Wikipedia defines rotoscoping as:
Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films.
This technique is often used to avoid doing a motion test– which is, in my opinion, the most frustrating part of doing animation.
A motion test is the process of testing the way your figures look across many frames, to make sure you’ve created a convincing illusion of motion in your animation. Often times, your figures, will look great, but move strangely, thus adding hundreds of test drawings to the animator’s workload.
By drawing over a film, the animator can use the motion expressed there, and only worry about how the figure looks, rather than how it moves.
This is all fine and good– until people begin to get sneaky. What happens when the animator rotoscopes footage they don’t own?
Or worse, use other animation, not film, as a motion test.
Observe the images above, from Cowboy Bebop, and Naruto.
It is clear that Naruto has rotoscoped the frames from the above Coyboy Bebop fight scene.
Now that’s just an obvious case of outright theft going on there, but what if you’re stealing from yourself?
Take the example below, where Disney has borrowed from it’s own films- cutting corners by reusing the motion work done in one film, in another.
No wonder the jungle book and robin hood always seemed so similar!
What of the thousands of works based on motion pioneer, Eadward Muybridge?
How many animated horses have stolen their gallop from this little guy?
The real questions here are:
Who owns movement?
Can you trademark a gesture?
What do you think?