History of animation

  (Redirected from Animated cartoon)

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 the cinematography.


Early approaches to motion in artEdit

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]

A drawing of the five sequential images painted on a bowl 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]

Drawing of 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 Parthenon Frieze (circa 400 BCE) has been described as displaying analysis of motion and representing phases of movement, structured rhythmic and melodically with counterpoints like a symphony. It has been claimed that parts actually form a coherent animation if the figures are shot frame by frame.[11] Although the structure follows a unique time-space continuum, it has narrative strategies.[12]

The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (c. 99 BCE – c. 55 BCE) 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." This was in the context of dream images, rather than images produced by an actual or imagined technology.[13][14]

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).[15]

A page of drawings[16] 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,[17] but these accounts are unclear and may only refer to the actual movement of the figures through space.[18]

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.[19]

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

Shadow playEdit

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 LanternEdit

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

Dissolving views became a popular magic lantern show, especially in England in the 1830s and 1840s.[23] 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.[24] Another use showed the gradual change of for instance groves into cathedrals.[25]

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.[26]

Occasionally small shadow puppets had been used in phantasmagoria shows.[23] 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.[27]

Animation before filmEdit

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)[28] 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.” [29] 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 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.[30] 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 successful as a novelty toy and within a year 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.[31] 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".[32]

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.[33] Lincoln licensed his invention to Milton Bradley and Co. who first advertised it on December 15, 1866.[34]

Flip book (1868)Edit

An 1886 illustration of the kineograph.

John Barnes Linnett patented the first flip book in 1868 as the kineograph.[35] 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.[36]

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.[37] 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, Reynaud 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 still projection of a background.[38]

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.[39][40]

1888-1908: Earliest animations on filmEdit

Théâtre OptiqueEdit

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 1892), Un bon bock (created in 1892, now lost), and Le Clown et ses chiens (created in 1892, now lost). Later on the titles Autour d'une cabine (created in 1894) and A rêve au coin du feu would be part of the performances.

Standard picture filmEdit

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.[41] 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 filmEdit

In 1897 German toy manufacturer Gebrüder Bing had a first prototype of their kinematograph.[42] 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.[43][44]

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][45] an expert in iconography at the Osaka University of Arts[46] and animation historian Nobuyuki Tsugata[Note 2] determining the film was most likely made between 1907 and 1911.[47] 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.[48] 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.[48] Evidence suggests it was mass-produced to be sold to wealthy owners of home projectors.[49] To Matsumoto, the relatively poor quality and low-tech printing technique indicate it was likely from a smaller film company.[50]

J. Stuart BlacktonEdit

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 Enchanted Drawing (1900) can be regarded as the first theatrical film recorded on standard picture film that included animated elements, although this concerns just a few frames of changes in drawings. 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 stop trick: 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.[41]

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[41] and Segundo de Chomón. De Chomón would release the similar The House of Ghosts and El hotel eléctrico in 1908.

The Humpty Dumpty Circus by Blackton and Albert E. Smith was a 1908 film featuring an animated performance of the figures from a popular wooden toy set.[52] Smith would later claim that this was "the first stop-motion picture in America". The inspiration would have come from seeing how puffs of smoke behaved in the interrupted recordings for a stop trick film they were making. Smith would have suggested to get a patent for the technique, but Blackton thought it wasn't that important.[53] Smith's recollections are not considered to be very reliable.[54][55]

Edwin S. PorterEdit

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.[56] 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.[57]

Segundo de ChomónEdit

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-CooperEdit

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.[58][59] Cooper created more Animated Matches scenes in the same setting. These are believed to also have been produced in 1899,[60][60] while a release date of 1908 has also been given.[61] There is also an Animated Matches film by Émile Cohl that was released by Gaumont in 1908,[62][63] 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.[41] Dreams of Toyland (1908) features a scene with many animated toys that lasts circa three and a half minutes.

Traditional animationEdit

Traditional animation is generally understood to be animation with each frame drawn or painted by hand, a technique that was dominant during most of the 20th century. The term is often used to differentiate it from computer animation since that technique became popular. In practice, animation made with computers that looks like traditional animation (a relatively two-dimensional appearance, usually with clear outlines), like The Rescuers Down Under (1990), can hardly be distinguished from hand-drawn animation and will also be identified as "traditional animation". The term "computer animation" is hardly used for anything other than animation with a three-dimensional appearance.

