History of animation

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Animation refers to the recording of any image which goes through changes over time to portray the illusion of motion. Before the invention of film, the depiction of figures in motion through static art existed as far back as the Paleolithic. In the 19th century there were several devices which successfully displayed animated images.

Early approaches to motion in art[edit]

An Egyptian burial chamber mural, approximately 4000 years old, showing wrestlers in action. Even though this may appear similar to a series of animation drawings, there was no way of viewing the images in motion. It does, however, indicate the artist's intention of depicting motion.

Evidence of artistic interest in depicting figures in motion can be seen as early as Paleolithic cave paintings. Animals in these paintings were often depicted with multiple sets of legs in superimposed positions. Because these paintings are prehistoric they could be explained a number of ways, such as the artist simply changing their mind about the leg's position with no means of erasing, but it's very likely that they are early attempts to convey motion.[1]

Sequence of images that minimally differ from each other from late half of 3rd Millennium B.C.

Another example includes a 5,200-year old earthen bowl found in Iran in Shahr-e Sukhteh. The bowl has five images painted along the sides, showing phases of a goat leaping up to nip at a tree.[2][3]

An Egyptian mural, found in the tomb of Khnumhotep, at the Beni Hassan cemetery includes a sequence of images in temporal succession. The paintings are approximately 4000 years old and show scenes of young soldiers being trained in wrestling and combat.[4]

A Chinese zoetrope-type device had been invented in 180 AD.[5]

The Voynich manuscript that dates back to between 1404 and 1438 contains several series of illustrations of the same subject-matter and even few circles that – when spun around the center – would create an illusion of motion.[6]

Seven drawings by Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1510) extending over two folios in the Windsor Collection, Anatomical Studies of the Muscles of the Neck, Shoulder, Chest, and Arm, show detailed drawings of the upper body with a less-detailed facial image. The sequence shows multiple angles of the figure as it rotates and the arm extends. Because the drawings show only small changes from one image to the next, the drawings imply motion in a single figure.

Even though some of these early examples may appear similar to an animated series of drawings, the lack of equipment to show them in motion causes them to fall short of being true animation. The process of illustrating the passing of time by putting images in a chronological series is one of the most important steps in creating animation so historic instances of this practice are definitely notable.

Animation before film[edit]

Numerous devices which successfully displayed animated images were introduced well before the advent of the motion picture. These devices were used to entertain, amaze and sometimes even frighten people. The majority of these devices didn't project their images and accordingly could only be viewed by a single person at any one time. For this reason they were considered toys rather than being a large scale entertainment industry like later animation. Many of these devices are still built by and for film students being taught the basic principles of animation.

The magic lantern (c. 1650)[edit]

The magic lantern is an early predecessor of the modern day projector. It consisted of a translucent oil painting, a simple lens and a candle or oil lamp. In a darkened room, the image would appear projected onto an adjacent flat surface. It was often used to project demonic, frightening images in order to convince people that they were witnessing the supernatural. Some slides for the lanterns contained moving parts which makes the magic lantern the earliest known example of projected animation. The origin of the magic lantern is debated, but in the 15th century the Venetian inventor Giovanni Fontana published an illustration of a device which projected the image of a demon in his Liber Instrumentorum. The earliest known actual magic lanterns are usually credited to Christiaan Huygens or Athanasius Kircher.[7][8]

Thaumatrope (1824)[edit]

A thaumatrope was a simple toy used in the Victorian era. A thaumatrope is a small circular disk or card with two different pictures on each side that was attached to a piece of string or a pair of strings running through the centre. When the string is twirled quickly between the fingers, the two pictures appear to combine into a single image. The thaumatrope demonstrates the Phi phenomenon, the brain's ability to persistently perceive an image. Its invention is often credited to Sir John Herschel. John A. Paris popularized the invention when he used one to illustrate the Phi phenomenon in 1824 to the Royal College of Physicians.[9]

Phenakistoscope (1831)[edit]

The phenakistoscope was an early animation device.[10] It was invented in 1831 simultaneously by the Belgian Joseph Plateau and the Austrian Simon von Stampfer. It consists of a disk with a series of images, drawn on radii evenly spaced around the center of the disk. Slots are cut out of the disk on the same radii as the drawings, but at a different distance from the center. The device would be placed in front of a mirror and spun. As the phenakistoscope is spun, a viewer would look through the slots at the reflection of the drawings which would only become visible when a slot passes by the viewer's eye.[11] This created the illusion of animation.

