I've reviewed previous versions of Anime Studio Debut, Smith Micro's animation suite for beginners before favorably. With the release of version 8, Smith Micro has streamlined Anime Studio Debut ($50, 30-day free trial with registration) and made it even easier for anyone to pick it up and animate characters. New features with Anime Studio Debut 8 are a new Character Wizard, which lets you get up and running with animation in no time, and an Image Vectorizer, which turns your existing drawings into vector images that are ready to animate and scale better. Smith Micro has also revamped the drawing tools, allowing you to create shapes more easily.
Though I haven't used any version of Anime Studio for a year, I found the interface admirably user-friendly. It's so well-matched to sister product Manga Studio, you could easily Anime Studio a translated Japanese application from the same source company--but Smith Micro developed it in-house. Included documentation is extensive, and Smith Micro's website (and its e-commerce site Content Paradise) is filled with examples, tutorials, downloadable animations, and so on.
As we've noted in the past, Anime Studio is bone-based, meaning characters are animated based on lines going through their spines, limbs, and so on. When you draw a new creation and want to animate it, you first need to create a skeleton for it. Then, it's a simple matter of recording movements and editing the steps frame-by-frame. This animation can then be played back or exported to the most popular web and video formats, or even uploaded directly to YouTube.
Since this is the inexpensive Anime Studio Debut product, there are numerous features in Anime Studio Pro that you won't find here, among them the ability to handle 3D objects, and the ability to interact in real-time with external applications, such as movie editors.
Still, if you're a professional animator, you're more than likely going to use a different product that works with Flash animation (if 2D) or 3D Studio Max (if 3D). Anime Studio Debut makes a lot more sense for beginning animators, as it's a smooth introduction to something that could become a profession or serious hobby with a lot of practice.