History of animation

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The history of animation started long before the development of cinematography. Humans have probably attempted to depict motion as far back as the paleolithic period. Shadow play and the magic lantern offered popular shows with projected images on a screen, moving as the result of manipulation by hand and/or some minor mechanics. In 1833 the phenakistiscope introduced the stroboscopic principles of modern animation, which decades later would also provide the basis for cinematography.


Early approaches to motion in art[edit]

There are several examples of early sequential images that may seem similar to series of animation drawings. Most of these examples would only allow an extremely low frame rate when they are animated, resulting in short and crude animations that are not very lifelike. However, it's very unlikely that these images were intended to be somehow viewed as an animation. It is possible to imagine technology that could have been used in the periods of their creation, but no conclusive evidence in artifacts or descriptions have been found. It is sometimes argued that these early sequential images are too easily interpreted as "pre-cinema" by minds accustomed to film, comic books and other modern sequential images, while it is uncertain that the creators of these images envisioned anything like it.[1] Fluent animation needs a proper breakdown of a motion into the separate images of very short instances, which could hardly be imagined before modern times.[2] Measuring instances shorter than a second first became possible with instruments developed in the 1850s.[3]

Early examples of attempts to capture the phenomenon of motion into a still drawing can be found in paleolithic cave paintings, where animals are often depicted with multiple legs in superimposed positions.[4] It has been claimed that these superimposed figures were intended for a form of animation with the flickering light of the flames of a fire or a passing torch illuminating different parts of the painted rock wall, revealing different parts of the motion.[5][6]

Archaeological finds of small paleolithic discs with a hole in the middle and drawings on both sides have been claimed to be a kind of prehistoric thaumatropes that show motion when spun on a string.[5][7]

Sequence of images that minimally differ from each other - from the site of the Burnt City in Iran, late half of 3rd millennium B.C.

A 5,200-year old pottery bowl discovered in Shahr-e Sukhteh, Iran has five sequential images painted around it that seem to show phases of a goat leaping up to nip at a tree.[8][9]

An Egyptian burial chamber mural, approximately 4000 years old, showing wrestlers in action.

An Egyptian mural approximately 4000 years old, found in the tomb of Khnumhotep at the Beni Hassan cemetery, features a very long series of images that apparently depict the sequence of events in a wrestling match.[10]

The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC) wrote in his poem De rerum natura a few lines that come close to the basic principles of animation: "...when the first image perishes and a second is then produced in another position, the former seems to have altered its pose. Of course this must be supposed to take place very swiftly: so great is their velocity, so great the store of particles in any single moment of sensation, to enable the supply to come up." It must be noted that this was in the context of dream images, rather than images produced by an actual or imagined technology.[11][12]

The medieval codex Sigenot (circa 1470) has sequential illuminations with relatively short intervals between different phases of action. Each page has a picture inside a frame above the text, with great consistency in size and position throughout the book (with a consistent difference in size for the recto and verso sides of each page).[13]

A page of drawings[14] by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) show anatomical studies with four different angles of the muscles of shoulder, arm and neck of a man. The four drawings can be read as a rotating movement.

Ancient Chinese records contain several mentions of devices, including one made by the inventor Ding Huan, that were said to "give an impression of movement" to a series of human or animal figures on them,[15] but these accounts are unclear and may only refer to the actual movement of the figures through space.[16]

Since before 1000 CE the Chinese had a rotating lantern which had silhouettes projected on its thin paper sides that appeared to chase each other. This was called the "trotting horse lamp" [走馬燈] as it would typically depict horses and horse-riders. The cut-out silhouettes were attached inside the lantern to a shaft with a paper vane impeller on top, rotated by heated air rising from a lamp. Some versions added extra motion with jointed heads, feet or hands of figures triggered by a transversely connected iron wire.[17]

Volvelles have moving parts, but these and other paper materials that can be manipulated into motion are usually not regarded as animation.

Shadow play[edit]

Shadow play figures, circa 1780.

Shadow play has much in common with animation: people watching moving figures on a screen as a very popular form of entertainment, usually a story with dialogue, sounds and music. The figures could be very detailed and very articulated.

The earliest projection of images was most likely done in primitive shadowgraphy dating back to prehistory. It evolved into more refined forms of shadow puppetry, mostly with flat jointed cut-out figures which are held between a source of light and a translucent screen. The shapes of the puppets sometimes include translucent color or other types of detailing. The history of shadow puppetry is uncertain, but seems to have originated in Asia, possibly in the 1st millennium BCE. Clearer records seem to go back to around 900 CE. It later spread to the Ottoman empire and seems not to have reached Europe before the 17th century. It became very popular in France at the end of the 18th century. François Dominique Séraphin started his elaborate shadow shows in 1771 and performed them until his death in 1800. His heirs continued until their theatre closed in 1870. Séraphin developed the use of clockwork mechanisms to automate the show.

Around the time cinematography was developed, several theaters in Montmartre showed elaborate "Ombres Chinoises" shows that were very successful. The famous Le Chat Noir produced 45 different shows between 1885 and 1896.

The Magic Lantern[edit]

Christiaan Huygens' 1659 sketches for a projection of Death taking off his head
Slide with a fantoccini trapeze artist and a chromatrope border design (circa 1880)

Moving images were possibly projected with the magic lantern since its invention by Christiaan Huygens in 1659. His sketches for magic lantern slides have been dated to that year and are the oldest known document concerning the magic lantern.[18] One encircled sketch depicts Death raising his arm from his toes to his head, another shows him moving his right arm up and down from his elbow and yet another taking his skull off his neck and placing it back. Dotted lines indicate the intended movements.