Zoetrope (180 AD; 1834)[edit]

The zoetrope concept was suggested in 1834 by William George Horner, and from the 1860s marketed as the zoetrope. It operates on the same principle as the phenakistoscope. It was a cylindrical spinning device with several frames of animation printed on a paper strip placed around the interior circumference. There are vertical slits around the sides through which an observer can view the moving images on the opposite side when the cylinder spins. As it spins the material between the viewing slits moves in the opposite direction of the images on the other side and in doing so serves as a rudimentary shutter. The zoetrope had several advantages over the basic phenakistoscope. It didn't require the use of a mirror to view the illusion, and because of its cylindrical shape it could be viewed by several people at once.[12]

In China around 180 AD the prolific inventor [Ting Huan] (丁緩) invented a device similar to the modern zoetrope. It was made of translucent paper or mica panels and was operated by being hung over a lamp so that vanes at the top would rotate as they came in contact with the warm air currents rising from the lamp. It has been stated that this rotation, if it reached the ideal speed triggered the same illusion of quick animation as the later zoetrope, but since there was no "shutter" (the slots in a zoetrope), the effect was in fact simply a series of horizontally drifting figures, with no true animation.[13][14][15][16]

Flip book (1868)[edit]

An 1886 illustration of the kineograph.

The first flip book was patented in 1868 by John Barnes Linnett as the kineograph. A flip book is just a book with particularly springy pages that have an animated series of images printed near the unbound edge. A viewer bends the pages back and then rapidly releases them one at a time so that each image viewed springs out of view to momentarily reveal the next image just before it does the same. They operate on the same principle as the phenakistoscope and the zoetrope what with the rapid replacement of images with others, but they create the illusion without any thing serving as a flickering shutter as the slits had in the previous devices. They accomplish this because of the simple physiological fact that the eye can focus more easily on stationary objects than on moving ones. Flip books were more often cited as inspiration by early animated filmmakers than the previously discussed devices which didn't reach quite as wide of an audience.[17] In previous animation devices the images were drawn in circles which meant diameter of the circles physically limited just how many images could reasonably be displayed. While the book format still brings about something of a physical limit to the length of the animation, this limit is significantly longer than the round devices. Even this limit was able to be broken with the invention of the mutoscope in 1894. It consisted of a long circularly bound flip book in a box with a crank handle to flip through the pages.

Praxinoscope (1877)[edit]

The first animated projection (screening) was created in France, by Charles-Émile Reynaud, who was a French science teacher. Reynaud created the Praxinoscope in 1877 and the Théâtre Optique in December 1888. On 28 October 1892, he projected the first animation in public, Pauvre Pierrot, at the Musée Grévin in Paris. This film is also notable as the first known instance of film perforations being used. His films were not photographed, but drawn directly onto the transparent strip. In 1900, more than 500,000 people had attended these screenings.

Traditional animation[edit]

The first film that was recorded on standard picture film and included animated sequences was the 1900 Enchanted Drawing, which was followed by the first entirely animated film - the 1906 Humorous Phases of Funny Faces by J. Stuart Blackton, and is because of that considered the father of American animation.

The first animated film created by using what came to be known as traditional (hand-drawn) animation - the 1908 Fantasmagorie by Émile Cohl

In Europe, the French artist, Émile Cohl, created the first animated film using what came to be known as traditional animation creation methods - the 1908 Fantasmagorie. The film largely consisted of a stick figure moving about and encountering all manner of morphing objects, such as a wine bottle that transforms into a flower. There were also sections of live action where the animator’s hands would enter the scene. The film was created by drawing each frame on paper and then shooting each frame onto negative film, which gave the picture a blackboard look.