This segment details the history of animation which appears traditional, regardless of the underlying technique.

1908-1927: The silent eraEdit

Émile CohlEdit

The French artist Émile Cohl created the first animated film using what came to be known as traditional animation methods: the 1908 Fantasmagorie.[64] 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.

Winsor McCayEdit

Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)

Starting with a short 1911 film of his most popular character Little Nemo, successful newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay gave much more detail to his hand-drawn animations than any animation previously seen in cinemas. His 1914 film Gertie the Dinosaur featured an early example of character development in drawn animation.[65] It was also the first film to combine live-action footage with animation. Originally, McCay used the film in his vaudeville act: he would stand next to the screen and speak to Gertie who would respond with a series of gestures. At the end of the film McCay would walk behind the projection screen, seamlessly being replaced with a prerecorded image of himself entering the screen, getting on the cartoon dinosaur's back and riding out of frame. .[66][67] McCay personally hand-drew almost every one of the thousands of drawings for his films.[68] Other noteworthy titles by McCay are How a Mosquito Operates (1912) and The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918).

Barré, Bray and Fleischer: "assembly line" production studiosEdit

During the 1910s larger scale animation studios were becoming the industrial norm and artists such as McCay faded from the public eye.[68]

Around 1913 Raoul Barré developed the peg system that made it easier to align drawings by perforating two holes below each drawing and placing them on two fixed pins. He also used a "slash and tear" technique to not have to draw the complete background or other motionless parts for every frame. The parts where something needed to be changed for the next frame were carefully cut away from the drawing and filled in with the required change on the sheet below.[69] After Barré had started his career in animation at Edison Studios, he founded one of the first film studios dedicated to animation in 1914 (initially together with Bill Nolan). Barré Studio had success with the production of the adaptation of the popular comic strip Mutt and Jeff. The studio employed several animators who would have notable careers in animation, including Frank Moser, Gregory La Cava, George Stallings, Tom Norton and Pat Sullivan.

In 1914, John Bray opened John Bray Studios, which revolutionized the way animation was created.[70] Earl Hurd, one of Bray's employees patented the cel technique.[71] This involved animating moving objects on transparent celluloid sheets.[72] 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.[73][74] Many aspiring cartoonists started their careers at Bray, including Paul Terry (later of Heckle and Jeckle fame), Max Fleischer (later of Betty Boop and Popeye fame), and Walter Lantz (later of Woody Woodpecker fame). The cartoon studio operated from circa 1914 until 1928. Some of the first cartoon stars from the Bray studios were Farmer Alfalfa (by Paul Terry) and Bobby Bumps (by Earl Hurd).

In 1915, Max Fleischer applied for a patent[75] for a technique that would become known as rotoscoping: the process of using live-action film recordings as a reference point to more easily create realistic animated movements. The technique was often used in the Out of the Inkwell series (1918-1929) for John Bray Productions (and others). The series resulted from experimental rotoscoped images of Dave Fleischer performing as a clown, evolving into a character that would become known as Ko-Ko the Clown.

Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst founded International Film Service in 1916. Hearst lured away most of Barré Studio's animators, with Gregory La Cava becoming the head of the studio. They produced adaptations of many comic strips from Heart's newspapers in a rather limited fashion, giving just a little motion to the characters while mainly using the dialog balloons to deliver the story. The most notable series was Krazy Kat, with an early anthropomorphic cartoon cat character. Before the studio stopped in 1918 it had employed some new talents, including Vernon Stallings, Ben Sharpsteen, Jack King, John Foster, Grim Natwick, Burt Gillett and Isadore Klein.

