Character animation is a specialized area of the animation process concerning the animation of one or more characters featured in an animated work. It is usually as one aspect of a larger production and often made to enhance voice acting. The primary role of a Character Animator is to be the "actor" behind the performance, especially during shots with no dialog. Character animation is artistically unique from other animation in that it involves the creation of apparent thought and emotion in addition to physical action.
Historically, Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) is often considered the very first example of true character animation. Otto Messmer imbued Felix the Cat with an instantly recognizable personality during the 1920s. The following decade, Walt Disney made character animation a particular focus of his animation studio, best showcased in productions such as Three Little Pigs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Dumbo. Disney animation artists such as Bill Tytla, Ub Iwerks, Grim Natwick, Fred Moore, Ward Kimball, Les Clark, John Sibley, Marc Davis, Wolfgang Reitherman, Hal King, Hamilton Luske, Norm Ferguson, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston all became masters of the technique.
Frank and Ollie, as they were affectionately known by their proteges,taught that the thoughts and emotions behind the character were primary to the creation of every scene.  Out of all the Nine Old Men, Frank and Ollie were the most known for their mentor /apprentice relationships, and the sharing of their knowledge about creating characters, most notably as transcribed through Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. This book relays the 12 basic principles of animation, and is informally considered to be the 'animation bible' for any student of animation.
Other notable figures in character animation include the Schlesinger/Warner Bros. directors (Tex Avery, Don Bluth, Chuck Jones, Hanna-Barbera, Bob Clampett, Max Fleischer, Walter Lantz, Frank Tashlin, Robert McKimson, and Friz Freleng), independent animator Richard Williams, John Lasseter at Pixar, and latter-day Disney animators Andreas Deja and Glen Keane. Character animation is not limited to Hollywood studios, however. Some of the finest examples of character animation can be found in the work of Nick Park of Aardman Animations and Russian independent animator Yuri Norstein.
Though typical examples of character animation are found in animated feature films, the role of character animation within the gaming industry is rapidly increasing. Game developers are using more complicated characters that allow the gamer to more fully connect with the gaming experience. Prince of Persia, God of War, Team Fortress II or Resident Evil contain examples of character animation in games.
Character animation is augmented by special effects animation, which creates anything that is not a character; most commonly vehicles, machinery, and natural phenomena such as rain, snow, lightning and water, as well as the "non-natural" effects often seen in science fiction films. Sometimes, even special effect animation uses the principles of character animation; an early example is the pseudopod in The Abyss.
On-going computer science research on character animation deals with the question of generating multi-layer level of detail at run-time to allow large crowd rendering in real time applications