Techniques to add motion to painted glass slides for the magic lantern were described since circa 1700. These usually involved parts (for instance limbs) painted on one or more extra pieces of glass moved by hand or small mechanisms across a stationary slide which showed the rest of the picture.[19] Popular subjects for mechanical slides included the sails of a windmill turning, a procession of figures, a drinking man lowering and raising his glass to his mouth, a head with moving eyes, a nose growing very long, rats jumping in the mouth of a sleeping man. A more complex 19th century rackwork slide showed the then known eight planets and their satellites orbiting around the sun.[20] Two layers of painted waves on glass could create a convincing illusion of a calm sea turning into a very stormy sea tossing some boats about by increasing the speed of the manipulation of the different parts.

In 1770 Edmé-Gilles Guyot detailed how to project a magic lantern image on smoke to create a transparent, shimmering image of a hovering ghost. This technique was used in the phantasmagoria shows that became very popular in several parts of Europe between 1790 and the 1830s. Other techniques were developed to produce convincing ghost experiences. The lantern was handheld to move the projection across the screen (which was usually an almost invisible transparent screen behind which the lanternist operated hidden in the dark). A ghost could seem to approach the audience or grow larger by moving the lantern away from the screen, sometimes with the lantern on a trolley on rails. Multiple lanterns made ghosts move independently and were occasionally used for superimposition in the composition of complicated scenes.[21]

Dissolving views became a popular magic lantern show, especially in England in the 1830s and 1840s.[21] These typically had a landscape changing from a winter version to a spring or summer variation by slowly diminishing the light from one version while introducing the aligned projection of the other slide.[22] Another use showed the gradual change of for instance groves into cathedrals.[23]

Between the 1840s and 1870s several abstract magic lantern effects were developed. This included the chromatrope which projected dazzling colorful geometrical patterns by rotating two painted glass discs in opposite directions.[24]

Occasionally small shadow puppets had been used in phantasmagoria shows.[21] Magic lantern slides with jointed figures set in motion by levers, thin rods, or cams and worm wheels were also produced commercially and patented in 1891. A popular version of these "Fantoccini slides" had a somersaulting monkey with arms attached to mechanism that made it tumble with dangling feet. Fantoccini slides are named after the Italian word for puppets like marionettes or jumping jacks.[25]

Animation before film[edit]

Numerous devices that 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 could only be viewed by a one or a few persons at a time. They were considered optical toys rather than devices for a large scale entertainment industry like later animation.[citation needed] Many of these devices are still built by and for film students learning the basic principles of animation.


An article in the Quarterly Journal of Science, Literature, and The Arts (1821)[26] raised some interest in optical illusions of curved spokes in rotating wheels seen through vertical apertures. In 1824 Peter Mark Roget provided mathematical details about the appearing curvatures and added the observation that the spokes appeared motionless. Roget claimed that the illusion is due to the fact “that an impression made by a pencil of rays on the retina, if sufficiently vivid, will remain for a certain time after the cause has ceased.” [27] This was later seen as the basis for the theory of "persistence of vision" as the principle of how we see film as motion rather than the successive stream of still images actually presented to the eye. This theory has been discarded as the (sole) principle of the effect since 1912, but remains in many film history explanations. However, Roget's experiments and explanation did inspire some further research by Michael Faraday and also by Joseph Plateau that would eventually bring about the invention of animation.

Thaumatrope (1825)[edit]

In April 1825 the first thaumatrope was published by W. Phillips (in anonymous association with John Ayrton Paris) and became a very popular toy.[28] The pictures on either side of a small cardboard disc seem to blend into one combined image when it is twirled quickly by the attached strings. This is often used as an illustration of what has often been called "persistence of vision", presumably referring to the effect in which the impression of a single image persists although in reality two different images are presented with interruptions. It is unclear how much of the effect relates to positive afterimages. Although a thaumatrope can also be used for two-phase animation, no examples are known to have been produced with this effect until long after the phénakisticope had established the principle of animation.

Phénakisticope (1833)[edit]

Nr. 10 in the reworked second series of Stampfer's stroboscopic discs published by Trentsensky & Vieweg in 1833.

The phénakisticope (better known by the misspelling phenakistiscope or phenakistoscope) was the first animation device using rapid successive substitution of sequential pictures. The pictures are evenly spaced radially around a disc, with small rectangular apertures at the rim of the disc. The animation could be viewed through the slits of the spinning disc in front of a mirror. It was invented in November or December 1832 by the Belgian Joseph Plateau and almost simultaneously by the Austrian Simon von Stampfer. Plateau first published about his invention in January 1833. The publication included an illustration plate of a fantascope with 16 frames depicting a pirouetting dancer.

The phénakisticope was very successful as a novelty toy and within a year very many sets of stroboscopic discs were published across Europe, with almost as many different names for the device - including Fantascope (Plateau), The Stroboscope (Stampfer) and Phénakisticope (Parisian publisher Giroux & Cie).