Felix the catEdit

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.[76] Felix the Cat was distributed by Paramount Studios and attracted a large audience,[77] eventually becoming one of the most recognized cartoon characters in film history. Felix was the first cartoon to be merchandised.[citation needed]

The first animated featuresEdit

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.[78] None of Cristiani's feature films survived.[79][80][81]

The earliest surviving animated feature film is the 1926 silhouette-animated Adventures of Prince Achmed, which used colour-tinted film.[82] It was directed by German Lotte Reiniger and French/Hungarian Berthold Bartosch.[83] Bartosch created depth of field by putting scenographic elements and figures on several levels of glass plates with illumination from below and the camera vertically above. Later on a similar technique became the basis of the multiplane camera.

1924-1928 Introduction of synchronized soundEdit

Song Car-TunesEdit

From May 1924 to 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. The series also introduced the "bouncing ball" above lyrics to guide audiences to sing along to the music. My Old Kentucky Home from June 1926 was probably the first film to feature synchronized animated dialogue, with a dog character mouthing the words "Follow the ball, and join in, everybody".

Walt Disney's Mickey MouseEdit

After failing to earn money with their previous Laugh-O-Gram Studio animations, Walt Disney and his longtime collaborator Ub Iwerks had some success with the Alice Comedies series from 1923 to 1927. The films featured a live-action girl interacting with numerous cartoon characters, including the Felix-inspired Julius the Cat. The fully animated series of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit followed in 1927 and became a hit, but in 1928 Universal Studios took direct control of production and Disney lost the rights to the character.

Disney and Ub Iwerks developed Mickey Mouse in 1928 to replace Oswald. A first film entitled Plane Crazy failed to impress a test audience and did not raise sufficient interest of potential distributors. After some live-action movies with synchronized sound had become successful, Disney put the new Mickey Mouse cartoon The Gallopin' Gaucho on hold to start work on a special sound production that would launch the series more convincingly. Much of the action in the resulting Steamboat Willie (November 1928) involves the making of sounds, for instance with Mickey making music using livestock aboard the boat. The film became a huge success and Mickey Mouse would soon become the most popular cartoon character in history.

1930-1935 Introduction of colorEdit

The lithographed films for home use that were available in Europe in the first decades of the twentieth century were multi-coloured, but the technique does not seem to have been applied for theatrically released animated films.

The original prints of The adventures of Prince Achmed featured film tinting, but most theatrically released animated films before 1930 were black and white.

Two-strip colorEdit

A cartoon segment in the feature film King of Jazz (April 1930), made by Walter Lantz and Bill Nolan, was the first animation presented in two-strip Technicolor.

In 1930 Fiddlesticks was the first Flip the Frog film and the first project Ub Iwerks worked on after leaving Disney to set up his own studio. In England it was released in Harris Color,[84] a two-color process, and was probably the first theatrically released standalone animated cartoon with sound and color.

Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies in TechnicolorEdit

When the Silly Symphonies series, started in 1929, didn't manage to get as popular as Disney had hoped, he turned to a new technical innovation to improve the impact of the series. In 1932 he worked with the Technicolor company to create the first full-colour animation Flowers and Trees, debuting the three-strip technique (the first use in live-action movies came circa two years later). The cartoon was very successful and won an Academy Award for Short Subjects, Cartoons.[85] Disney temporarily had an exclusive deal for the use of Technicolor's full color technique in animated films. He even waited a while before he produced the ongoing Mickey Mouse series in color, so the Silly Symphonies would have their special appeal for audiences. After the exclusive deal lapsed in September 1935, full color animation soon became the industry standard.

1928 to 1960s: The golden age of Hollywood animationEdit

Cartoon superstarsEdit

After the additions of sound and colour were a huge success for Disney, other studios followed. Initially music and songs were the focus of many series, as indicated by series titles as Song Car-Tunes, Silly Symphonies, Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. Although music remained a relevant aspect, the recognizable characters were what really stuck with audiences. Mickey Mouse had been the first cartoon superstar who surpassed Felix the Cat's popularity, but soon dozens more cartoon superstars followed, many remaining very popular for decades.

Disney introduced new characters to the Mickey Mouse universe that would become very popular, including Minnie Mouse (1928), Pluto (1930), Goofy (1932), Donald Duck (1934), Daisy Duck (1940) and Chip 'n' Dale (1943/1947). Disney had realized that the success of animated films depended upon telling emotionally gripping stories; he developed 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 animated short to feature well-developed characters, Three Little Pigs.[86][87][88] Disney expanded his studio and started more and more production activities, including comics, merchandise and theme parks. Most projects were based on the characters that were developed for theatrical short films.

