An Aniform is a two-dimensional cartoon character operated like a puppet, to be displayed to live audiences or in visual media. The concept was invented by Morey Bunin with his spouse Charlotte, Bunin being a puppeteer who had worked with string marionettes and hand puppets. The distinctive feature of an Aniforms character is that it displays a physical form that appears "animated" on a real or simulated television screen. The technique was used in television production.
After forming Aniforms, Inc., Bunin filed for a patent on the process on August 4, 1960, and was granted U.S. Patent 3,070,920 on January 1, 1963.
According to the patent, Aniforms are "open two-dimensional figures…constructed to simulate many objects." The figures are flexible to allow free manipulation, which is accomplished by "rods or wires … attached to the figures" for both support and movement. The controls are arranged or painted to be invisible to the audience.
Bunin later improved the process to take advantage of emerging Chroma key technology. All background and control surfaces were painted blue, and the black-white signal polarity was reversed without altering the color signals. This resulted in a black outline figure on a white background, which could then be superimposed or keyed on another scene without the object background showing through. Bunin filed for a patent on the improved process on January 20, 1975, and was granted U.S. Patent 3,899,848 on August 19, 1975.
The Aniforms process has been used on several television productions:
"Fred" and other Aniforms characters are considered more puppet than animation. Their relatively crude, two-dimensional forms and lack of locomotion was appealing primarily because of the illusion of human interaction in real-time with an animated character.
The Late Show host Stephen Colbert founded Late Night Cartoons, Inc., an animation studio that has collaborated with developers of Adobe Character Animator to produce real-time interactive animations for broadcast. Their topical productions range from a live interview with an animated cartoon version of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 to several animated series including; Showtime's Our Cartoon President, Tooning Out the News, Fairview, as well as upcoming series Washingtonia.
The Adobe technology uses motion capture to track hand-drawn characters in real-time. In contrast to Aniforms, which requires only a puppeteer and an optional voice artist, it takes "25 to 30 animators total" to produce a 10-minute episode in the 24-hour turnaround cycle required before airtime for the concept to stay current.
Network studios have used CrazyTalk and CrazyTalk Animator in their daily production due to short delivery deadlines. Television shows like Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! use both CrazyTalk and CrazyTalk Animator 2D applications to produce real-time animations for broadcast.
Live2D also can be used to generate real-time 2D animations—usually anime-style characters—using layered, continuous parts based on an illustration, without the need of frame-by-frame animation or a 3D model. This enables characters to move using 2.5D movement while maintaining the original illustration.