Beyond Realism: Exploring Abstract and Experimental Animation Styles

Author: Bob Apr 22, 2024 7 min read

If you are a fan of animation and have watched Spiderman Into the Spider-Verse, which won the 2019 Academy Award with a total budget of $90 million, you likely noticed many changing abstract animation backgrounds created with 3D models in 3D software. What’s more interesting, the Spider-Verse, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, managed to blend different styles of animation like hand-drawn animation, 2D, and 3D with experimental animation into one successful genre. Surprised?

Today, we will lead you into the fascinating Wow-How story beyond realism, exploring the artistic expressions and techniques that define abstract and experimental animation through history.

Elevate your business with 2D/3D animation!

What are Abstract and Experimental Animations?

Abstract and Experimental Animations

Let’s travel back to the early days of experimental filmmaking! In the early 20th century, Artists and animators began to break away from traditional storytelling and explore more avant-garde and abstract approaches to producing experimental films. One of the earliest experimental cartoons was a piece by Rene Laroux called Fantastic Planet (1973), in which humanoids dominated the strange world of humans. However, with the advent of 2D animation techniques and 3D technology came The Lego Movie (2014), which combines different animation styles (photoreal stop-motion techniques). 

Abstract animation takes its roots in abstract art. Abstract art doesn’t attempt to represent an accurate depiction of real-world elements but instead uses colors, shapes, and lines to show the desired picture. From the surreal artworks of Salvador Dali to the colorful abstractions of Oskar Fischinger, abstract animation has been shaped by pioneers who dared to think beyond the norms. Influential movements like the Bauhaus school and artists like Norman McLaren have left their mark on the evolution of abstract animation, inspiring new generations to push the boundaries of visual arts.

In other words, these styles break free from the constraints of reality and explore new ways to convey emotions, messages, and ideas through visual storytelling.

Key Features of Abstract and Experimental Animation: Let the Imagination Sparkle!

Although abstract and experimental types of animation lead the viewer to the imaginative world of shapes, lines, and color, they have different and common features. 

Unlike traditional animation, which focuses on storytelling and realistic depictions, abstract animation delves into the realm of shape animations, fast-changeable colors, and movements to evoke emotions and convey messages in a non-literal way. The key features that ignite the imagination of both creators and viewers are:

  • Emphasis on Visual Elements

Instead of relying on narrative or characters, abstract animators use these visual elements to create dynamic and engaging abstract animation videos that evoke a wide range of emotions and create mesmerizing experiences.

  • Freedom of Interpretation

Unlike traditional animation, which often follows a linear narrative, abstract animation allows for multiple interpretations and encourages viewers to engage with the artwork on a personal level.

  • Symbolism and Metaphor

abstract animation

By using abstract shapes and colors, animators can communicate universal themes and concepts in a metaphorical and symbolic language.

While abstract animations resonate with viewers on a symbolic level, let’s see the main features of experimental animation movies:

  • Hybrid Animation

Today, experimental animation is characterized by a fusion of traditional and digital animation techniques, resulting in a diverse range of hybrid animation styles that blend the best of both worlds. Animators combine hand-drawn animation, 3D animation, stop-motion animation, and other techniques to create visually stunning and stylistically unique animations that defy categorization. Two good examples are the Spider-Verse and The Netflix adaptation of Arcane from Leagues of Legends.   

  • Integration Of Cutting-Edge Technologies

From AI-driven animation tools to virtual reality and augmented reality experiences, experimental animators are leveraging technology to create immersive and interactive animated content that pushes the boundaries of traditional animation techniques.  One such example is Jibaro, the 9th episode in the third season of Netflix’s darling anthology Love, Death, and Robots, where Alberto Mielgo tried more experimental types of animation, mixing 3D models with 2D backgrounds and keyframe animation.

And here comes one mutual feature of abstract and experimental animations – breaking free from traditional narrative constraints and exploring new ways to convey emotions, concepts, and themes. 

At Wow-How, we experiment with different animation techniques and innovations and go beyond realism. We cherish unique and compelling narratives and play with shapes and light to deliver “workable” content.

Discover a whole new world of animation styles!

Animation Techniques and Tools

As we have touched the imaginative boundaries of surreal animation, let’s find out which techniques and tools are used to create immersive worlds and abstract stories.  

While abstract animation can be reached with the help of different styles of animation, changing shapes and colors, experimental animation techniques include:

Collage Animation. Animators use a mix of photographs, illustrations, textures, and other materials to construct scenes that come to life through motion. By layering different elements and playing with composition, this technique offers a fresh approach to storytelling in animation.

Pixilation. Pixilation is a stop-motion style that uses live actors as frame-by-frame subjects in an animated sequence. This technique blurs the line between reality and animation, offering a fresh perspective on storytelling. The technique’s unique blend of live action and animation adds a human touch to the visuals, engaging audiences in a way that traditional animation cannot.

Projection Mapping. This technique projects animated visuals onto physical surfaces, transforming ordinary spaces into immersive art installations. By mapping out the contours and dimensions of a surface, animators can create mesmerizing animations that interact with the environment in a dynamic way.

Experimental 3D Animation. Some popular tools that bring experimental animation to life are Blender (an open-source 3D creation suite), Adobe After Effects, and Unity platform, which allows artists to create immersive and interactive animations. 

In the case of abstract shapes and color animation types, tools such as Adobe Animate, Toon Boom Harmony, and Cinema 4D provide artists with the necessary features to create dynamic and expressive abstract stories.

Use Cases of Animated Surrealism and Its Future

Animated Surrealism

Abstract 2D/3D animation and experimental video production give us an amazing chance to express a story with thought-provoking animations that combine surrealism, comedy, and extraordinary ideas throughout different industries. 

Entertainment Industry

From short films and music videos to visual effects in movies and television shows, abstract and experimental animations are widely used to immerse an audience into other worlds: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Paprika, Waking Life, and the classic experimental animated film from Disney, Fantasia. 

Educational Apps

Surrealism finds its place in educational settings, where it is used to explain complex concepts, engage students, and stimulate critical thinking. The app Purple Pink Space Explorer uses animated surrealism to teach children about outer space, exploring planets and galaxies through whimsical and imaginative animations.

Marketing and Branding

Nowadays, marketers are leveraging the power of abstraction and experimentation to evoke emotions, tell compelling stories, and establish strong connections with their target audience. One interesting example is a promotional video of Ariana Grande’s R.E.M. fragrance. 

The future of abstract and experimental animations is filled with endless possibilities and exciting innovations. As technology continues to advance, animators will have access to more powerful tools and software that enable them to fusion different styles into one (live-action animation) and create even more intricate and immersive animations. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and interactive storytelling experiences will open new avenues for exploration and creativity.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, abstract and experimental animations invite us to experience art in a whole new way, where each frame tells a story that is uniquely ours to interpret.  This type of story can be used in modern life and businesses to evoke sustainability awareness, promote products in a new way, and bring viewers to the augmented reality of new design solutions.   

So, embrace the unknown surreal art with Wow-How studio and let your imagination sparkle brightly in the world of abstract animation.


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