Independent animation

Independent animation is a term used to describe animated short cartoons and feature films produced outside the professional Hollywood animation industry.

The history of animation is as old as the film industry itself. Independent animators have produced innovative, often experimental, shorts since the silent era.

One of the feature length animated films was "The Adventures of Prince Achmed," was made in 1926 by Lotte Reiniger, a German artist who made intricate cut-out figures that are underlit. She made a number of shorter films, and another feature, Dr. Doolittle, in 1928. Contemporary independent animators, including Paul Fierlinger and Bill Plympton, have also made features outside of the studio system.

Because animation is very time-consuming and expensive to produce, the vast majority of animated productions are made by professional studios. When the Hollywood animation industry entered a decline during the 1960s (see Hollywood Animation: The TV Era), a small but steady number of independent animation producers kept the art of animation alive. They produced a number of experimental films that pushed the boundaries of the medium, experimenting in ways that Hanna-Barbera and Disney didn't dare to consider. A number of independent animation producers went on to produce mainstream animation, and they became successful in their own right.

Many independent animation short films are largely unknown; they are rarely seen outside of independent "art house" movie theaters. Collections of independent films have been gathered for theatrical viewing, and video release, under such titles as the International Tournee of Animation (which existed between about 1966 and the late 1990s) and Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation (1977 to 1990) and Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation since 1990.

The rise of the Internet in the 1990s and 2000s saw an exponential increase in the production of independent animation. Personal computer power increased to the point where it was possible for a single person to produce an animated cartoon on a home computer, using software such as Macromedia Flash or Autodesk, and distribute these short films over the World Wide Web. Independently produced Internet cartoons flourished as the popularity of the Web grew, and a number of strange, often hilarious short cartoons were produced for the Web.

In the late 1990s, an independent animated short film called The Spirit of Christmas was produced for under $2,000 by two artists, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. This film was widely distributed on the Internet as a pirated cartoon, and its phenomenal popularity gave rise to the popular TV animated series South Park.


  • Spook Short (1939) by Mary Ellen Bute


  • Radio Dynamics (1942) by Oskar Fischinger


  • Color City (1952) by Len Lye



  • Synchromy (1971) by Norman McLaren
  • Train Landscape (1974) by Jules Engel
  • Sunstone (1979) by Ed Emshwiller
  • Closed Mondays by Will Vinton



  • Panspermia (1990) by Karl Sims
  • Eggy (1991) by Yoichiro Kawaguchi
  • Triangle (1994) by Erica Russell
  • Third Interpolation (1999) by Dylan Kendle
  • Sink (1999) by Tomioka Satoshi
  • The Wolfman (1999) by Tim Hope


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