Fleischer Studios added Betty Boop (1930) and adaptations of Popeye (1933) and Superman (1941) to their repertoire. In 1942 Paramount Pictures took over the studio from the Fleischer Brothers and renamed it Famous Studios. Apart from continuing the Popeye and Superman series, Famous Studios created new popular adaptations of Little Lulu (1943-1948, licensed by Gold Key Comics), Casper the friendly ghost (1945) and developed several other new series such as Hunky and Spunky (1938), Little Audrey (1947) and Baby Huey (1950).

Bosko was created in 1927 by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising specifically with talkies in mind. At that time they were working for Disney, but they left in 1928 to work on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons at Universal for about a year, and then produced Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid pilot in May 1829 to shop for a distributor. They signed with Leon Schlesinger productions and started the Looney Tunes series for Warner Bros. in 1930. Bosko was the star of 39 Warner Bros. cartoons before Harman and Ising took Bosko to MGM after leaving Warner Bros.. After two MGM cartoons the character received a dramatic make-over that was much less appreciated by audiences. Bosko's career was over in 1938.

Warner Bros. had a vast music library that could be popularized through cartoons based on the available tunes. While Disney needed to create the music for every cartoon, the readily available sheet music and songs at Warner Bros. provided inspiration for many cartoons. Leon Schlesinger sold Warner Bros. a second series called Merrie Melodies, which until 1939 contractually needed to contain at least one refrain from the music catalog. Unlike Looney Tunes with Bosko, Merrie Melodies featured only a few recurring characters like Foxy, Piggy and Goopy Geer before Harman and Ising left in 1933. Bosko was replaced with Buddy for the Looney Tunes series, but lasted only two years, while Merrie Melodies initially continued without recurring characters. Eventually the two series became indistinguishable and produced many new characters that became very popular, such as Porky Pig (1935), Daffy Duck (1937), Elmer Fudd (1937/1940), Bugs Bunny (1938/1940), Sylvester the Cat (1939/1945), Tweety (1941/1942), Henery Hawk (1942), Yosemite Sam (1944/1945), Foghorn Leghorn (1946), Barnyard Dawg (1946), Marvin the Martian (1948), Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner (1949), Sylvester Jr. (1950), Speedy Gonzales (1953), Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog (1953), and Tasmanian Devil (1954).

Walter Lantz Productions's created the Andy Panda series (1939-1949) in which their most famous character Woody Woodpecker (1940) would debut. Other popular characters include Wally Walrus (1944), Buzz Buzzard (1948), Chilly Willy (1953), Hickory, Dickory, and Doc (1959).

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio had much success with Barney Bear (1939-1954), Tom and Jerry (1940), Spike and Tyke (1942), Droopy (1943), Screwy Squirrel (1944) and George and Junior (1944).

Other popular characters and series were Terrytoons' Gandy Goose (1938), Dinky Duck (1939), Mighty Mouse (1942-1961), Heckle and Jeckle (1946), Hashimoto-san (1959), and Screen Gems' The Fox and the Crow (1941-1948).

While Disney and most of the other studios sought a sense of depth and realism in animation, UPA had a different artistic vision and developed a much sparser and more stylized type of animation. The studio was formed in 1943 and initially worked on government contracts. A few years later they signed a contract with Columbia Pictures, took over The Fox and the Crow from Screen Gems and earned Oscar nominations for their first two theatrical shorts in 1948 and 1949. While the field of animation was dominated by anthropomorphic animals when the studio was allowed to create a new character, they came up with the near-sighted old man. Mr. Magoo (1949) became a hit and would featured in many short films. Between 1949 and 1959 UPA received 15 Oscar nominations, winning their first Academy Award with the Dr. Seuss adaptation Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950), followed by two more for When Magoo Flew (1954) and Magoo's Puddle Jumper (1956). The distinctive style was very influential and even effected the big studios, including Warner Bros. and Disney. Apart from an effective freedom in artistic expression, UPA had proved that sparser animation could be appreciated as much (or even more) than expensive lavish styles.

