There are many different kinds, qualities, styles, et cetera, of animation. Which kind you use is really up to a couple of things:
1. How much money you have.
2. How much time you have.
The more detail you want the more it will cost you. If you want your animation to look like 1950-1960 Warner Brothers animation, then you need to be prepared to invest a fortune, or the rest of your life, or both. (For example, a typical Simpsons episode costs about $1.8 million and takes a huge team of artists several months to complete.) However, if you are content with something approaching the quality of South Park, then you can get a whole lot more done with an incredibly small amount of time and money. The creator's of South Park typically animate their shows in about a week and it costs about $300,000. (Don't let that $300 K scare you. That goes to paying artists and overhead, which we don't have to do.)
You have to look at your story to decide what kind of animation is right for you. If your story is more dialogue driven, with jokes and plot and such, and scenery and action is more incidental, then you can get away with lower quality animation. But if your story has slap-stick humor and action in it then you are going to need a higher level of animation. A story with a high level of dialogue and plot can have a high level of animation, but it isn't necessary. However, low quality animation will have a difficult time supporting a high action cartoon. I won't say it is impossible because there are some ingenious people out there.
Please note that when I say low quality I do not mean "bad". Perhaps I should have chosen a better word, like high and low "difficulty" but I've already typed this whole thing out and there is no way to change it. It's impossible. By low quality I really mean that there is not a whole lot of shape changing going on.
In the original South Park all of the characters faced camera for most of the show, even when dialoging. Only their eyes moved. In addition their legs never moved even when walking, their bodies just switched from front view to profile. The majority of the animation was essentially unchanging shapes moving around over a background.
The above animation is an example of an unchanging shape moving across a screen. This is technically animation, but only technically. ;)
Unless otherwise stated on this blog I will be using Anime Studio Pro. Currently I am using version 8. It is a very powerful program and I got it on Amazon for about $70. I spent almost 10 years wishing I could afford Flash and believing I'd never be able to animate. I was convinced that this cheap program would never satisfy my needs. I wish I had purchased it when I first saw it about 5 years ago.
What I have done in the animation above is created a very simple background of a green rectangle and a blue rectangle. Over that background I have two white ovals. I placed them at a starting point and then I moved to frame 24 (about 1 second in) and move them to a different location over the background. I did the same at frame 48, 72, and so on. When rendered it looks like the above.
Neither cloud changes shape or does anything remarkable. That is low quality/difficulty animation. Making a cloud change shape requires more work. Imagine that cloud in the shape of a person with eyes that blink, a mouth that opens, arms, legs, hands with ten fingers, and perhaps hair, all moving independently of each other. A single second of animation becomes a mind numbing concept. The difficulty goes through the roof. But I digress.
For the fun of it I have made a South Park version of the Soft Ninja. I wanted to see what it would look like to have a SP version of the Soft Ninja doing some of the things I want him to do in the future. I can already tell just from the picture that kicking is out of the question. And with those short arms punching is going to be problematic at best. But let's try a walk cycle just for starters.
Now, for my purposes with the Soft Ninja I do not think that South Park quality will suffice. I will need something in between what I want (Bugs Bunny in Transylvania 6-5000) and what I can afford (something significantly south of South Park). Still I think it is possible.
That said, these South Park tests will make for a good scene test and learning exercise. So I will try to do them whenever I can.
Any suggestions or comments?
NOTE TO THE HATERS:
I actually love South Park.