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Those animations are a series of GIF files that are loaded during installation. It's possible that they were either installed improperly, or that you may have cleaned them out inadvertently.
I re-installed AE this morning. No problem - and no difference.
Install Quicktime correctly. The preview uses a certain component, that may not be properly referenced on your system and thus previews don't work.
Okay. Quicktime is installed on my computer - is there more to it than that? "Certain component" does not give me much to go on, but thanks.
After a little reseach (I Googled "AE7 install quicktime") it seems there is a problem with AE7 and the latest QT 7.4x version - this is what they say:
"There have been some interesting developments with the release of the QuickTime 7.4 update. Apparently, it disables After Effects 7 and will not permit users to complete rendering videos. There have been some arguments about what is causing this error, with some claiming it is related to DRM, while others claim it is nothing more than a preferences bug.
Nevertheless, you can not revert back to a previous version of QuickTime once you have updated. In short: After Effects 7 users, beware! Avoid the QT7.4 update at all costs, lest you want to deal with a major headache."
I found this on http://www.studiodaily.com/blog/?p=384
Bent, that blog is from January 08. The issues with Quicktime were resolved. There is no such issue with the current version, QT 7.4.5.
That said, I doubt that issue related to your problem with previews.
It seems odd that you buy a $1000 program, and after a fresh install on a new computer is has errors. Then you have to pay an extra $40 to Adobe tech support to get it to work.