The more detailed hand-drawn animations, requiring a team of animators drawing each frame manually with detailed backgrounds and characters, were those directed by Winsor McCay, a successful newspaper cartoonist, including the 1911 Little Nemo, the 1914 Gertie the Dinosaur, and the 1918 The Sinking of the Lusitania.

During the 1910s, the production of animated short films, typically referred to as "cartoons", became an industry of its own and cartoon shorts were produced for showing in movie theaters. The most successful producer at the time was John Randolph Bray, who, along with animator Earl Hurd, patented the cel animation process which dominated the animation industry for the rest of the decade.

The silent era[edit]

Charles-Émile Reynaud's Théâtre Optique is the earliest known example of projected animation. It predates even photographic video devices such as Thomas Edison's 1893 invention, the Kinetoscope, and the Lumière brothers' 1894 invention, the cinematograph. Reynaud exhibited three of his animations on October 28, 1892 at Musée Grévin in Paris, France. The only surviving example of these three is Pauvre Pierrot which was 500 frames long.[18]

After the cinematograph popularized the motion picture, the endless possibilities of animation began to be explored in much greater depth.[19] A short stop-motion animation was produced in 1908 by Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton called The Humpty Dumpty Circus.[20] Stop motion is a video technique in which real objects are moved around in the time between their images being recorded so that when the images are viewed as a video, they appear to be moving by some invisible force. It directly descends from various early "trick" film techniques which used video to realistically display the impossible. A few other films featuring the stop motion technique were released afterward, but the first to receive wide scale appreciation was Blackton's Haunted Mansion which baffled viewers and inspired a lot of further development in animation.[21] In 1906 Blackton also made the first drawn work of animation on standard film, Humorous Phases of Funny Faces. It features faces being drawn on a chalkboard which suddenly begin to move autonomously.

Fantasmagorie, by the French director Émile Cohl (also called Émile Courtet), is also noteworthy. It was screened for the first time on August 17, 1908 at Théâtre du Gymnase in Paris. Cohl later went to Fort Lee, New Jersey near New York City in 1912, where he worked for French studio Éclair and spread its animation technique to the US.

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)

Influenced by Cohl, the author of the first puppet-animated film (i.e. The Beautiful Lukanida (1912)), Russian-born (ethnically Polish) director Wladyslaw Starewicz, known as Ladislas Starevich, started to create stop motion films using dead insects with wire limbs. In 1911 he created The Cameraman's Revenge, a complex tale of treason, suicide and violence between several different insects. It is a pioneer work of puppet animation, and the oldest animated film of such dramatic complexity, with characters filled with motivation, desire and feelings. In 1914, American cartoonist Winsor McCay released Gertie the Dinosaur, an early example of character development in drawn animation. The film was made for McCay's vaudeville act and as it played McCay would speak to Gertie who would respond with a series of gestures. There was a scene at the end of the film where McCay walked behind the projection screen and a video of him appears on the screen showing him getting on the cartoon dinosaur's back and riding out of frame. This scene made Gertie the Dinosaur the first film to combine live action footage with hand drawn animation. McCay hand-drew almost every one of the 10,000 drawings he used for the film.[22]

Also in 1914, John Bray opened John Bray Studios which revolutionized the way animation was created. Earl Hurd, one of Bray's employees patented the cel technique. This involved animating moving objects on transparent celluloid sheets which were then placed over a stationary background image and then photographed to generate the sequence of images. This as well as Bray's innovative use of the assembly line method allowed John Bray Studios to create Col. Heeza Liar, the first animated series.[23] In 1915 Max and Dave Fleischer invented rotoscoping, the process of using film as a reference point for animation and their studios went on to later release such animated classics as Ko-Ko the Clown, Betty Boop, Popeye the Sailor Man, and Superman. In 1918 McCay released The Sinking of the Lusitania, a wartime propaganda film. McCay did utilize some of the newer animation techniques such as cels over paintings, but because he did all of his animation by himself, the project wasn't actually released until just shortly before the end of the war.[23] At this point the larger scale animation studios were becoming the industrial norm and artists such as McCay faded from the public eye.[22]