Zoetrope (1833/1866)[edit]

In July 1833 Simon Stampfer described the possibility of using the stroboscope principle in a cylinder (as well as on looped strips) in a pamphlet accompanying the second edition of his version of the phénakisticope.[29] British mathematician William George Horner suggested a cylindrical variation of Plateau's phénakisticope in January 1834. Horner planned to publish this Dædaleum with optician King, Jr in Bristol but it "met with some impediment probably in the sketching of the figures".[30]

In 1865 William Ensign Lincoln invented the definitive zoetrope with easily replaceable strips of images. It also had an illustrated paper disc on the base, which was not always exploited on the commercially produced versions.[31] Lincoln licensed his invention to Milton Bradley and Co. who first advertised it on December 15, 1866.[32]

Flip book (1868)[edit]

An 1886 illustration of the kineograph.

John Barnes Linnett patented the first flip book in 1868 as the kineograph.[33] A flip book is a small book with relatively springy pages, each having one in a series of animation images located near its unbound edge. The user bends all of the pages back, normally with the thumb, then by a gradual motion of the hand allows them to spring free one at a time. As with the phenakistoscope, zoetrope and praxinoscope, the illusion of motion is created by the apparent sudden replacement of each image by the next in the series, but unlike those other inventions no view-interrupting shutter or assembly of mirrors is required and no viewing device other than the user's hand is absolutely necessary. Early film animators cited flip books as their inspiration more often than the earlier devices, which did not reach as wide an audience.[34]

The older devices by their nature severely limit the number of images that can be included in a sequence without making the device very large or the images impractically small. The book format still imposes a physical limit, but many dozens of images of ample size can easily be accommodated. Inventors stretched even that limit with the mutoscope, patented in 1894 and sometimes still found in amusement arcades. It consists of a large circularly-bound flip book in a housing, with a viewing lens and a crank handle that drives a mechanism that slowly rotates the assembly of images past a catch, sized to match the running time of an entire reel of film.

Praxinoscope (1877)[edit]

French inventor Charles-Émile Reynaud developed the praxinoscope in 1876 and patented it in 1877.[35] It is similar to the zoetrope but instead of the slits in the cylinder it has twelve rectangular mirrors placed evenly around the center of the cylinder. Each mirror reflects another image of the picture strip placed opposite on the inner wall of the cylinder. When rotating the praxinoscope shows the sequential images one by one, resulting in a fluent animation. The praxinoscope allowed a much clearer view of the moving image compared to the zoetrope, since the zoetrope's images were actually mostly obscured by the spaces in between its slits. In 1879 Reynaude registered a modification to the praxinoscope patent to include the Praxinoscope Théâtre, which utilized the Pepper's ghost effect to present the animated figures in an exchangeable background. Later improvements included the "Praxinoscope à projection" (marketed since 1882) which used a double magic lantern to project the animated figures over a till projection of a background.[36]

Zoopraxiscope (1879)[edit]

Eadweard Muybridge had circa 70 of his famous chronophotographic sequences painted on glass discs for the zoopraxiscope projector that he used in his popular lectures between 1880 and 1895. In the 1880s the images were painted onto the glass in dark contours. Later discs made between 1892 and 1894 had outlines drawn by Erwin F. Faber that were photographically printed on the disc and then coloured by hand, but these were probably never used in the lectures. The painted figures were largely transposed from the photographs, but many fanciful combinations were made and sometimes imaginary elements were added.[37][38]

1888-1908: Earliest animations on film[edit]

Théâtre Optique[edit]

Part of the restored Pauvre Pierrot film

Charles-Émile Reynaud further developed his projection praxinoscope into the Théâtre Optique with transparent hand-painted colorful pictures in a long perforated strip wound between two spools, patented in December 1888. From 28 October 1892 to March 1900 Reynaud gave over 12,800 shows to a total of over 500.000 visitors at the Musée Grévin in Paris. His Pantomimes Lumineuses series of animated films each contained 300 to 700 frames that were manipulated back and forth to last 10 to 15 minutes per film. A background scene was projected separately. Piano music, song and some dialogue were performed live, while some sound effects were synchronized with an electromagnet. The first program included three cartoons: Pauvre Pierrot (created in 1891), Un bon bock (created in 1888, now lost), and Le Clown et ses chiens (created in 1890, now lost). Later on the titles Autour d'une cabine (created in 1893) and A rêve au coin du feu would be part of the performances.

Standard picture film[edit]

Despite the success of Reynaud's films it took some time before animation was adapted in the film industry that came about after the introduction of Lumiere's Cinematograph in 1895. Georges Méliès' early fantasy and trick films (released between 1896 and 1913) occasionally came close to including animation with substitution splice effects, painted props or painted creatures that were moved in front of painted backgrounds (mostly using wires), and film colorization by hand. Méliès also popularized the stop trick, with a single change made to the scene in between shots, that had already been used in Edison's The Execution of Mary Stuart in 1895 and probably led to the development of stop-motion animation some years later.[39] It seems to have lasted until 1906 before proper animated films started to appear in cinemas. The dating of earlier films with animation is contested, while other films that may have used stop motion or other animation techniques are lost and can't be checked.