Probably the last iconic cartoon character to find fame on the silver screen was Pink Panther (1963). He started his career in the opening and closing credits of the live-action The Pink Panther film series featuring Peter Sellers. Its success led to a series of short films (1964-1980) and TV series (1969-1980).

Animators were not yet properly credited for their work every time, usually only producers were mentioned. An animator's personal style could sometimes be recognized when they left one studio and started working for another, or opened their own studio. While Disney's studio was known for its releases being strictly controlled by Walt Disney himself (one of the reasons why Ub Iwerks left and took a lucrative deal to start his own studio), Warner Brothers allowed its animators more freedom, which allowed for their animators to develop more recognizable personal styles.[68] Tex Avery, working for Warner Bros. from 1935 to 1941, was known for his fast-paced, violent, and satirical style, with a slapstick sensibility.[89] Chuck Jones was another Warner Bros. legend who was responsible for hundreds of Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes.

Snow White and the breakthrough of the animated featureEdit

At least eight animated feature films were released before Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, while at least another two earlier animated feature projects remained unfinished. Most of these films (of which only four survive) were made using cutout, silhouette or stop motion techniques. Among the lost animated features were three features by Quirino Cristiani who had premiered his third feature Peludópolis on 18 September 1931 in Buenos Aires[90] with a Vitaphone sound-on-disc synchronized soundtrack. It was received quite positively by critics, but did not become a hit and was an economic fiasco for the filmmaker. Cristiani soon realized that he could no longer make a career with animation in Argentina.[78] 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 and lasts only 41 minutes. It does meet the official definitions of a feature film by the British Film Institute, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the American Film Institute, which require that the film has to be over 40 minutes long.

When it became known that Disney was working on a feature-length animation, critics regularly referred to the project as "Disney's folly", not believing that audiences could stand the expected bright colors and jokes for such a long time. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered on 21 December 1937 and became a worldwide success.

The Fleischer studios followed Disney's example with Gulliver's Travels in 1939, which was a minor success at the box office.

Disney's next features Pinocchio, the very ambitious concert-film Fantasia (both 1940) and Fleischer Studios' second animated feature Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941/1942) were all received favorably by critics but failed at the box office during their initial theatrical runs. The primary cause was that World War II had cut off most foreign markets. These setbacks discouraged most companies who had plans for animated features.

Disney cut back on the costs for the next features and first released The Reluctant Dragon, mostly consisting of a live-action tour of the new studio in Burbank, partly in black and white, with four short cartoons. It was a mild success at the worldwide box office. It was followed a few months later with Dumbo (1941), only 64 minutes long and animated in a simpler economic style. This helped securing a profit at the box office, and critics and audiences reacted positively. Disney's fifth real feature Bambi returned to a larger budget and more lavish style, but the more dramatic story, darker mood and lack of fantasy elements was not received very well during its initial run. The film lost money on its first release.

Although all the other eight Disney features of the 1940s were package films, and/or combinations with live-action like Saludos Amigos (1943) and The Three Caballeros, Disney kept faith in animated feature films. For decades Disney was the only American studio to release animated feature films regularly. Without much competition, it would last until 2002 before there was an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.


Several governments had already used animation in public information films, like those by the GPO Film Unit in the U.K. and Japanese educational films. During World War II, animation became a common medium for propaganda. The U.S.A. had their best studios working for the war effort.

To instruct service personnel about all kinds of military subjects and to boost morale, Warner Bros. was contracted for several shorts and the special animated series Private Snafu. The character was created by the famous movie director Frank Capra, Dr. Seuss was involved in screenwriting and the series was directed by Chuck Jones. Disney also produced several instructive shorts and even personally financed the feature-length Victory Through Air Power (1943) that promoted the idea of long-range bombing.