Excerpt from the 1919 Feline Follies with Felix the Cat.
The 1919 Feline Follies by Pat Sullivan

The first animated feature film was El Apóstol, made in 1917 by Quirino Cristiani from Argentina. He also directed two other animated feature films, including 1931's Peludópolis, the first feature length animation to use synchronized sound. None of these, however, survive to the present day.[24][25] In 1920, Otto Messmer of Pat Sullivan Studios created Felix the Cat. Pat Sullivan, the studio head took all of the credit for Felix, a practice which was very common in the early days of studio animation. Felix the Cat was distributed by Paramount Studios and attracted a very large audience. Felix was the first cartoon to be merchandised. He soon became a household name.

In Germany, during the 1920s the abstract animation was invented by Walter Ruttman, Hans Richter, and Oskar Fischinger, however, the Nazis censorship against so-called "degenerate art" prevented the abstract animation from developing after 1933.

The earliest-surviving animated feature film is the 1926 silhouette-animated Adventures of Prince Achmed which used colour-tinted film. It was directed by German Lotte Reiniger and French/Hungarian Berthold Bartosch.

The Golden Age of Animation[edit]

In 1923 a studio called Laugh-O-Grams went bankrupt and its owner Walt Disney opened a new studio in Los Angeles. Disney's first project was the Alice Comedies Series which featured a live action girl who interacted with numerous cartoon characters. Some of the first animated sound films with recorded sound synchronized with the animation were the Song Car-Tunes films (1924-1927) and Dinner Time (1928). The earliest sound Song Car-Tunes films were Oh Mabel (May 1924) and Mother, Mother, Mother Pin a Rose on Me and Goodbye My Lady Love (both from June 1924). Disney's first notable breakthrough was 1928's Steamboat Willie, the third of the Mickey Mouse series, which was the first cartoon to include a fully post-produced soundtrack, featuring voice and sound effects printed on the film itself ("sound-on-film"). The short film showed an anthropomorphic mouse named Mickey neglecting his work on a steamboat to instead make music using the animals aboard the boat.

In 1930 Warner Brothers Cartoons were founded. While Disney's studio was known for its releases being strictly controlled by Walt Disney himself, Warner brothers allowed its animators significantly more freedom, which allowed for their animators to develop more recognizable personal styles.[22] The first animated feature sound film was Peludópolis which premiered on September 16, 1931.[26] The first animation to use the full, three-color Technicolor method was "Flowers and Trees" made in 1932 by Disney Studios which won an Academy Award for the work.[18] Color animation soon became the industry standard and in 1934 Warner brothers released "Honeymoon Hotel" of the Merry Melodies series, their first color film. In 1935 Tex Avery released his first film with Warner Brothers. Avery's style was notably fast paced, violent, and satirical, with a slapstick sensibility, and he introduced the Looney Tunes characters who are still extremely popular to this day. The thrilling nature of Avery's productions appealed to a much wider audience than Disney's which was directly marketed towards children.

Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937, is often considered to be the first animated feature but at least eight were previously released. However, Snow White was the first to become successful and well-known within the English-speaking world and the first to use Technicolor cel animation. Following Snow White's release Disney began to focus much of its productive force on feature length films. Though Disney did continue to produce shorts throughout the century, Warner Brothers continued to focus on shorts.

The first Japanese-made feature length anime film was the propaganda film Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors (桃太郎 海の神兵) by the Japanese director Mitsuyo Seo.[27] The film, shown in 1945, was ordered to be made to support the war by the Japanese Naval Ministry. The film's song AIUEO no Uta (アイウエオの歌) was later used in Osamu Tezuka's anime series Kimba the White Lion. Originally thought to have been destroyed during the American occupation, a negative copy survived and the film is now available in Japan on VHS.