Printed animation film[edit]

In 1897 German toy manufacturer Gebrüder Bing had a first prototype of their kinematograph.[40] In November 1898 they presented this toy film projector, possibly the first of its kind, at a toy festival in Leipzig. Soon other toy manufacturers, including Ernst Plank and Georges Carette, sold similar devices. Around the same time the French company Lapierre marketed a similar projector. The toy cinematographs were basically magic lanterns with one or two small spools that used standard "Edison perforation" 35mm film. These projectors were intended for the same type of "home entertainment" toy market that most of these manufacturers already provided with praxinoscopes and toy magic lanterns. Apart from relatively expensive live-action films, the manufacturers produced many cheaper films by printing lithographed drawings. These animations were probably made in black-and-white from around 1898 or 1899, but at the latest by 1902 they were made in color. The pictures were often traced from live-action films (much like the later rotoscoping technique). These very short films depicted a simple repetitive action and were created to be projected as a loop - playing endlessly with the film ends put together. The lithograph process and the loop format follow the tradition that was set by the zoetrope and praxinoscope.[41][42]

Katsudō Shashin

Katsudō Shashin, from an unknown creator, was discovered in 2005 and is speculated to be the oldest work of animation in Japan, with Natsuki Matsumoto,[Note 1][43] an expert in iconography at the Osaka University of Arts[44] and animation historian Nobuyuki Tsugata[Note 2] determining the film was most likely made between 1907 and 1911.[45] The film consists of a series of cartoon images on fifty frames of a celluloid strip and lasts three seconds at sixteen frames per second.[46] It depicts a young boy in a sailor suit who writes the kanji characters "活動写真" (katsudō shashin, or "moving picture"), then turns towards the viewer, removes his hat, and offers a salute.[46] Evidence suggests it was mass-produced to be sold to wealthy owners of home projectors.[47] To Matsumoto, the relatively poor quality and low-tech printing technique indicate it was likely from a smaller film company.[48]

J. Stuart Blackton[edit]

J. Stuart Blackton was a British-American filmmaker, co-founder of the Vitagraph Studios and one of the first to use animation in his films.

The Humpty Dumpty Circus (1898?) by Blackton and Albert E. Smith may have been the first stop-motion film. Use of an animation technique cannot be verified since the film is lost. According to Smith, they used his daughter's set of small circus dolls, which had jointed limbs so they could be balanced in place.[49] This toy set was most likely the popular Humpty Dumpty Circus produced by Schoenhut Piano Company between 1903 and 1930.[50]

The Enchanted Drawing (1900) is considered to be the first film recorded on standard picture film that included some sequences that are sometimes regarded as animation. It shows Blackton doing some "lightning sketches" of a face, cigars, a bottle of wine and a glass. The face changes expression when Blackton pours some wine into the face's mouth and when Blackton takes his cigar. The technique used in this film was basically the substitution splice: the single change to the scenes was the replacement of a drawing by a similar drawing with a different facial expression. In some scenes a drawn bottle and glass were replaced by real objects. Blackton had possibly used the same technique in a lost 1896 lightning sketch film.[39] The effect can hardly be considered animation.

The 1906 cartoon Humorous Phases of Funny Faces by J. Stuart Blackton, considered the first animated film

Blackton's 1906 film Humorous Phases of Funny Faces is often regarded as the oldest known drawn animation on standard film. It features a sequence made with blackboard drawings that are changed between frames to show two faces changing expressions and some billowing cigar smoke, as well as two sequences that feature cutout animation.

Blackton's The Haunted Hotel (1907) featured a combination of live-action with practical special effects and stop-motion animation of objects, a puppet and a model of the haunted hotel. It was the first stop-motion film to receive wide scale appreciation. Especially a large close-up view of a table being set by itself baffled viewers; there were no visible wires or other noticeable well-known tricks. [51] This inspired other filmmakers, including French animator Émile Cohl[39] and Segundo de Chomón, to work with the new technique. De Chomón would release the similar The House of Ghosts and El hotel eléctrico in 1908.

Edwin S. Porter[edit]

In 1905 American film pioneer Edwin S. Porter used animated letters and a very simple cutout animation of two hands in the intertitles in How Jones lost his roll.[52] He experimented with a small bit of crude stop-motion animation in his trick film Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906). His 1907 film The "Teddy" Bears mainly shows people in bear costumes, but also features a short stop-motion segment with small teddy bears.[53]

Segundo de Chomón[edit]

Spanish filmmaker Segundo de Chomón made many trick films and has often been compared to Georges Méliès. De Chomón frequently used stop-motion in his films, even before the release of J. Stuart Blackton's groundbreaking The Haunted Hotel. Le théâtre de Bob (1906) features over three minutes of stop-motion animation with dolls and some objects. El hotel eléctrico (1908) features much stop motion with objects, a bit of pixilation and one effect done with drawn animation (a few lines probably drawn on the negative that represent electric sparks).

Arthur Melbourne-Cooper[edit]

Arthur Melbourne-Cooper was a British filmmaker who did much pioneering work in stop motion animation. He produced over 300 films between 1896 and 1915, of which an estimated 36 were all or in part animated.

Based on later reports by Cooper and by his daughter Audrey Wadowska, some believe that Cooper's Matches: an Appeal was produced in 1899 and therefore the very first stop-motion animation. The black-and-white film shows a matchstick figure writing an appeal to donate a Guinea for which Bryant and May would supply soldiers with sufficient matches. No archival records are known that could proof that the film was indeed created in 1899 during the beginning of the Second Boer War. Others place it at 1914, during the beginning of World War I.[54][55] Cooper created more Animated Matches scenes in the same setting. These are believed to also have been produced in 1899[56][57], while a release date of 1908 has also been given.[58] There is also an Animated Matches film by Émile Cohl that was released by Gaumont in 1908,[59][60] which may have caused more confusion about the release dates of Cooper's matchstick animations.

