House "animated" fonts

jlt's picture

just got this via email:

The press release I received used the phrase "animated fonts" over a half-dozen times, yet from what I can see these fonts are not actually animated (and how would that work, anyway? Multiple faces with slight differences, or a built-in randomizer ala Kosmik?).

Can anyone shed light? They seem to be simply some nicely-drawn faces based on animation lettering, but are certainly not "animated" by any stretch of the imagination, at least not given any definition I've ever heard. Does that industry call their lettering "animated fonts" even when the lettering is not actually animated?

Here's the actual press release:


(YORKLYN, DE) December 18, 2006 — In a tribute to the golden age of animation, House Industries is introducing Burbank, a versatile new collection of 20 animated fonts. The collection will be available January 1, 2007.

The collection features Burbank Big, in three widths and four weights, and Burbank Small, in four weights of both Roman and italic. Designed for mixing and matching, Burbank offers a nearly endless array of combinations.

“Until now, animated typefaces were drawn as single, stand-alone display fonts. They rarely had relatives or a supporting cast,” says Burbank designer Tal Leming, who was inspired by the versatility of his favorite cartoon characters and the hand-lettered titles of classic animation.

Often stymied by the lack of typographic options for his own graphic design projects that called for animated fonts in display and text weights, Leming set to work nearly a decade ago to create the Burbank “super family” of typefaces. The collection features hand hewn fonts from big to small, wide to condensed, light to black and nearly everything in between.

“Designers need a coordinated, animated font family like this. I know that I sure did,” Leming says.

House Industries is offering the entire Burbank collection of 20 fonts for $299, including a free T-shirt. Or you can purchase the display and text sets separately, for $199 each. Burbank Big features the 12 display fonts (condensed, regular and wide in light, medium, bold and black weights). Burbank Small includes eight fonts total, four Roman and four italic, for use in text sizes.

Order online at or call 1-800-888-4390.

Miss Tiffany's picture

By animated I'm sure they simply mean "bouncing on the baseline."

Miss Tiffany's picture

Although on second thought, it could also mean there is a bit of Opentype goodness happening which gives us an alternate which changes spacing from the baseline so it seems a tad more organic in words with two of the same character ... or somesuch like that.

jlt's picture

Yeah, that's what I assumed ... but none of the technical specifications mention anything like that.

It would be pretty cool if that was the case, though. They throw the word around as if it were a technical descriptor rather than simply an aesthetic term, so I'm not sure they mean variance from the baseline, although certainly the face does have a nice bit of movement in that respect.


jlt : : rnrmf!

Miss Tiffany's picture

One reason I think it is safe to assume it has OT goodness is the involvment of Tal. He's a proven wizard with this stuff. I can't wait to check it out.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Tal gives us a little more information:

    "Uh oh. Looks like the 'animated' term is confusing people. It just means, like you said, that the fonts are bouncy. The display fonts do have two versions of almost every alphanumeric character and some OpenType code that inserts them as needed to prevent similar forms from occurring in a specified range. But, most of the bounce is controlled by the structure of the letterforms themselves. The baselines are systematically shifted to ensure proper bounce. The OpenType feature is insurance so to speak."
Stephen Coles's picture

It's simply an error in the PR copywriter's judgement. A rarity for House.
Burbank, on the other hand, is great.

Norbert Florendo's picture

Sounds Frisky to me... ;-)

dezcom's picture

Makes me green-in-the-screen to just think about it :-)


Miss Tiffany's picture

Ken Barber has used the word animated before when he was speaking about this style of lettering. I don't think it was an error, more a misunderstand. I just think we live in a day and age when it is technically possible to "animate" the letters using OT technology and programming wizardry.

Norbert Florendo's picture

> we live in a day and age when it is technically possible to “animate” the letters

Makes me feel like dancing, Tiffany!

Stephen Coles's picture

I meant "error in judgement". It is not the best term for the font's PR as it is easily confused. Other words: lively, bouncy, vibrant, energetic, dynamic, spirited. But no big whoop.

Tal Leming's picture

Sorry for being so late to respond to this thread. I've been kerning...

It’s simply an error in the PR copywriter’s judgement.

The error is mine. House has been using the "animated" term for years to describe bouncy typefaces. And, the term has historical precedent. For example, pages 38-40 of the Photo Lettering Inc. Alphabet Thesaurus Volume I (1960) are referred to as the "Animated Gothics" section. Thus, I thought I'd be safe with the term. The confusion probably comes from the fact that we're not hiding that my love for classic character animation was a huge source of inspiration for this family. Animated fonts. Animated movies. Animatedly animated animation. I simply ran out of terms to describe it all. Oh well. Hopefully people will like the fonts.

As for the questions about the OpenType features and bounce, here's what is going on in the fonts:

Burbank has been meticulously drawn to ensure that all settings have an evenly distributed bounce without resorting to any fancy OpenType features. This works 97% of the time, but occasionally it needs a helping hand. For example, here's a setting showing only the base (non-alternate) letterforms:

I think it looks pretty good, but the duplicate T letterforms bother me. Being the perfectionist that I am, I had to do something about this. So I drew subtly different alternates for (nearly) the whole range of alphanumeric characters for every member of Burbank Big. The fonts contain OpenType code that inserts these alternates only when needed to alleviate Repetitive Structure Syndrome. The result looks like this:

Overlaying the examples shows this:

The alternate E is inserted because the L has a similar structure to the E, the alternate T is inserted to eliminate the duplicate form and the rest of the letterforms are the base forms. The OpenType code is used only as a fallback for times when the base forms don't do enough work on their own. This isn't as flashy as Ed-Interlock, Local Gothic or Luxury Text-Italic, but it gets the job done.

Stephen Coles's picture

Thanks for the illustrations, Tal. Love it when the creators come in to give the inside story. Don't sweat the copy, it'll incite a few support calls, but I'm sure it won't hurt sales a bit.

Norbert Florendo's picture

Looks great. I'd be tempted to call it "animated" as well.
But the red/blue overlap on your bottom sample is freaking my eyes out on screen. I should put my old 3-D glasses on and enjoy the show.

paul d hunt's picture

I should put my old 3-D glasses on and enjoy the show.

maybe then it really does become animated!

dezcom's picture

So Norbert, What have you been drinking? :-)


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