I've often seen in animated cartoons like Doraemon or any other anime that an object in the background that is about to move or do some movement is highlighted explicitly. Which makes it easy to predict that something is about to happen to the highlighted object. What is the reason for this?

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    As a child I remember that Scooby Doo was the absolute worst offender here. I mention it because I think American audiences will be more familiar with it. Basically they'd be looking for a clue and on a very detailed background there'd be one drawer that looked off. It would be a solid color and have a thick outline. You knew they'd go open it soon. Nov 26, 2019 at 20:09
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    I like this question, but it can be improved significantly with a video example or two. Nov 27, 2019 at 3:17
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    You mean the Conspicuously Light Patch? (Yes, there's a TV Tropes page for it.) Nov 27, 2019 at 4:48
  • Yes @AaronRotenberg you're right my friend. Nov 27, 2019 at 9:18
  • @CaptainMan oh god, and He-Man too, I recall. "Secret" doors were always pretty obvious to the viewer for this reason, they'd even occasionally "wobble". I wonder if the characters ever learned to spot them the same way? Nov 29, 2019 at 10:14

1 Answer 1


This is due to how hand-drawn animation used to be made. A static background was drawn only once, and the moving objects were drawn for each frame on a transparent cel. Then it was placed on the background, one frame was shot on film, then the cel was removed, and new one was placed on the same background, next frame was shot, and so on.

If an object wasn't moving, it was a part of the background. If it is to be animated, it is no longer part of the background and has to be now drawn on the cel to be moved in each frame. Drawings on the cels, as seen on the picture are outlined with ink and that is why they seem highlighted or standing out from the background.

Cross section of animation cel and background
Source: Weiner Elementary, consulted on 27 November 2019.

  • That's a really enlightening image. I had a rough idea of how this worked, but a single look at that image filled in a lot of the details.
    – Jasper
    Nov 29, 2019 at 14:28

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