The lost films Dolly's Toys (1901) and The Enchanted Toymaker (1904) may have included stop-motion animation.[39] Dreams of Toyland (1908) features a scene with many animated toys that lasts circa three and a half minutes.

Traditional animation[edit]

The silent era[edit]

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

The French artist Émile Cohl created the first animated film using what came to be known as traditional animation methods: the 1908 Fantasmagorie.[61] 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. 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)

More detailed hand-drawn animations 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.[62][63] Gertie the Dinosaur featured an early example of character development in drawn animation.[64] 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 view 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.[65]

Also in 1914, John Bray opened John Bray Studios, which revolutionized the way animation was created.[66] Earl Hurd, one of Bray's employees patented the cel technique.[67] This involved animating moving objects on transparent celluloid sheets.[68] Animators photographed the sheets over a stationary background image 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 Colonel Heeza Liar, the first animated series.[69][70]

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 that dominated the animation industry for the rest of the decade.[71]

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 use 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.[70] At this point the larger scale animation studios were becoming the industrial norm and artists such as McCay faded from the public eye.[65]

The 1919 Feline Follies by Pat Sullivan

In 1919, Otto Messmer of Pat Sullivan Studios created Felix the Cat. Pat Sullivan, the studio head took all of the credit for Felix, a common practice in the early days of studio animation.[72] Felix the Cat was distributed by Paramount Studios, and it attracted a large audience.[73] Felix was the first cartoon to be merchandised. He soon became a household name.

In Germany during the 1920s, an abstract animation / absolute film movement was popularized by Walter Ruttman, Hans Richter, and Oskar Fischinger. The Nazis censorship against so-called "degenerate art" prevented the abstract animation from developing after 1933.

Walt Disney & Warner Bros.[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 interacting with numerous cartoon characters.[74] Disney's first notable breakthrough was 1928's Steamboat Willie, the third of the Mickey Mouse series.[75] 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.[76] Even though many wrongly believe Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon with synchronized sound, since May 1924 and continuing through September 1926, Dave and Max Fleischer's Inkwell Studios produced 19 sound cartoons, part of the Song Car-Tunes series, using the Phonofilm "sound-on-film" process.[77][circular reference]

In 1933, Warner Brothers Cartoons was founded. While Disney's studio was known for its releases being strictly controlled by Walt Disney himself, Warner brothers allowed its animators more freedom, which allowed for their animators to develop more recognizable personal styles.[65]

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.[78] Color animation soon became the industry standard, and in 1934, Warner Brothers released Honeymoon Hotel of the Merrie Melodies series, their first color films.[79] Meanwhile, Disney had realized that the success of animated films depended upon telling emotionally gripping stories; he developed an innovation called a "story department" where storyboard artists separate from the animators would focus on story development alone, which proved its worth when the Disney studio released in 1933 the first-ever animated short to feature well-developed characters, Three Little Pigs.[80][81][82] In 1935, Tex Avery released his first film with Warner Brothers.[79] Avery's style was notably fast-paced, violent, and satirical, with a slapstick sensibility.[83]

Animated feature films[edit]

The first known animated feature film was El Apóstol by Quirino Cristiani, released on 9 November 1917 in Argentina. This successful 70 minute satire utilized a cardboard cutout technique, reportedly with 58,000 frames at 14 frames per second. Cristiani's next feature Sin dejar rastros was released in 1918, but it received no press coverage and poor public attendance before it was confiscated by the police for diplomatic reasons.[84] On 18 September 1931 Cristiani's third feature Peludópolis premiered in Buenos Aires[85] with a Vitaphone sound-on-disc synchronized soundtrack. It was received quite positive by critics, but did not become a hit and was an economic fiasco for the filmmaker who soon realized he could no longer make a career with animation in Argentina.[84] None of Cristiani's feature films survived.[86][87][88]

The earliest surviving animated feature film is the 1926 silhouette-animated Adventures of Prince Achmed, which used colour-tinted film.[89] It was directed by German Lotte Reiniger and French/Hungarian Berthold Bartosch.[90]

At least seven animated feature films were released before Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered on 21 December 1937.[91]. Six of these films (of which only four survive) were made using cutout, silhouette or stop motion. Only Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons — also by Disney — was totally hand-drawn. It was released seven months prior to Snow White to promote the upcoming release of Snow White.[citation needed]. Many do not consider this a genuine feature film because it is a package film. In addition, at approximately 41 minutes, the film does not seem to fulfill today's expectations for a feature film. However, the official BFI, AMPAS and AFI definitions of a feature film require that it be over 40 minutes long, which, in theory, should make it the first animated feature film using traditional animation.

Following Snow White's success, Disney began to focus much of its productive force on feature-length films while still producing a good amount of shorts throughout the century. Warner Brothers continued to focus on short films.[citation needed]

The television era[edit]

Competition from television drew audiences away from movie theaters in the late 1950s. The theatrical animated short began its decline, while cartoons became quite popular on television, especially after color television was introduced (to the US Market in 1954).[citation needed]

The scheduling constraints of the 1950s American TV animation process, notably issues of resource management, led to the development of various techniques known now as limited animation. Full-frame animation ("on ones") became rare in the United States outside its use for theatrical productions. Chuck Jones coined the term "illustrated radio" to refer to the shoddy style of most television cartoons that depended more on their soundtracks than visuals.[92] The limited animation style was highlighted by the work of Jay Ward on Crusader Rabbit(1950).[93]Other notable 1950s programs include UPA's Gerald McBoing Boing,[94], Terrytoons's Tom Terrific (1958), Hanna-Barbera's Huckleberry Hound (1958) (the first half-hour television program to feature only animation) and Quick Draw McGraw,[93] and rebroadcast of many classic theatrical cartoons from Universal's Walter Lantz, Warner Bros., MGM, and Disney.

