‘Animation is not the art of drawings that move but the art of movements that are drawn.’ (Norman McLaren)


This quote can be recited by heart by most people in the animation field, usually in the pursuit of the fleeting definition and nature of animation itself, along with some historic and prehistoric accounts of the depiction of motion. In some cases it would be in association with the ‘persistence of vision’ theory, which explains that the retina of the human eye retains any image received for a fraction of a second, allowing a rapid succession of still images to be perceived as in motion[1].

If we believe in the ‘persistence of vision’, we must consider true that any sequence of images that is not correlative and played at the ideal speed will not fulfill the illusion of movement. Yet, if we watch Blinkity Blank (Norman McLaren, 1955), we will soon realize that, even when there are empty frames and non-consecutive images, the film is completely permeated by movement.


A shot from Blinkity Blank.

We could try to say that all the empty frames are “filled in” by the eye, so there is no true emptiness. But wouldn’t that mean that the so called ‘persistence’ lasts longer than stated, and that it can tie together completely unrelated images? Could that still be the retina at work, or is it something entirely different? At this point the entire construct would lie bare in front of us: there is no such thing as a ‘persistence of vision’. In fact, this has been proven wrong scientifically as early as 1912 [2]. Why, if it has been proven false for so long, we keep thinking of it as true? It could be due to its simplicity, but I believe that this model of thought does not require for its explanation of apparent movement to be true, as it takes its force from a linear conception of movement.

To get rid of this conception, I propose a non-linear model of (In)Consistency. In this model perception is understood as an indivisible consistent flow (i.e. a duration). Yet, given that the moving image is based on a sampling of this flow, the possibility for a breach or inconsistency appears. The main difference would be then that, while persistence considers perception itself as a sampling of a solid reality, consistency considers perception as a flowing filter of a reality that contains in itself every possibility. For example, Blinkity Blank repeatedly take us from a drawn frame to another one, passing through an empty duration that exists in between. Instead of filling the emptiness with the echo of an image (persistence), in the non-drawn frame there is pure movement, in every direction at the same time. The actual movement that we perceive is projected from a drawn frame, through this space of multiple possibilities,in order to be caught by the next drawn frame, thus completing the motion. As in the Kuleshov effect for montage, the trajectory or the meaning of the middle frame is given by its context. But what happens if the next drawn frame doesn’t “catch” the movement? The motion will not brake suddenly in the encounter of a unsympathetic un-correlative image. Instead it will continue without the sustain of a color or a shape, until it disperses, gets picked up by other movement, or exits the frame. In this way, we will realize that movement is (as McLaren states) without drawings, but it requires drawings to be carried out, performed, actualized, and separated from the background noise [3].

This way of understanding movement beyond the visible frame by means of disappearing parts or inconstant characters, volumes, etc., allows for inconsistencies, without excluding them from motion.

What we find in Blinkity Blank as a black or empty frame is actually what already happens between any two frames, but expanded. We can think of Bugs Bunny when, being caught in the shower, covers himself with a towel: the actual movement is not drawn, but it exists in the in-between, and is returned to us by the consistency of the overlapping towel. There is also the God character of Mind Game (Masaaki Yuasa, 2004), inconsistent in shape but consistent in motion, or the animation style of The Girl without Hands (Sébastien Laudenbach, 2016) with its disappearing yet remaining bodies.

The God character of Mind Game.

However, even when confronted so frontally by science and art, the hegemony of the persistence model is still very strong. For example, video compression is based on the assumption that between most frames there won’t be much difference. Some televisions today will “enhance” video by generating an in-between frame. And even in most animation softwares the intended process is to interpolate between value a and value b. In other words, persistence is the disdain for the void; it is the assumption that, as in Zeno’s paradox, there is always something in between. In (In)Consistency, this space is one of pure motion, there are infinite possibilities as a quantum space of images forms in the viewer’s mind, an aperture for a foreign element to intrude the sequence and bring something new. It can be a smear frame, a metamorphosis, or something completely different. Between a and b there could be c, d, or perhaps nothing at all. It all remains between the frames, and beyond the visible.


Matias Poggini is an Animator and Director from Buenos Aires, Argentina. While studying at Universidad del Cine, he collaborated at the development of the first magazine of the University writing articles and doing illustrations for it. He also works in the industry as an animator and is currently developing a short film.


[1] Some examples of this explanation of the perception of movement (and by this list I don’t intend to belittle or criticize the content of the books or the experience of the authors, just call the attention onto this specific subject) are: Wells, P. (1998), Understanding Animation, London, Routledge; Webster, C. (2005), Animation: The Mechanics of Motion, Oxford, Focal Press; Whitehead, M. (2003), Animation, Harpenden, Pocket Essentials; Barry, V. (2010), Animación: La magia en movimiento, Santiago de Chile, Editorial Pehuen; Laybourne, K. (1979), The Animation Book, New York, Crown Publishers; Patmore, C. (2003), The complete animation course, London, Thames & Hudson Ltd.

[2] See Wertheimer, M. (1912) Experimentelle Studien über das Sehen von Bewegung. Z. Psychologie 61: 161-265. See also Münsterberg, Hugo M (1916), The Photoplay. A Psychological Study. New York: D. Appleton and Company, p. 14. From: “La Persistencia Retiniana y El Fenómeno Phi como error en la explicación del Movimiento Aparente en Cinematografía y Televisión.” Pascual, Miguel Ángel Martín, Barcelona, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Facultad de Ciencias de la Comunicación.

[3] In here I think that the in-between frame, the pure movement frame is in fact the Deleuzian plane of immanence or consistency more than a image-movement.