Ever notice cartoon characters often wear gloves? The reasons are fascinating

There’s a scene in Disney’s animated film “An Extremely Goofy Movie,” where one of the characters nearly breaks the fourth wall and asks, “Do you ever wonder why we’re always, like, wearing gloves?” Excellent question. It’s so common we don’t even notice: gloves are what we expect to see.

The biggest reason has to do with technology. Before computers started doing a lot of the heavy lifting, making an animated movie was highly labor-intensive: everything was drawn by hand. They used “cels,” which were kind of like the transparencies used in the overhead projectors you might have seen in school — depending on when you went to school! That way, any element that didn’t move from one frame to the next didn’t have to be re-drawn. For example, if you had a cartoon mouse dancing on a stage, the stage would be on one cel and the mouse on another cel placed above it. Only the moving mouse would need to be drawn again for the next frame. Often animators could get away with “shooting on twos.” Each frame would appear twice, so only 12 sets of cels would be needed for each second of run time (film runs at 24 frames per second). But even if you could shoot on twos, an hour of movie required 43,200 different images.

All that work led to the “rubber hose and circle design” for cartoon characters, making them easy to draw quickly and without needing too much bodily detail. Gloves are simple and round, in the spirit of rubber hose and circle.

There were also other factors. When cartoons were black and white, white gloves made it easier to see characters’ expressive hands against shaded backgrounds. Gloves work well for animals who behave like humans: it’s a way to turn paws into hands. Likewise, when inanimate objects come to life, gloves are a good way to give them hands.

Check out the video posted below to learn more about cartoon characters and their gloves and let us know what you thought in the comments at Facebook. Don’t forget to like and share!

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