The Hanna-Barbera cartoon, The Flintstones, was the first successful primetime animated series in the United States, running from 1960 to 1966 (and in reruns since).[95] While many networks followed the show's success by scheduling other cartoons in the early 1960s, including Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, The Jetsons, Top Cat, and The Alvin Show, few of these programs survived more than a year (save Scooby-Doo, which, despite not being a primetime cartoon, has managed to stay afloat for over four decades). However, networks found success by running these shows as Saturday morning cartoons, reaching smaller audiences with more demographic unity among children. Television animation for children flourished on Saturday morning, on cable channels like Nickelodeon, Disney Channel/Disney XD and Cartoon Network, PBS Kids, and in syndicated afternoon timeslots.

Primetime cartoons for non-juvenile audiences were virtually non-existent in the mainstream of the United States until the 1990s hit, when The Simpsons ushered in a new era of shows such as Beavis and Butt-head, South Park, King of the Hill, Family Guy, and Futurama. In addition, animated works from other countries (notably Japan) have had varying levels of airplay in the United States since the 1960s.

Animated commercials[edit]

Animation has been very popular in television commercials, both due to its graphic appeal, and the humour it can provide. Some animated characters in commercials have survived for decades, such as Snap, Crackle and Pop in advertisements for Kellogg's cereals.[citation needed]

The legendary animation director Tex Avery was the producer of the first Raid "Kills Bugs Dead" commercials in 1966, which were very successful for the company. The concept has been used in many countries since.[citation needed]

Stop motion[edit]

After the pioneering work by the likes of J. Stuart Blackton, Segundo de Chomón and Arthur Melbourne-Cooper (see above), stop motion became a branch of animation that has been much less dominant than hand-drawn animation and computer animation. Nonetheless, there have been quite a few successful movies and tv series.

Wladyslaw Starewicz (1892–1965) was an early stop motion animator who used the technique to create story lines and characters that conveyed emotions. He started around 1910, using dead insects with wire limbs, and later, in France, using complex and really expressive puppets.

Stop motion became a popular technique for special effects in live-action movies, often to bring life to fantasy creatures. The early Italian feature film Cabiria (1914) already featured some stop motion techniques. Willis O' Brien's animated dinosaur sequences for The Lost World (1925) and especially the big ape in King Kong (1933) are widely regarded as milestones for the technique. Ray Harryhausen, a protege of O'Brien, created many memorable stop motion sequences for adventure films between 1953 and 1981, including The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Clash of the Titans (1981). The use of stop motion for special effects has been mostly replaced by computer animated effects.

Popular stop motion productions with puppets have been made by George Pal (Puppetoons), Rankin/Bass Productions (for instance Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)), Lubomír Beneš with Vladimír Jiránek (Pat & Mat, since 1979), Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas).

Clay animation is a variation of stop motion techniques that gives animators the freedom to create and manipulate any shape they want from a malleable substance, like clay or plasticine. Popular titles using this technique have been The Red and the Blue, Pingu and many Aardman Animations productions (Morph, Wallace and Gromit).

Stop motion as an artistic medium has been shaped by influential filmmakers like Jan Svankmajer, Terry Gilliam (known for the cut-out animations in Monty Python's Flying Circus) and Brothers Quay.

Computer animation[edit]

Early experiments with computers to generate (abstract) moving images have been conducted since the 1940s.

The earliest known interactive electronic game was developed in 1947, paving the way for a medium that can be regarded as an interactive branch of computer animation (which is quite different from animated movies).

A short vector animation of a car traveling down a planned highway was broadcast on Swedish national television on 9 November 1961.

In 1968 Soviet physicists and mathematicians created a mathematical model for the motion of a cat, with which they produced a short animated film.

In 1971 the first commercial (coin-operated) video game was marketed. Next year's Pong by Atari, Inc., with very simple two-dimensional graphics, was a huge success.

Since the 1970s digital image processing and computer generated imagery, including early 3D wire-frame model animations, were occasionally used in commercials as well as for the representation of futuristic computer technology in big Hollywood productions (including Star Wars).

Since 1974 the annual SIGGRAPH conventions have been organised to demonstrate current developments and new research in the field of computer graphics.

3D animation started to have more cultural impact during the 1980s, demonstrated for instance in the 1982 movie Tron and the music video for Money for Nothing (1985) by the Dire Straits. The concept even spawned a popular faux 3D-animated AI character: Max Headroom.

During the 1990s 3D animation became more and more mainstream, especially in video games, and eventually had a big breakthrough in 1995 with Pixar's feature film hit Toy Story.

More or less photo-realistic 3D animation has been used for special effects in commercials and films since the 1980s. Breakthrough effects were seen in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Jurassic Park (1993). Since then techniques have developed to the stage that the difference between CGI and real life cinematography is seldom obvious. Filmmakers can blend both types of images seamlessly with virtual cinematography. The Matrix (1999) and it's two sequels are usually regarded as breakthrough films in this field.

