Terry Gilliam on Cutout Animation


This video includes animated clips from Monty Python.
There is some nudity!

If the human body without clothes offends you, do not watch this clip.

The Do It Yourself Animation Show

The Do It Yourself Animation Show was a British show that was on in the 70’s. It encouraged children and adults to give animation a try.

In this episode, Terry Gilliam demonstrates how he does/did cutout animation for Monty Python.

It is strange to see Terry Gilliam because he would have been around his mid-thirties in this video.

It is interesting to hear him talk about cutout animation back when he loved doing it.

Creating Cutout Animation with Terry Gilliam

The first step is to find images to cut out or make. In the video, he recommends magazines, books, family albums, or anywhere.

Gilliam uses a lot of old photos. I’m not sure what the rules are for copyright, but it doesn’t seem to bother him.

Terry Gilliam with Christmas Card

Terry Gilliam holding Christmas card to become cutout animation.

I like to use only royalty-free images from the internet, find books of stock images for use, or create my own.

From there he creates a storyboard, prepares his cutouts, and set-ups everything for filming.

The way he sets up for shots is a bit more complicated than I teach my students. I prefer using lights already in a room and have the cutouts flat on a table as a take photos.

Terry Gilliam showing how he animates.

A setup of the cutout animation production set-up Terry Gilliam uses.

When doing more advanced work with clients, I will sometimes do something like Terry Gilliam does in the video.

Good lighting is helpful for getting a better image. Having a piece of glass does help keep everything flat. But, if the project is just for fun or you’re just learning, they are not a necessity to create great animated videos.

Something I learned from the video was blacking out the edges of the paper.

“The key thing when you’re doing cutouts is to remember that you have to black the edges of the paper with a black felt tip marker. Because without those blacked out, you get little white flares when you’re shooting it. It spoils the illusion… It now looks like paper on top of other pieces of paper.” -Terry Gilliam

In my cutout animation, I tend not to use photos. Instead, I use colored construction paper and draw in features. Using colored construction paper removes the need to “black-out” the edges.

Limited Animation

I love the Terry Gilliam uses a lot of limited animation in his work.

“Be totally aware of the limitations of cutouts. There are definite limitations, but you can use them to your advantage” -Terry Gilliam

Organization in Cutout Animation

In the video, Terry Gilliam also covers the importance of staying organized. He mentioned two common ways to keep all the paper pieces from getting lost.

One way to stay organized is to keep small parts in envelopes. The second way it to tape them onto backgrounds or a separate piece of construction paper.

Have Fun and Get Animating!

My favorite quote from Terry Gilliam’s tutorial is:

“Have fun playing under the camera.”

Do you have a favorite quote from the video? Did you have any big takeaways from this video? What was your favorite part?

My favorite animated joke is at 6:10.

Have you always wanted to learn animation?

2 thoughts on “Terry Gilliam on Cutout Animation

  1. James says:

    “What do you say to anyone who wants to make Film Animation?”… “Don’t.” Love it.

  2. jasonjoel says:

    loved this. Blacking out the edges is such a good note!

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