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Actually, nobody moves much in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
      — Zorak, Space Ghost Coast to Coast

Limited animation is an animation technique made famous by a string of second-rate Hanna-Barbera cartoons in and around the 1960s, intended to keep production costs as low as possible. Limited animation involves using multiple cells for each character to represent the various moving parts, such as limbs and heads, so that most of the cells could remain static while others are moved or animated to represent a limited degree of motion. If you've ever wondered why so many Hanna-Barbera characters, such as Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear, wear collars, the reason is to hide the neck seam between the head and body cells. This way, the head could move while the character was talking and the rest of the body could remain motionless without a visible transition between the two.

Limited animation stands in stark contrast to the early, pioneering days of black & white animation, in which characters frequently shifted, danced, bounced, and otherwise moved as much as possible, even when they weren't the center of attention. This much-parodied attribute of such classics as Steamboat Willie was expensive and time-consuming, since each character was an animation cell unto itself and had to be re-drawn completely for each frame of motion. Of course, repetitive motion could be accomplished efficiently by looping the animation, that is, re-using the same few animation cells n times for n repetitions of the motion, but this couldn't solve the problem entirely.

Today, limited animation has fallen out of favor for mainstream cartooning. Audiences who were put off by Hanna-Barbera's endless string of knock-off products of knock-off products (parodied in the 3rd season Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode Identity Theft) are no longer content with animation on the cheap. However, even in this climate, limited animation survives in the form of blatant self-parody, particularly in Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup. Fittingly, Adult Swim mostly consists of Hanna-Barbera satire, and many of their cartoons are done with Macromedia Flash, which supports limited animation very easily and economically.

Outside of the medium of television, we see Macromedia Flash limited animation used in numerous low- and no-budget internet cartoons, such as Homestar Runner and Neil Cicierega's Animutations. If the concept is good enough, internet audiences will frequently forgive limited animation as the only good alternative that independent home-brew cartoonists can deliver.

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