Due to the complexity of human body functions, emotions and interactions, movies with important roles for fully 3D-animated realistic-looking human characters have been rare. 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. Films that have attempted to create realistic-looking humans 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.

The creation of virtual worlds allows real-time animation in virtual reality, a medium that has been experimented with since 1962 and started to see commercial entertainment applications in the 1990s.

In the first decades of the 21st century computer animation techniques slowly became much more common than traditional cel animation. To recreate the much-appreciated look of traditional animation for 3D animated techniques, cel-shading techniques were developed. True real-time cel-shading was first introduced in 2000 by Sega's Jet Set Radio for their Dreamcast console.

Firsts in animation[edit]

Year Milestone Film Notes
1917 Feature film El Apóstol Created with cutout animation; now considered lost
1926 The Adventures of Prince Achmed Oldest surviving animated feature film, cutout silhouette animation
1919 Filmed in Rotoscope The Clown's Pup Shortfilm
1924 Synchronized sound on film Oh Mabel Short film; used Lee DeForest's Phonofilm sound on film process, though none of the characters "speak" on screen
1926 Synchronized sound on film with animated dialogue My Old Kentucky Home[96] Short film; used Lee DeForest's Phonofilm sound on film process; a dog character mouths the words, "Follow the ball, and join in, everybody!"
1930 Filmed in Two-color Technicolor King of Jazz[97] Premiering in April 1930, a three-minute cartoon sequence produced by Walter Lantz appears in this full-length, live-action Technicolor feature film.
1930 Two-color Technicolor in a stand-alone cartoon Fiddlesticks Released in August 1930, this Ub Iwerks-produced short is the first standalone color cartoon.
1930 Feature length puppet animated (stop-motion) film The Tale of the Fox
1931 Feature-length sound film Peludópolis
1932 Filmed in three-strip Technicolor Flowers and Trees Short film
1934 Filmed in Stereoptical Process Poor Cinderella Short film
1936 Two-reel short filmed in three-strip Technicolor Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor
1937 First film using the Multiplane camera The Old Mill Short film
1937 Feature filmed in three-strip Technicolor Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
1940 Stereophonic sound Fantasia
1942 limited animation The Dover Boys Short film
1949 Television series Crusader Rabbit
1950 Short lived TV show The Adventures of Paddy the Pelican
1953 Filmed in stereoscopic 3D Melody Short film
Presented in widescreen Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom Short film
1955 Feature filmed in widescreen format Lady and the Tramp
Animated TV series to aired outside of USA A Rubovian Legend
Stop-motion television series The Gumby Show[98]
1956 Primetime television series CBS Cartoon Theatre Compilation television series
1957 Television series to be broadcast in color Colonel Bleep Television series
1958 Half-hour television series The Huckleberry Hound Show
1959 Animated series to have its production outsourced to an overseas company Rocky and His Friends/The Bullwinkle Show Television series
Syncro-Vox Clutch Cargo Television series
1960 Xerography process (replacing hand inking) Goliath II Short film
Primetime animated sitcom The Flintstones Television series
1961 Feature film using xerography process One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Long-running TV show Minna no Uta
1964 Feature film based on a television show Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!
1969 Adult anime film A Thousand and One Nights Lost film
G-rated cartoon film A Boy Named Charlie Brown
1970 Primetime animated sitcom created for syndication Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies Television series
1972 Adult cartoon film Fritz the Cat
Adult cartoon TV series Wait Till Your Father Gets Home
1974 R-rated cartoon film The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat
1977 PG-rated cartoon animated film Wizards
1978 Animated feature to be presented in Dolby sound Watership Down
1983 3D feature film - stereoscopic technique Abra Cadabra
Animated feature containing computer-generated imagery Rock and Rule
Animated TV series to be recorded in Stereo sound Inspector Gadget
1984 Fully CGI-animated film The Adventures of André and Wally B. Short film
1985 Feature length clay-animated film The Adventures of Mark Twain
1988 Cinematography milestone Who Framed Roger Rabbit First feature film to have live-action and cartoon animation share the screen for the entire film
1989 TV cartoon to be broadcast in Dolby Surround sound. Hanna-Barbera's 50th: A Yabba Dabba Doo Celebration
1990 Produced without camera
Feature film using digital ink and paint
The Rescuers Down Under First feature film completely produced with Disney's Computer Animation Production System
1991 First animated film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture Beauty and the Beast As of 2017 no animated film has won the Best Picture award.
1993 Direct-to-video CGI-animated series VeggieTales
CGI-animated TV series Insektors
1994 Half-hour computer-animated TV series ReBoot
1995 Fully computer-animated feature film
G-rated CGI feature film
Toy Story
Animated television series to be broadcast in Dolby Surround Pinky and the Brain
1997 Animated series produced for the Internet
Flash-animated series
The Goddamn George Liquor Program
1998 PG-rated CGI animated film Antz
1999 IMAX Disney animated film Fantasia 2000
2000 First Aardman Rated-G Film Chicken Run
2001 Motion-capture animation
PG-13-rated CGI animated film
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
First Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Won by Shrek Monsters, Inc. and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius were also nominated.
2002 Flash-animated television series ¡Mucha Lucha!
2003 First Flash-animated film Wizards and Giants
2004 Cel-shaded animation Appleseed
2005 Feature shot with digital still cameras Corpse Bride
2006 Blu-ray release Dinosaur
2007 Feature digitally animated by one person Flatland
Presented in 7.1 surround sound Ultimate Avengers
Ultimate Avengers 2
Blu-ray release
2008 Feature film designed, created and released exclusively in 3D Fly Me to the Moon
Adult CGI animated film Free Jimmy
2009 Stop-motion character animated using rapid prototyping Coraline
First animated feature film to be produced in 3D, instead of being converted into 3D in a post-production process Monsters vs. Aliens
2010 Animated feature film to earn more than $1,000,000,000 worldwide
Feature film released theatrically in 7.1 surround sound
Toy Story 3
2012 Stop-motion film to use 3D printing technology for models ParaNorman
2016 First R-rated CGI feature film[99] Sausage Party