Many popular characters promoted war bonds, like Bugs Bunny in Any Bonds Today?, Disney's little pigs in The Thrifty Pig and a whole bunch of Disney characters in All Together. Daffy Duck asked for scrap metal for the war effort in Scrap Happy Daffy. Minnie Mouse and Pluto invited civilians to collect their cooking grease so it could be used for making explosives in Out of the Frying Pan Into the Firing Line. There were several more political propaganda short films, like Warner Bros.' Fifth Column Mouse, Disney's Chicken Little and the more serious Education for Death and Reason and Emotion (nominated for an Academy Award). Such wartime films were much appreciated. Bugs Bunny became something of a national icon and Disney's propaganda short Der Fuehrer's Face (starring Donald Duck) won the company its tenth Academy Award for cartoon short subjects.

Japan's first feature anime Momotaro: Sacred Sailors was made in 1944, ordered by the Ministry of the Navy of Japan. It was designed for children and, partly inspired by Fantasia, was meant to inspire dreams and hope for peace. The main characters are an anthropomorphic monkey, dog, bear and pheasant who become parachute troopers (except the pheasant who becomes a pilot) tasked with invading Celebes. An epilogue hints at America being the target for the next generation.

Other countriesEdit

American cel animated films dominated the worldwide production and consumption of theatrical releases since the 1920s. Especially Disney's work proved to be very popular and most influential around the world.

Studios from other countries could hardly compete with the American productions, especially within the medium of cel animation. It seemed easier to stand out with other techniques, like puppet animation, direct animation or cut-out animation. Some countries, like Russia, China and Japan developed their own relatively large "traditional" animation industries. Russia's Soyuzmultfilm animation studio, founded in 1936, employed up to 700 skilled workers and, during the Soviet period, produced 20 films per year on average.

Few titles from outside the U.S.A. gained much international recognition. Notable titles that did have some international success include:

1949 to 1990s: The television eraEdit

Most theatrical cartoons had not been produced for specific audiences. Dynamic action and gags with funny animals in clear drawing styles with bright colours were naturally appealing to young children, but the cartoons regularly contained violence and sexual innuendo and were often screened together with news reels and feature films that were not for children.

On US television, cartoons were mainly programmed for children in convenient time slots on weekend mornings and weekday afternoons. Especially Saturday-morning cartoon programming, usually four hours long, caught on in the mid-1960s. With animation increasingly perceived as something for children, the previously dominant medium of short theatrical cartoons lost popularity and by the end of the 1960s most studios had ceased producing them. Even Warner Bros. and Disney, with occasional exceptions, stopped making short theatrical cartoons after 1969. Short animated films mostly became a medium for film festivals in which independent animators showcased their talents. With the big studios gone, the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film winners and nominations of the 1970s and 1980s were usually for relatively unknown talents.

US television animation from 1949 to the 1960sEdit

The back catalog of animated cartoons of many studios, originally produced for a short theatrical run, proved very valuable for television broadcasting. Many classical series from Universal's Walter Lantz, Warner Bros., Terrytoons, MGM, and Disney thus found a new life, with many reruns. [[Walt Disney anthology television series] (not always containing animation) have been on the air since 1954, starting under the title Walt Disney's Disneyland (1954-1958) that simultaneously promoted the Disneyland theme park that opened in 1955.

The earliest American animated series specifically produced for TV came about in 1949, with Adventures of Pow Wow (43 five-minute episodes broadcast on Sunday mornings from January to November) and Jim and Judy in Teleland (52 episodes, later sold to Venuzuela and Japan).

The scheduling constraints of the 1950s American TV animation process, notably issues of resource management (higher quantity needed to be made in less time for a lower budget compared to theatrical animation), 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 increasingly less 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.[91] The limited animation style was highlighted by the work of Jay Ward on Crusader Rabbit (tested in 1948, original broadcasts 1950-1952 and 1959).[92] Other notable early programs include UPA's Gerald McBoing Boing (1956), Soundac's Colonel Bleep (1957-1960, the first animated TV series in color), Terrytoons's Tom Terrific (1958), and Jay Ward's The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends (1959-1964).

