commonly with a mouse or touchpad). Like an actor, animators inject flat characters with a sense of life, creating illusions of personality, emotion, thought, and opinion that seek to be empathised with. 

Some of the basic principles used by animators to enhance their characters are as follows:

  • Facial expressions
  • Rhythm 
  • Exaggeration 
  • Movement
  • Timing
  • Colour 
  • Stretch 

Facial Expression

Types of character animation and their uses 

Traditional Animation

  • Used to create flat characters, a hugely flexible approach which is testament to its longevity.
  • Traditionally each frame of animation was carefully hand drawn then sequenced together, you will have seen this in older Disney films like ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937). This was an incredibly lengthy process, each one second of time could have as many as 24 unique drawings.
  • Luckily today, with the invention of digital tools and animation software, the process is much more streamlined. 

2D Vector Animation 

  • An animation style consisting of computer-rendered vectors. 
  • With 2D shapes and motion styles, 2D vector animations have a smooth and dynamic look and even the simplest ideas can be realized.
  • As a versatile format, it can be used for all kinds of animation concepts. 
  • An additional advantage is the fact that 2D vector animations are less time consuming and less expensive than most other animation formats.
  • Due to the development of newer animating technologies, 2D animation did go out of fashion for a while, however, it has made an incredible comeback, especially in the realm of business content creation due to its simple nature and tried and tested longevity.

3D Animation (CGI)

  • Encapsulates the process of creating three-dimensional moving characters and putting them into an animated or live action environment.
  • Involves the stages of modelling (generating character), layout (animating movement) and rendering (generation into the final image)
  • Currently, outside of film and TV, 3D animation is used in a wide variety of areas. This includes medicine, real estate and advertisement.
  • 3D rendered characters tend to be more lifelike, still characters but a less typically ‘cartoonish’ way. 
  • We can see all sides to a 3D character, making them more physically relatable.

Stop Motion Animation

  • The technique of manipulating a figure frame by frame to create the illusion of flawless, fluid movement when played.
  • The first stop motion animation was made in 1898, and the process has changed remarkably little since.
  • The most popular forms of stop motion character animation tend to be puppets with moveable joints or plasticine figures.
  • Stop motion tends to appear most often in children’s films such as Wallace and Gromit and Fantastic Mr Fox. For this reason, it may rouse a nostalgic feeling when used in a marketing context.

Motion Graphics 

  • Essentially animated graphic design
  • The opening scene to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is one of the earliest examples of motion graphics 
  • They are hugely simple and can convey complex information in an accessible format
  • Most effectively paired with a voiceover, rather than character speech.
  • In many ways, motion graphics is the simplest form of animation
  • It is best for creating powerful explainer or awareness videos and advertising simple products.

What is the purpose of character animation?

Character animation has the ability to align with any objective you would like. Whether it’s telling a story or selling a product, animated characters can enrich virtually all genres of video content.

Animated characters are the perfect tools to represent any type of person as well as their choices and emotions. Anyone can put themselves in the shoes of a character as long as it acts in a way that is recognisable to them. The effortless synergy between person and animated character is arguably much harder to achieve in a live action production. Unlike demonstrations of real people, animations are predictable and uncontroversial, very rarely would you question the choices of a cartoon.

The most clear-cut purpose of character animation is to communicate well and reach the most people.


Why do character animations work so well for business? 

Character animations are fast and flexible to make

Using animated characters in your corporate film allows you to push the boundaries of your imagination. This flexibility is a tremendous advantage to a corporation because it allows for the creation of virtually any character, including a digital clone of someone in the company. This is not always possible with live action character development. Characters can be generated remotely and quickly, and they can be changed along the route. As a result, they can become a component of a larger, evolving communication initiative. The possibilities are limitless, almost unfathomable! Hiring a video content agency can provide you peace of mind that your video is in good hands.

They are a worthy investment

Animated characters are trustworthy and neutral, it’s hard for them if developed carefully, to become problematic. In most cases, the character is yours to keep, you can reuse it in many forms, even within a long-running storyline that over time will build the character. This encourages an emotional attachment with the brand. This makes animated characters great for advertisement videos, as evidenced by the Compare The Meerkat campaign that made an aristocratic Russian meerkat one of Britain’s most beloved fictional animals.

Hiring the perfect actor to play a character is an expensive, complicated and unreliable process. An animated character removes the need to hire and direct a physical actor, this streamlines the process of creating a content video. 

They humanise your business 

If necessary, the inclusion of animated characters can steer your business away from an overly polished corporate feel. They are friendly, approachable, and accessible. If you want to change your company’s outward presentation, animated characters may be the way to go. 

They encourage participation 

In some areas, a slick corporate video can kill engagement, especially when you are not seeking B2B investment or custom. Due to their unthreatening nature, animated characters can encourage employee engagement and helpful feedback from customers. When your business is seeking to engage with children or teens, perhaps in an educational context, an animated character can be an invaluable way of getting them involved. This makes animated characters perfect for educational videos.

They are share-worthy content

Animated characters can invoke such strong emotion that people want to share the video, encouraging others to feel as they did whilst watching. 

social media


They make threatening topics less scary

Character animations have the ability to turn frightening subjects into something more approachable, this is especially important in health or charity video. After an unfavourable medical diagnosis, the last thing you would want is to be flooded with terrifying information. It can be daunting and impersonal to see a video of a healthcare provider explaining the prognosis. This is particularly true for youngsters. It’s easier to show how their illness may affect them through animated characters that they can identify with.

They cut through the jargon 

They stand out in a constant flow of information and text. Key ideas can be conveyed effectively through character animations as they increase engagement. Simplicity sells! An animated character can make even the most complex of problems remarkably digestible, this could work well for videos selling complicated corporate technology.

Boring topics can be made more entertaining

Videos on intangible products such as employee policy can be difficult, especially when the subject matter is not overwhelmingly captivating, using character animation can change this, making it appropriate for internal communications videos. We are naturally drawn to anything that looks fun or entertaining, even if it’s just masking as such.

They can invoke nostalgia

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia as a marketing tool. A character that reminds us of our favourite childhood cartoon, is memorable and evokes a strong emotional connection. This leads to higher levels of engagement and commerce.  


The psychology behind their success

Albert Mehrabain, in his seminal 1971 study, asserted that 55% of communication is through body language, 38% by tone of voice and just 7% is through language itself. Humans communicate best by reading each other – the success of correspondence is determined by the level of emotional connection developed. 

An animator’s ability to increase or exaggerate the body language and tone of a character demonstrates why character animations are so impactful in business video, where audience engagement could mean the difference between a failed or successful campaign. 

In other studies, it has been concluded that knowledge retention of videos using animation over talking-head style video increases by an impressive 92%. Its success as a sales tool or content marketing strategy is undeniable, it will enhance levels of engagement, focus your audience on your main message and help improve your bottom line.


Final Thoughts 

A medium that has long outgrown its childlike cartoonish roots, the usefulness of character animation in business is undeniable. Its effectiveness in demanding a connection between itself and its audience is unparalleled, quite literally, Just look at the stats!

The world is quickly becoming dominated by video, on Youtube alone, 1 billion hours of video footage is watched every day around the globe. Many of these videos are accompanied by commercials containing some form of character animation. This demonstrates just how important this area of animation has become, and how popular it is likely to get. 

Incorporating animated characters into your videos can be a complex process that requires the involvement of a whole range of industry professionals. With an extensive portfolio of animated work, many including animated characters, we can sort the logistics out so you don’t have to. Create amazing video content utilising animated characters without any stress! Sounds good? Drop us a line and let’s get our creative partnership started.


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