The television era[edit]

Color television was introduced to the US Market in 1951. In 1958 Hanna-Barbera released Huckleberry Hound, the first half-hour television program to feature only animation. Terrytoons released Tom Terrific the same year. In 1960 Hanna - Barbera released another monumental animated television show, The Flintstones, which was the first animated series on prime time television. Television significantly decreased public attention to the animated shorts being shown in theatres.

Animation Techniques[edit]

Innumerable approaches to creating animation have arisen throughout the years. Here is a brief account of some of the non traditional techniques commonly incorporated.

Stop motion[edit]

This process is used for many productions, for example, the most common types of puppets are clay puppets, as used in The California Raisins and Wallace and Gromit, and figures made of various rubbers, cloths and plastic resins, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Sometimes even objects are used, such as with the films of Jan Švankmajer.

Stop motion animation was also commonly used for special effects work in many live-action films, such as the 1933 version of King Kong and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

CGI animation[edit]

Computer-generated imagery (CGI) revolutionized animation. The first fully computer-animated feature film was Pixar's Toy Story (1995).[citation needed] The process of CGI animation is still very tedious and similar in that sense to traditional animation, and it still adheres to many of the same principles.

A principal difference of CGI animation compared to traditional animation is that drawing is replaced by 3D modeling, almost like a virtual version of stop-motion, though a form of animation that combines the two worlds can be considered to be computer aided animation but on 2D computer drawing (which can be considered close to traditional drawing and sometimes based on it).

Most CGI created films are based on animal characters, monsters, machines or cartoon-like humans. Animation studios are now trying to develop ways of creating realistic-looking humans. Films that have attempted this include Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001, Final Fantasy: Advent Children in 2005, The Polar Express in 2004, Beowulf in 2007 and Resident Evil: Degeneration in 2009. However, due to the complexity of human body functions, emotions and interactions, this method of animation is rarely used. The more realistic a CG character becomes, the more difficult it is to create the nuances and details of a living person, and the greater the likelihood of the character falling into the uncanny valley. The creation of hair and clothing that move convincingly with the animated human character is another area of difficulty. The Incredibles and Up both have humans as protagonists, while films like Avatar combine animation with live action to create humanoid creatures.

A type of non-photorealistic rendering designed to make computer graphics appear to be hand-drawn. Cel-shading is often used to mimic the style of a comic book or cartoon. It is a somewhat recent addition to computer graphics, most commonly turning up in console video games. Though the end result of cel-shading has a very simplistic feel like that of hand-drawn animation, the process is complex. The name comes from the clear sheets of acetate (originally, celluloid), called cels, that are painted on for use in traditional 2D animation. It may be considered a "2.5D" form of animation. True real-time cel-shading was first introduced in 2000 by Sega's Jet Set Radio for their Dreamcast console. Besides video games, a number of anime have also used this style of animation, such as Freedom Project in 2006.

Machinima is the use of real-time 3D computer graphics rendering engines to create a cinematic production. Most often, video games are used to generate the computer animation. Machinima-based artists, sometimes called machinimists or machinimators, are often fan laborers, by virtue of their re-use of copyrighted materials.

Firsts in animation[edit]

