Finally I came up with a very easy and fun way to do animations which can be both expressive, do not require redrawing of the whole character each frame, and allow very easy modification: without messy erasing and without having to use a computer mouse or computer drawing tablet. For this method all you need is a 'dry erase' board ('whiteboard'), a usb camera, a computer, and some free software.
Step 1: Get Your Stuff Together
= one or more dry erase boards
(more than one is nice because you can do multiple scenes at the same time without erasing the same board over and over)
= a usb camera
I use a logitech quickcam chat, it's cheap and does the job. It also comes with a weird bendy mount which allows me to mount it on a tripod that I have.
= a computer
any old computer will work as long as it can run the software (see below)
= some free software
I use 'MonkeyJam' to make the initial animations, it's free and it's great, does everything you need to make nice animations.
I use 'Video Edit Magic' to do the post animation editing (adding music, sound effects, naration, etc). It's a very cheap, simple, and effective program.
Step 2: Set Everything Up
Mount the usb camera above it in a stable position. It's best to make some sort of mount that you can keep in place permanently, or at least for the time that it takes you to do your animation. If it gets shifted in reference to the whiteboard, it's annoying to reposition it to the exact same position, and then your animation will have a 'jump' in it.
I mounted my webcam on an old tripod that I foun on the street, I think the tripod was used for a high hat on a drum set.
You will probably not want to mount the webcam more than about a foot above the whiteboard, cause their resolution isn't that great.
plug the camera into your computer and start MonkeyJam
Step 3: Working With the Software
Click the button on the upper left (piece of paper with a star on it). This will create a new 'layer' in your animation.
Just click 'ok' in the box that comes up.
An orange labeled layer will appear.
Click the 'Open Video Capture Window' button (the thing to the right of the '10' button)
In the window that pops up, select 'stop motion' under the 'mode' menu.
Select your camera from the 'cameras' menu.
Then start drawing and click the 'capture' button whenever you want to make a new frame in your animation.
Step 4: Working With the Software Cntd.
When you're satisfied with your movie, click the 'exposure sheet as an Avi movie button.
Step 5: Put Your Animations Onto Youtube
You can also use windows movie maker for basic editing (add effects, etc).
Alternatively you can download VirtualDub from download.com, it's free and allows basic video editing.
Put your animations onto YouTube so people can watch them. There aren't many aninamtions by nonprofessionals on there at the moment, I hope this will change after this instructable.
Here are some excellent books on animation:
How To Draw Cartoon Animals
How To Draw Real Animals
Film Directing Shot by Shot
Script Writing etc
Here are some short animations I did so far: