How Colour Symbolism in Animation Affects the Viewer

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How Colour Symbolism in Animation Affects the Viewer

The impact on people of colour symbolism in animation

Animation movies present an unusual set of challenges and questions to academics examining films from a cognitive perspective When the boundaries of the real world do not exist like do in live action movies the film maker is challenged to create the complete narrative space of scratch How do animators succeed this seemingly enormous task This question certainly precedes making film life and space in visual art has been a subject of deep study by artists photographers historians and psychologists alike While the intention may be to create a highly realistic visual space the option given to visual artists and animators is to abandon principle of realism in favour of another different perspective on the visual reality Animation alone can bring to life inanimate objects challenge and defy laws of physics and create visual effects beyond the bounds of possibility in live action filmAnimation and colour have evolved since their respective beginning Colour has been both an obvious challenge as well as a field for exploration for animators throughout the animation history Scientific discoveries in aspect to the perception of colour also influenced its use in art and animation making colour an ideal goal for further exploration in a psychological context

In this chapter three questions will be posed and answered First what is colour exactly and how is it defined And second how has colour been used by animators through the history of animated film Finally how does our cognitive sense of colour shape the viewers cognitive sense of a film The final question will focus on a specific population of animated movies animated movies adapted for children and how the use of colour in these films strategically differs from other types of films


Color is a concept that philosophers artists and scientists have historically spent a great

deal of time exploring and quantifying Physiologically our perception of color results from

varying wavelengths of light being reflected onto the retina which in turn are processed by cells

called photoreceptors The relative responses to light spectra by these cells are what generate our

ability to see and distinguish between colors Anomalies in photoreceptor cells can cause deficits

in the ability of an individual to see color though in some unique circumstances these anomalies

allow individuals to more finely discriminate between colors Neitz Kraft Neitz 1998

Jordan Mollon 1992 Nagy MacLeod Heyneman Eisner 1981


Quantifying Color Attempts to categorize color vastly predate our understanding of the

physiology of the eye but Isaac Newtons Opticks 1704 is pivotal in its introduction of his

color wheel for understanding color theory2 The ordering of the colors around his color circle

and in subsequent iterations by other color theorists is based on the order in which the colors

are refracted out from the prism uniting violet and red to close the radial axis see Figure 1

Thus the ordering of the colors on the color wheel is not arbitrary but based in the physics of

light Newton also introduced the notions of primary and secondary colors and notes that

opponent colors on the color wheel combine to create a neutral light color3

Despite that it has evolved over time and exists in varying forms the color wheel

continues to play an important part in both the artistic and psychological understanding of color

Notably it is useful for defining several metrics of color namely hue and saturation Hue refers

generally to named colors and corresponds to the sectors of color into which color wheels are

typically divided Examples of huebased descriptions include bluegreen red and pink

Saturation is another important color variable and generally refers to how bright or potent a

color is Pastel colors which are closer to the center of the color circle are relatively

unsaturated Very

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