This thesis examines the use of imaginative play of children for both the creation of animation and as an influence on the creative processes of the animator. I discuss methods of characterizing play activities and theories of play that can aid the animator in understanding the mental processes employed by children during imaginative play. I discuss how children are represented in animation and how imaginative play can be used to create characters with a greater sense of realism and stronger emotional connections to the viewer. I discuss the animations of John and Faith Hubley based on audio recordings of their children and how theories of play can be used to interpret their work.

I present two thesis films, Young Mother Nature and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman based on audio recordings of my daughter engaged in imaginative play. I examine my process of creating these animations, and reflect on the influence of play on the creative process.