Published 19 Jan 2017

Gilliam, Collage and Cut out Animation Style and Technique through Analysis of Different Cut out Animation


Different artistic movements are always identified with particular inpiduals who acted as pioneers and important pillars in this particular art movement. These are inpiduals who provided styles and techniques that helped define the approach of art as a means to communicate to the people; inpiduals who helped art movements move forward by giving the present students of art something to learn from. One of these kinds of inpidual is Terry Gilliam. His role was best appreciated in the field of cut out animation. Through Gilliam’s approach, story telling through effective cut out animation became perse.

Through Gilliam’s style and technique, he was able to expose the different aspects of cut out animation and how these aspects contribute significantly towards being an effective story teller through cut out animation with the use of style. “Gilliam sees animation as creative, vitalistic and emotional (Dillon, 2006, p. 119).” Because of what many believe as Terry Gilliam’s offbeat approach towards art (including cut out animation) in his effort to avoid being common, ordinary and pedestrian, he did not alienate artists. On the contrary, visual artists we even lured by Gilliam’s image and creativity.

This was put in display in his cut out works and in the shows that featured these works of his, like the Monty Python’s Flying Circus. While Gilliam has truly become one of the important personalities when it comes to visual art particularly to cut out animation, there are also other artists in the past and in the present who carried the torch and continued what Terry Gilliam has started. This includes the equally visionary creators of works like Angela Anaconda and Twice upon a Time.

The aim of the paper is to discuss art and style and technique in cut out animation through the perspective of Terry Gilliam’s characteristic and approach towards cut out animation while at the same time discussing important aspects of cut out animation, like the concept and idea of collage through the works in cut out animation including but not limited to Gilliam, including those who created Twice Upon a Time and Angela Anaconda.

Discussion and Analysis

Cut out animation is an art form on its own. As an art form, it has its own definition and presentation of art through techniques employed by visual artists involved in the cut out animation movement. While there are already numerous cut out animation outputs by artists presented to the public in recent years, there are selected artists and art works that helped define the art and technique involved in cut out animation. The style of these artists not just created inroads inside cut out animation as it is known and practiced today, but it were also, in some point, the very definition of the cut out animation genre.

This is best manifested in the case of Terry Gilliam and his cut out animation. Analysts and critics believe that Gilliam was consistent in art and technique when it comes to his cut out animation. Some of the consistent characteristics include the use of sudden and dramatic movements, the errors in the scale among the characters, as well as non living things and the features of the landscape in a scene, the surrealist approach in creating a landscape and realm, the use of what is considered as grotesque Victorian gadgets and human figures oddly cut out from other print sources.

These are some of the characteristics of Gilliam’s cut out animation art and technique, and as one of the important figures in cut out animation and considered as one of the important pillars in this particular artistic genre, his style, technique, art and approach has somewhat influenced other cut out animation artists and cut out animation plays. In the study of the art and technique in animation, it is possible to establish a particular perspective in how to look at the art and technique in this particular art genre through the style of one particular artist. His works and from there see how the influence of one style is reflected in other style. In the process, it allows a research effort to take one particular set of identified characteristics from which other art works would be seen, compared and based on.

Critics believe that Gilliam’ artistry was put in display in this particular avenue. As this happened, Gilliam unconsciously created the standard for art, style and technique in cut out animation approach, as well as in storytelling using this particular art form which many artists who came before him closely studied. Some even found inspiration in his work and approach in cut out animation, his visual art instinct and his storytelling (Wells, 1998, p. 160).

The approach of artists towards collage and cut out animation has always found certain similarities with the approach and technique popularized by Gilliam – the sudden and dramatic movements and errors in scale, the surrealist landscapes as well as grotesque Victorian gadgets and anachronistic items. Some or many of these characteristics are indeed found in the cut out works like Angela Anaconda and Twice upon a Time, not to mention the Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Scales, Sizes and Cut out Animation

One of the most noticeable characteristics of cut out animation, especially that of Terry Gilliam, is the conscious erroneous sizing and scaling of the characters and the details of the surrounding world. It has a reason: this was a deliberate act in the part of Gilliam because the idea of unrealistic and odd size and scale of people and things in his visual composition is to highlight more the fact that the viewer is looking at a surreal and fantastically unreal world. If the world was indeed unreal and surreal, there is no logic in following the natural and mathematical idea of scales and sizes because it will defeat the purpose of the crazy, funny magic carpet ride into another dimension which is actually just inside the head – of Gilliam and of the audience.

Add to the fact that the work was partly an opus for comic ergo the mismatch in the shape and sizes of people and things. Besides Gilliam’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus, other cut out animation also displayed this similar penchant for mismatched, unrealistic size and shape (Nostalgia Central, 2009).

