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2.5D Animation

2.5D Animation

A (relatively) new and exciting form of animation, 2.5D blends principles from 2D animation and 3D animation to create a hybrid style. Working in this way combines the benefits of 2D motion graphics with the cinematic feel of 3D. 

Elements will be designed in 2D, but then animated like paper cutouts in a 3D environment. A great example of this kind of work is Disney’s award-winning Paperman.

Take a look below:

Paperman| Official Trailer – Copyright: (C) Walt Disney Animation Studios

Want to know more about 2.5D animation?

Here’s a more mathematical way of explaining things – imagine that most 2D animation takes place on an ordinary X and Y axis; elements on screen can move up and down, and side to side. 2.5D animation introduces a third axis for illustrated assets to move along: the z axis. The z axis means that elements can move back and forward too, adding an entirely new sense of depth. 

A good example of a 2.5D animation is something called ‘parallax’. Parallax is a well established technique in 2.5D animation – this uses multiple 2D drawings, layered up on the z axis to create a feeling of perspective. You will have seen parallax in the background of countless cartoons and video games – here’s a great example:

See how still 2D images from the WWF archive were used to make this enticing 2.5D parallax animation:

WWF Parallax Sequence – Copyright: (C) Ad Hoc Films

The dictionary definition of parallax is “the perceived difference in distance and pace of objects in the foreground and background”. The layers of 2D elements at different depths on the z axis mean that the scene feels more attuned to real life; producing an optical illusion. 


2.5D animation hits the sweet spot between 2D and 3D styles – engaging audiences in exciting and engaging animated worlds without the extended production times and huge budgets of 3D animation. 

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