Written as the introduction to a special issue of Body & Society on the topic of animation and automation, this paper considers the interrelation of those two terms through readings of relevant work in film studies and science and technology studies (STS), inflected through recent scholarship on the body. Drawing upon historical and contemporary examples, we trace how movement is taken as a sign of life, while living bodies are translated through the mechanisms of artifice. Whereas film studies has drawn upon work ranging from production history to semiotics and psychoanalysis to conceptualise the ways in which the appearance of life on the cinema screen materialises subjectivities beyond it, STS has developed a corpus of theoretical and empirical scholarship that works to refigure material-semiotic entanglements of subjects and objects. In approaching animation and automation through insights developed within these two fields we hope to bring them into closer dialogue with each other and with body studies, given the convergence of their shared concerns with affective materialisations of life. More specifically, an interest in the moving capacities of animation, and with what gets rendered invisible in discourses of automation, is central to debates regarding the interdependencies of bodies and machines. Animation is always in the end a relational effect, it seems, while automation implies the continuing presence of hidden labour and care.