What's the Difference Between Traditional Animation and Computer Animation?

In essence, there is truly little difference between "traditional" animation and computer animation; the primary difference is in the tools used to create these animations, the cost and effort involved in the processes, and the quality of the final output.

Traditional animation is a very hands-on process; 2D animation is accomplished by hand-drawing hundreds upon thousands of individual frames only to transfer them to clear plastic cels, hand-paint them, and then film them in sequence over a painted background image.

This requires a team of artists, cleanup artists, painters, directors, background artists, and film/camera crews, along with the storyboard artists and script writers to work out the original concepts; for large-scale projects, the amount of time, labor, and equipment involved can be staggering.

Computer Animation

Traditional 3D animation was less "3D" and more still-lifes of claymations done by use of stop-motion filming techniques; the true concept of 3D animation didn't really blossom until the use of computers in animation became more practical. Computer animation removes the need for many of the extra tools required to create an animation; all you need, in general, is a computer with enough system requirements to run the 2D or 3D software application of choice, and people capable of using that software.

Depending on the type of animation desired, sometimes the process can be wholly computerized; in other cases, such as in many 2D "cartoon" animations, the hand-penciling work is still necessary, before it is then scanned to the computer to be colored and sequenced digitally.

The process is much less labor-intensive, and generally much cheaper; there is also a greater margin of error, because your digital files can allow you to undo any mistakes up to a certain number of steps.