You’ve probably been seeing cartoons on television or animated films such as those from Walt Disney company but you don’t know how and when animation came to be. Well, animation is an artistic practice that goes thousands of years back. It precedes even the invention of photography and film.
Animation is basically the creation of an illusion that still pictures are in motion. It involves showing a sequence of images in a manner that suggests that they are in motion. Animation can be traced back to as early as the palaeolithic period. There are archaeological artifacts that depict the practice of animation. An example of this is a pottery bowl discovered in Shahr-e-Sukhteh Iran that shows goats leaping to eat grass. This pottery is believed to have been moulded in 3000 BC. There is also a 4000 years old Egyptian mural that depicts men in the process of wrestling.
In 1510, Leonardo da Vinci created seven drawings which when viewed from multiple angles appeared like there was only man who was moving from one place to another.
The onset and spread of Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries saw the introduction of various devices and machines in attempts to show pictures in motion. Among these devices include the Magic Lantern in 1650, Thaumatrope in
1824, Phenakistoscope in 1831, Zoetrope in 1834, and Praxinoscope in 1877. A flip book had also been made in 1868.
The onset of the 20th century marked the beginning of theatrical showing of cartoons. In America, the first film that included animated sequence was produced in 1900. Six years afterwards, the first fully animated film was produced by J. Stuart Blackton. This film was called Humorous phases of funny faces. Stuart is for this reason considered as the founder of American animation.
Europe too was not left behind. In 1908, French artist Émile Cohl created the first animated film using hand drawn animation. This film was called Fantasmagorie. It’s considered as the first animated cartoon by historians. Winsor McCay, a newspaper cartoonist also drew animations by hand. Among his works include Little Nemo in 1911, and Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914.
Animation studios started springing up in the 1910s. One of the most successful studios back then was one owned by a producer called Randolph Bray. Bray laid the foundation for the likes of Walt Disney that would later come to be. He trained some of the cartoonists who would later produce Mickey Mouse and Woody Woodpecker.
In 1923, Walt Disney and his brother Roy founded the Walt Disney Studio in Los Angeles. Walt Disney engaged in animated productions and produced the Alice series and Steamboat Willie, and others. Steamboat Willie was the first animation film that features sound to be produced. Steamboat Willie was produced in 1928. It featured Mickey Mouse, it is actually the third in the Mickey Mouse series. Steamboat Willie is considered as Walt Disney’s first major success. Steamboat Willie depicted Mickey as a character who neglected his work on the steamboat and instead chose to make music with other animals who had boarded the boat.
The 1930s through to the 1950s saw new developments in the field of animation. With Walt Disney Studios already in place and Warner Brothers Cartoons being founded in 1933, strides were made in animated film production. Walt Disney had produced the first full color film known as Flowers and Trees in 1932. Afterwards, color became the standard for the animation industry. Warner Brothers produced their first colored animated film in 1934. MGM and Fleischer also revolutionised the animated film industry.