Animation has been a big part of storytelling dating back centuries. Archaeological artefacts prove that we’ve been attempting to depict things in motion as long as we’ve been able to draw. There are some notable examples from ancient times as early as 30,000 B.C. shahr-e sukhteh bronze-age pottery bowl which depicts goats leaping in a frame by frame like sequence.
After that in 1603 came the magic lantern this was an image projector which used pictures on sheets of glass and since some sheets contain moving parts, it is considered the first example of projected animation.
After this came the iconic Thaumatrope and Phenakistocope. The Thaumatrope which was first introduced in the early 1820s was a disk with a picture on each side and two pieces of string were attached to each side of the disk and then spun with the viewer’s fingers. Persistence of Vision (this is when an optical illusion occurs because the visual perception of an object does not cease for some time after the rays of light proceeding from it have ceased to enter the eye.) caused the two pictures to blend into one.
Then in 1841 came the Phenakistocope this was a large disk with a series of drawings radiating from the centre in pie-shaped segments. An equal number of slits are made between the drawings, tall and very thin. When the viewer spun the Phenakistoscope in front of a mirror, with the images pointed toward the mirror, they could view the animated sequence through the slits.
There was also the zoetrope which was a slatted drum that, when spun, creates the illusion of motion when the slits show the succession of images placed opposite the slits as one moving image. The issue with this is when the zoetrope was invented. The zoetrope may have been created as early as 100 BC by the inventor Ding Human, but that invention is in dispute. The modern zoetrope is credited to British mathematician William George Horner, who modified the existing phenakistoscope, but is more convenient to operate and allows more than one person to view the animation.
In 1868 The flip-book, also known as the kineograph, reached a wide audience and is credited with inspiring early animators more than the machines developed in this era.
After this we then entered into the era of film starting in the 20th century. Marking the beginning of theatrical showings of cartoons, especially in the United States and France. (Many animators form studios, with Bray Studios in New York proving the most successful of this era. Bray helped launch the careers of the cartoonists that created Mighty Mouse, Betty Bop, and Woody Woodpecker.)
in 1906 came out J. Stuart Blackton’s “Humorous Phases Of Funny Faces” which would marked the first entirely animated film, using stop-motion photography to create action. It was the first film that was more animated than live-action and is arguably considered to be the first animated cartoon as it contained all the elements of a fully animated short but had no real narrative content.
After this just two years later in 1906 came out the next milestone in animation which was the French created animation “phantasmagoria”(a fantasy) by Emil Cohl. This was the first animated film using hand-drawn animation, and is considered by ‘film historians’ to be the first animated cartoon. This was also the first fully animated film with no live action at all as all before it somehow contained live action. This was created using over 700 drawings; Cohl placed each drawing on an illuminated glass plate and then traced the next drawing on top of it. By showing the negative instead of a positive of the film, Cohl made his line drawings appear to be chalk drawings- white on black instead of the black on white of this actual work.
We then entered era of colour animated animation the first being arguable “in gollywog land” (by the Natural Colour Kinematograph Company in Kinemacolor) which was a live action film which included puppet-animated sequences or “Pinto’s Prizma Comedy Revue” which was an animated film by Vance DeBar Colvig using the Prizma Colour system. The Prizma was a two-strip colour process (the film is unfortunately also lost). The reason for this debate is due to the fact of if the “in gollywog land” can be considered an animated film.
In the early 1920s we saw the creation of what would become the 2 biggest studios in animation and film in general those Walt Disney studios and warner brothers. They would later go on to start the golden age of animation. The golden age of animateion can be considered the 1930-1950s when theatrical cartoons became an integral part of popular culture. These years are defined by the rise of Walt Disney (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Silly Symphonies), Warner Brothers, MGM, and Fleischer (Betty Boop, Popeye).
Just before reaching the golden age, came out the first animation with sound in 1926 called My Old Kentucky Home. It was the first cartoon with sound synchronization. The short features a dog mouthing, “Follow the ball, and join in, everybody” in sync. This short used an early DeForest sound system for sound.
Then came out fable pictures Inc “dinner time” which was the first cartoon produced and released as a sound cartoon. The cartoon used the RCA Photophone sound system. This cartoon was produced before (though released after) Disney’s Steamboat Willie. It played a small but pivotal part in Walt Disney’s creation of his first Mickey Mouse sound cartoon.
In 1930 warner brothers created and released their looney tunes cartoon series a year later they released merry melodies cartoon. They would later be taken to colour. A few years later Disney would go on to release their first full length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This would go on to be Disney’s profitable and respected art from instead of the folly or foolish investment. Snow White would go on to be the first animated feature film to be nominated for an Academy Award and While it lost in that category, it was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 1939, recognizing the film as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field. (In 1989, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first cartoon to be added by the Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board to the National Film Registry (it was the registry’s inaugural year).
Moving on we entered the American television era where by this time three where multiple studios growing and reaching similar status to Disney and warner. This is also when the animation industry began to adapt to the fact that television continued its rise as the entertainment medium of choice for American families. Studios created many cartoons for TV, using a “limited animation” style. By the mid ‘80s, with help from cable channels such as The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, cartoons were ubiquitous on TV.
This is when we got studios such as (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.) which produced arguably the biggest pioneer and most loved television animation ever Tom and Jerry. This was produced in 1940 by William Hanna and Joseph Barbara. The Tom and Jerry cartoons won seven Academy Awards between 1943 and 1953. Then In 1941 Tex Avery a Schlesinger/Warner Bros. alumnus joined the animation department at MGM. It was Avery who gave the unit its image and style, with successes like Red Hot Riding Hood, Swing Shift Cinderella, and the Droopy series. After this series such as the Flintstones in 1960 followed being the first prime-time animated show. It put Hanna & Barbara on the map for good, this show proved a cross-over hit that appealed to children and parents alike. An animated take off on TV’s “The Honeymooners” set in prehistoric times, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble struggle through their lives with their wives, Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble.
In 1966 Walt Disney passed away (RIP). His death caused a big ripple in the industry In addition to forcing the entire industry to confront their own mortality; Walt’s passing also left the studio that bears his name in a funk that they would not step out of for twenty year. After his death which brought changes to the industry we got things such as the first x rated cartoon from director Ralph Bakshi (late of Famous
Studios/Paramount Cartoon Studios) took animation to a new level with his production of Fritz the Cat. After this the cartoon industry for 2d animation was on an incline which led to the first all cartoon channel cartoon network
20 years later after Walt Disney death we are introduced to CGI (computer generated imagery) revolutionized animation. A principal difference of CGI animation compared to traditional animation is that drawing is replaced by 3D modelling, almost like a virtual version of stop-motion. A form of animation that combines the two and uses 2D computer drawing can be considered computer aided animation. In 1984 the first fully CGI animation being Pixar and Lucasfilm release The Adventures of André and Wally B.
Then in 1995 we got the pioneer of 3d animation toy stories by Pixar. It was the the first fully computer-animated feature film released. The film also becomes the first animated film nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay. The film grossed $195 million in its initial release.
From then on it was a never ending spiral of development for animation production and the industry as a whole.