1917Feature filmEl ApóstolCreated with cutout animation; now considered lost
1926The Adventures of Prince AchmedOldest surviving animated feature film, cutout silhouette animation
1924Synchronized sound on filmOh MabelShort film; used Lee DeForest's Phonofilm sound on film process, though none of the characters "speak" on screen
1926Synchronized sound on film with animated dialogueMy Old Kentucky Home[28]Short film; used Lee DeForest's Phonofilm sound on film process; a dog character mouths the words, "Follow the ball, and join in, everybody!"
1930Filmed in Two-color TechnicolorKing of Jazz[29]Premiering in April 1930, a three-minute cartoon sequence produced by Walter Lantz appears in this full-length, live-action Technicolor feature film.
1930Two-color Technicolor in a stand-alone cartoonFiddlesticksReleased in August 1930, this Ub Iwerks-produced short is the first standalone color cartoon.
1931Feature-length sound filmPeludópolis
1932Filmed in three-strip TechnicolorFlowers and TreesShort film
1935Feature length puppet animated (stop-motion) filmThe New Gulliver
1937Feature filmed in three-strip TechnicolorSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs
1940Stereophonic soundFantasia
1949Television seriesCrusader Rabbit
1955Feature filmed in widescreen formatLady and the Tramp
1961Feature film using xerography process (replacing hand inking)One Hundred and One Dalmatians
19833D feature film - stereoscopic techniqueAbra Cadabra
Animated feature containing computer-generated imageryRock and Rule
1985Feature length clay-animated filmThe Adventures of Mark Twain
1988cinematography milestone"Who Framed Roger Rabbit"First feature film to have live-action and cartoon animation share the screen for the entire film
1990Produced without cameraThe Rescuers Down UnderFirst feature film completely produced with Disney's Computer Animation Production System
1995Fully computer-animated feature filmToy Story
2003First Flash-animated filmWizards and Giants
2004Cel-shaded animationAppleseed and Steamboy
2005Feature shot with digital still camerasCorpse Bride
2007Feature digitally animated by one personFlatland
2009Stop-motion character animated using rapid prototypingCoraline
2010Animated feature film to earn more than $1,000,000,000 worldwide
Feature film released theatrically in 7.1 surround sound
Toy Story 3


History of Chinese animation[edit]

History of Indian animation[edit]

History of Iranian animation[edit]

Iran's animation owes largely to the animator Noureddin Zarrinkelk. Zarrinkelk was instrumental in founding the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA) in Tehran in collaboration with the late father of Iranian graphics Morteza Momayez and other fellow artists like Farshid Mesghali, Ali Akbar Sadeghi, and Arapik Baghdasarian.[30]

History of Japanese animation (Anime)[edit]


History of British animation[edit]

History of Czech animation[edit]

The roots of Czech puppet animation began in the mid-1940s when puppet theater operators, Eduard Hofman and Jiří Trnka founded the Poetic animation school, Bratří v Triku. Since that time animation has expanded and flourished.[32][33]

History of Estonian animation[edit]

Estonian animation began in the 1930s and has carried on into the modern day.[34]

History of French animation[edit]

History of Hungarian animation[edit]

History of Italian animation[edit]

History of Russian animation[edit]

History of animation in Croatia (in former Yugoslavia)[edit]


History of Argentinian animation[edit]

The world's first two feature-length animated films and the first film with sound were developed in Argentina by Quirino Cristiani;[24][25]

History of Brazilian animation[edit]

History of Canadian animation[edit]

History of Cuban animation[edit]

History of United States animation[edit]

The history of Hollywood animation as an art form has undergone many changes in its hundred-year history, the following lists four separate chapters in the development of its animation:

Animation in the United States during the silent era (1900s through 1920s)
  • Max and Dave Fleischer formed their own studio Fleischer Studios, and created the Koko the Clown, Out of the Inkwell, and Sound Car-Tunes series.
Golden Age of American animation (1930s through 1950s)
Animation in the United States in the television era (1960s through Mid-1980s)
  • 1938: Chad Grothkopf's eight-minute experimental Willie the Worm, cited as the first animated film created for TV, was shown on NBC.[37][38]
  • The emergence of TV animated series from Hanna-Barbera Productions
  • The decline of theatrical cartoons and feature films
  • The rise of Saturday morning cartoons
  • The attempts at reviving animated features through the 1960s
  • The rise of adult animation in the early 1970s
  • The onslaught of commercial cartoons in the 1980s
Modern animation in the United States (Late-1980s through present)



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