History of Argentine animation[edit]

The world's first two feature-length animated films and the first film with sound were developed in Argentina by Quirino Cristiani;[86][88]

History of Brazilian animation[edit]

  • 1917: Álvaro Marins produces Kaiser, Brazil's first animated short film.
  • 1953: Anélio Lattini Filho produces Amazon Symphony, Brazil's first animated feature-length film.
  • 1996: NDR Filmes produces Cassiopéia, considered for some as the first CG movie in the world.

History of Canadian animation[edit]

History of Cuban animation[edit]

History of Mexican animation[edit]

  • 1935: Alfonso Vergara produces Paco Perico en premier, an animated short film.
  • 1974: Fernando Ruiz produces Los tres reyes magos, Mexico's first animated feature-length film.
  • 1977: Anuar Badin creates the film Los supersabios, based on the comic.
  • 1983: Roy del espacio
  • 2033: Ánima Estudios releases Magos y gigantes a full-length Mexican-animated feature after many years of hiatus in the country's industry.

History of United States animation[edit]

  • Beginning of industrial production of animated cartoon.

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 (1906 through 1929)
Golden age of American animation (1928 through mid-60s)
Animation in the United States in the television era (early 60s through mid-80s)
  • The competition begins in television animation with the animated series of Cambria Studios (1959-1966), Filmation (1962-1989) and Total Television (1959-1969).
  • Japanese animation, known as anime, arrives to America in the 1960s.
  • The rise of Saturday-morning cartoons in the mid-1960s.
  • The decline of theatrical cartoons and feature films.
  • The start of the "Dark Age" of Disney's films (1966-1985).
  • The attempts at reviving animated features in the late 1960s.
  • The rise of adult animation in the early 1970s with Ralph Bakshi.
  • Disney with The Rescuers (1977), animated film that predicted a new "Golden Age" for Disney according to his criticism. [1]
  • The onslaught of commercial cartoons in the 1980s.
  • The rise of anime series in America in the 1980s.
  • The Secret of NIMH (1982), animated film by Don Bluth that restored the interest in animated feature films according to his criticism. [2]
  • Disney creates his first animated television series in 1985: The Wuzzles.
Modern animation in the United States (1986 through present)
Renaissance age of American animation (1986 through late 90s)
Millennium age of American animation (late 90s through present)


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, Bratři v triku. Since that time animation has expanded and flourished.[103][104]

History of Estonian animation[edit]

Estonian animation began in the 1930s and has carried on into the modern day.[105]

History of French animation[edit]

  • 1908-1925, The work of animation pioneer Émile Cohl produces a number of firsts in animation and animation techniques.

History of Hungarian animation[edit]

  • 1914: István Kató Kiszly first becomes involved in cut-out promotional animations for use during newsreels.
  • 1932: Gyula Macskássy and János Halász establish Hungary's first animation studio, Coloriton.
  • 1930-1940: Hungarian animators such as Jean Image, George Pal, and John Halas emigrate from Hungary due to political instability and settle abroad.
  • 1948: All film-making is nationalized by the Hungarian Communist Party under Magyar Szinkronfilmgyártó Vállalat (later rechristened as Pannónia Film Stúdió).
  • 1951: Gyula Macskássy and Edit Fekete create Hungary's first color animation, A kiskakas gyémánt félkrajcárja.
  • 1962: Gyula Macskássy and György Várnai create Hungary's first animated serial, the Peti series.
  • 1973: Marcell Jankovics creates the first feature-length Hungarian film, János Vitéz.
  • 1981: Ferenc Rofusz wins the 1981 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film with A Légy.
  • 1981: János Kass' Dilemma becomes the first fully digital animated film[106]
  • 1985 - Hungary holds its first Hungarian Animated Cartoon Festival in Kecskemét.
  • 1990 - Communism ends, and with it state support for Pannónia Film Stúdió. Independent studios like Varga Studio and Digic Pictures emerge.

History of Italian animation[edit]

History of Russian animation[edit]

History of Spanish animation[edit]

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


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.[108]

History of Japanese animation (anime)[edit]

History of Malaysian Animation[edit]

Animation in Malaysia began in 1946 with the establishment of the Malayan Film Unit (now known as National Film). The first short animated film was the Hikayat Sang Kancil (Anandam Xavier, 1978) and aired in 1983. Short films that appeared between 1985 and 1987 were: The Mouse & Monkey, The Mouse & Crocodile, The Crow Rage, the Rabbit Arrogant and the Lion of Haloba made by Hassan Abdul Muthalib.[110]


History of Australian animation[edit]

See: Animal Logic, Yoram Gross, Flying Bark Productions

History of New Zealand animation[edit]

See: Weta Digital



  1. ^ 松本 夏樹, b. 1952
  2. ^ 津堅 信之, b. 1968



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Works cited[edit]

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