Animation is something which cannot be defined but it should be understood. I usually ask my animation trainees to define animation in their own words. This helps me to open them up, and broadening their mind for more possibilities in animation. By this I get positive response too, they aren’t reading out definitions from any book, but they really emoting the idea of animation by exploring in their own world for the same. They come up with different exclamations like… “Animation is observation!” “Animation is acting!” “Animation is recreating reality and adding up more value!” “Animation is illusion!” “Animation is music(rhythm)!” 
According to Webster, Animation is “ a: a motion picture made by photographing successive positions of inanimate objects (as puppets or mechanical parts), b: Animated Cartoon, a motion picture made from a series of drawings simulating motion by means of slight progressive changes."
As quoted by Robert M. Zywietz Z. “Animators and academics suggest a multitude of definitions: “art form” ; “Special Technique” ; “graphic design” ; “graphic art” ; “film form” ; “genre” , et cetera. Also, as Stefan Kanfer observes, “[a]nimators have always been fond of quoting the dictionary definition of their art” before doing so himself and duly offering his own derivative hypothesis, which, like the rest all the rest of them, takes an entirely different view on the subject. Seemingly, animation has a lot of different meanings, each one leaning towards a different aspect of animation, which perhaps shows its range and versatility. For now, we can take animation to mean all of these things. “ 
Another definition of animation by some authors is “Any cinematographic production that is not a simple recording of real life in 24 photograms per second is defined as animation.” 
The noun “animation” began to be used by French specialists in the 1950s, when an international cultural movement was consolidated between Paris and Cannes that attributed a specific meaning to this form of art. 

Animation is an art form. One can’t teach animation. We can show the way and fill up them with all information but at last they are the one who actually need to do, feel & experience it. I can compare it with swimming. One has to jump in to learn it out by using the body, heart and the mind. Coach is there to help & to provide all necessary information and techniques to do so. How this is different from animation training? It’s exactly the same. No one can actually teach animation, but one has to become the animator by practicing the art by themselves. 

In simple words Animation is giving life to the characters or inanimate. Many times we see fresher’s demo reel which has the stock of unwanted, unrealistic & purposeless movements. So, for me “Animation means creating illusion of movements with the purpose.” I can also define this as “Animation is expressing the inner motion or performing an activity with the help of virtual puppets.” Surely every animator has their own definition and work flow for the animation. Same as we all have different ideology or philosophy for the life. Yes animation is illusion of life only. 

Basically there are three different stages: 

Knowing Animation 

Doing Animation 

Thinking Animation 

Anyone can “know about animation”. Nowadays even small kid can differentiate between the styles of animation. Knowing about the principles, tools, method of animation is not difficult at all. 
Doing animation by following the idea of directors which appeals the audience is crucial. They are able to put the idea & make it work. There are lots of artists in the industry which will make CG puppets move according to the direction. I’ve seen people working in the industry with years of experience still they need someone to direct them because they can’t make acting choices for their shots, scenes. 
There are some who just have entered in the industry & moved ahead faster & became better. What makes these people different from the other? Thinking..! Thinking about the character, about the motivation for the action, thinking about the emotional involvement of the other elements in the scene with the main character... Thinking animation is the most of all. That’s why I said Animation is not making things move but moving things with purpose. 
In current time studios need people who actually can think & deliver the performance by their own. Thinking, planning for animation is actually the toughest thing. Crating motions which actually make people laugh or compel them to cry. Doing motion is easy but artist spend all of their time in thinking and planning for the performance which can inspire the audience. Proper the planning, faster and better the work will be. There is lots of thought process involves in planning. One has to develop the skills of keen observation in order to create appealing performance. Planning for the shot is not today’s topic so I am not going deep in there. Increase the practicing hours if you want to reduce the gap between fresher and professional level animator. 
More practice= more doubt, problems= more solutions (by the self R&D or with the guidance)= more experience of solving problems. 
One can learn more, by practicing more and can grow faster. :D
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Author Animator Vikram Pandya