For example, Angela Anaconda features a girl with an oversized head, a characteristic which seemed to be consistent with cut out animation, like the works of Gilliam as well as other cut out animation. This maybe the case because since the flat cut out animation characters do not have the ability of the 3D (or 3 dimensional) features to define its own personal character, the idea of animating what is real (like humans) can be manifested through oversized body parts like the head.

Since these do not have the ability to make facial expressions as complex as those which 3D animated images can, they try to compensate for this handicap by oversized body parts to allow the character to be just as capable in getting the audience attention (not to mention the humor effect and the un-real sting that incorrectly shaped and sized images and body parts bring to the table) (Angela Anaconda).

Collage and Cut Out Animation

The idea and theory of collage is an important aspect when it comes to developing cut out animation. The foundation of the practice of collage will provide the necessary basics so that cut out animation is effective and story telling through this approach maximized during presentation. In viewing Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Angela Anaconda and Twice Upon a Time, it is evident that the artists who designed the cut out animation placed important considerations in the different important concepts of designing via collage. The idea of collage is the putting together of different materials together, materials and visuals cues which, independently, are separate from each other and yet when all of them are joined together forms a collective whole and singular idea.

This concept was often put in play in the many cut out animation scenes found in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Angela Anaconda and Twice upon a Time. The different cut out characters and different cut out items, materials, gadgets and things formerly disjointed with each other pop out of the screen in Monty Python’s Flying Circus and cohesively form a particular idea or convey a thought; when Angela moves around in her world decorated with a collage of inanimate misfits and what-nots and when Mum and Ralph is yet again off to their alternate, surreal globe-trotting adventure to see different parts of their own imagined world.

All of these instances feature artists building and designing the movements of the characters and the composing the world that they create around the characters of their cut out animation stories adhere to the ideas of collage; although some, like Gilliam, has a penchant for colouring outside the line especially with his more deviant approach towards executing art. Gilliam and the other artists, nonetheless, display adherence to and the practice of the ideas and theories of designing via collage as reflected in these select works.

Cut outs, Collage and Mismatched Items

One of the idea of collage in any discipline of art, music, architecture and in literary is the idea of picking things totally dissociated from one another from the beginning, like personal photographs and images from books, cartons and catalogues, drawings etc and putting them together. The art there is found in being able to create harmony and deliver a cohesive thought in the collection of formerly disconnected visual aspects found in the composition, and most importantly, to create a new world (often surreal or magical or both), especially when there is the addition of animation for this flat one dimensional objects formerly dissociated with one another but after an artistic effort from designers and artists now have a singular cohesive message to the audience.

This is the aspect of cut out animation that is connected with collage. In the effort to mix and match what would have been mismatched details of a new world arises the imagination of the artists to create a new world that is fun and enjoyable and can be sold to the audience as “real” in its own sense even when things are appearing anachronistic (like Gilliam’s Victorian era gadgets) or out of place and yet each is tied significantly to one another. There comes a strong sense of connection with the items present in the artwork, may it be the Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Angela Anaconda or Twice Upon a Time.

This is the same reason why artists were able to create a convincing feel of the surreal world. It is in the composition, through collage, that a new world is recreated based from the items found in the original world. The items in the original world often serve an entirely different purpose in the world of cut out animation, especially how they are placed alongside other people and things through the collage of visual cues.


Cut out animation has always been a very important artistic movement. Notable visual artists like Terry Gilliam and George Lucas has been involved in cut out animation, as well as other talented artists who contributed to the growth of cut out animation, but it was Gilliam who was one of the inpiduals who rose to superstardom because of how he led and pioneered a particular style and approach towards cut out animation and visual arts as a whole. His Monty Python’s Flying Circus has been an important part of the history of cut out animation. Other works are not far behind, since critics and analysts also acclaim the art behind other works like the Lucas-produced Twice upon a Time and Angela Anaconda.

These works provide the present time with means and ways on analysing cut out animation and its characteristics, especially those which are attributed as originating from the work, mind and imagination of the great Terry Gilliam. It was transferred to students of the craft who came after him because of the merit of his style and technique and the artistic value, foundation and significance of how he executed cut out animation in a way that it communicates effectively while at the same time being fun and amusing and surreal.


  • Angela Anaconda official site. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from
  • Dillon, S. (2006). The Solaris Effect. University of Texas Press. Nostalgia Central (2009).
  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Retrieved June 18, 2009
  • International Movie Data Base (2009). Twice Upon a Time. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from
  • Wells, P. (1998). Understanding Animation. Taylor & Francis, Inc.
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