An Animated History – Article (Courier #7)

28 Mar

Animation. It is everywhere. From video games to the Internet to TV adverts and most importantly: film. Animated films have played a part in everyone’s childhood with Disney films becoming a hallmark of childhood life and dreams. Animation has been around longer than one would think and it has changed drastically over the numerous decades since its inception; so let’s take a look back at the history of animated film.

Animated film really began to take-off in the early 20th century though Reynaud’s Theatre Optique is the earliest projected animation, shown in 1892 in Paris. Originally 3 animations, only 1 survives today: Pauvre Pierrot (which is actually on YouTube along with most of the early animations I will mention). Considered to be the first animated cartoon ever, Fantasmagorie – 1908 – by Cohl deserves a mention, as it is also one of the first hand-drawn animation films. With both Cohl and Reynaud hailing from France, the French were clearly not just the early pioneers of cinema, with the Lumiere brothers, but also the pioneers of animated films.

Stop-motion animation became popular soon after and a famous example is The Cameraman’s Revenge from Russia in 1912. It has a very dramatic plot concerning a jilted husband filming his wife and lover for the local cinema; and all this filmed with beetles and bugs in stop-motion! It sounds rather bizarre but it is a technically amazing little short considering the time when it was made.

The next major milestone for animated films happened in 1928 with Disney’s Steamboat Willie. Starring Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in their debut cartoon; it was the first animated film to feature a fully post-produced soundtrack and one of the first cartoons with synchronised sound. It has now become a very famous cartoon and helped launch Mickey Mouse to worldwide fame. Disney continued to grow and started to play a major role in animation. In 1937 Disney released the now classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This was the first feature length cell-animated film in motion picture history and the first animated feature film produced in the USA. More Disney classics soon followed such as Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi, which were all released before WWII began.

Now we fast-forward to 1995 when CGI, or computer-generated imagery, began its rise up the animation hierarchy. Toy Story from Pixar, released in 1995, was the first fully computer-animated feature film. This was the first of many Pixar films, which have now become hallmarks of modern animation and turned Pixar into a household name. Current animated films now mostly use CGI and also 3D to bring the films to life even more. Many are cynical regarding 3D and we will see if it is in for the long term or just a fad like it has been in the past.

As you can see, animation has enjoyed a long and rich history with some technological revolutions along the way and I hope animated films continue to be popular for many more years ahead.


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