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer closed their animation studio in 1957, considering that their back catalog would suffice for further sales.[93] William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (the creators of Tom and Jerry) continued as Hanna-Barbera. While they only made one theatrically released series with Loopy de Loop (1959-1965), they proved to be the most prolific and successful producers of animated television series for several decades. Starting with The Ruff and Reddy Show (1957-1960), they continued with successful series like The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958, the first half hour television program to feature only animation)[94], The Quick Draw McGraw Show (1959-1961), The Flintstones (1960-1966) (the first prime time animated series), The Yogi Bear Show (1961-1962), The Jetsons (1962-1963, 1985, 1987) and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-1970, later followed by other Scooby-Doo series).

Apart from the regular TV series, there were several noteworthy animated television specials, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) directed by Chuck Jones and a string of Peanuts (1965-2011) specials based on Charles M. Schulz's comic strip.

Rise of anime (1960s-1970s)Edit

Japan was notably prolific and successful with their own style of animation, which became known in the English language initially as Japanimation and eventually as anime. In general, anime was developed with limited animation techniques that put more emphasis on the aesthetic quality than on movement, in comparison to US animation. It also applies a relatively "cinematic" approach with zooming, panning, complex dynamic shots and much attention for backgrounds that are instrumental to creating atmosphere.

Some anime series received varying levels of airplay in the United States and other countries since the 1960s, including Astro Boy (1963), Kimba the White Lion (1965), Sally the Witch (1966) and Speed Racer (1967). Some broadcasters, who thought of animation as something for young children and all too easily programmed Japanese series accordingly, received criticism when some programs turned out to be rather violent.[95] Adaptions of European stories like Vicky the Viking (1974), Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974), The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (1980-1981) ensured much more success in European countries.

The domestically popular Sazae-san started in 1969 and is the longest-running animated TV show in the world, with more than 7,700 episodes.

Animated TV series in other countriesEdit

While theatrical animation was dominated by American productions, animation for television programming was something that made much sense for many more countries, mainly for the entertainment of children. Although much was created for national broadcasting, there were also many series that gained international success, including Les Aventures de Tintin, d'après Hergé (Hergé's Adventures of Tintin) (Belgium 1957-1964), Calimero (Italy/Japan 1963-1972), La Linea (Italy 1971, 1978, 1986), Barbapapa (The Netherlands/Japan 1973), Il était une fois… (Once Upon a Time...) (France/Japan 1978), Doctor Snuggles (U.K./The Netherlands 1979), The Smurfs (Belgium/U.S.A. 1981), Inspector Gadget (France/U.S.A. 1983), Bibifoc (Seabert)(France 1985) and Snorks (Belgium/U.S.A. 1984-1989). Several titles were co-produced with Japanese and American studios, since this was often easier and cheaper than building a new studio.

Animated features from 1950 to 1965Edit

Disney returned to fully animated feature films with Cinderella in 1950 (the first since Bambi). Its success practically saved the company from bankruptcy. It was followed by Alice in Wonderland (1951), which flopped at the box office and was critically panned. Peter Pan (1953) and Lady and the Tramp (1955) were hits. The ambitious, much delayed and more expensive Sleeping Beauty (1959) lost money at the box office and caused doubts about the future of Walt Disney's animation department. Like "Alice in Wonderland" and most of Disney's flops, it would later be commercially successful through re-releases and would eventually be regarded as a true classic. For One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) production costs were kept down, helped by the xerography process that eliminated the inking process. Although the relatively sketchy look was not appreciated by Walt Disney personally, it didn't bother critics or audiences and the film was another hit for the studio. The Sword in the Stone (1963) was another financial success, but over the years it has become one of the least known Disney features. It was followed by the live-action/animation hit Mary Poppins (1964) which received 13 Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture.

UPA produced their first feature 1001 Arabian Nights (1959) (starring Mr. Magoo as Alladin's uncle) for Columbia Pictures, with little success. They tried again with Gay Purr-ee in 1962, released by Warner Bros.. It was well received by critics, but failed at the box office and would be the last feature the studio ever made.

Adult-oriented and counterculture animation from 1968 to 1988Edit

Before the end of the 1960s, hardly any adult-oriented animation had been produced. A notable exception was the pornographic short Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure (1928), presumably made by famous animators for a private party in honour of Winsor McCay and not publicly screened until the late 1970s. After 1934, the Hays code gave filmmakers in the United States little leeway to release risky material, until the code was replaced by the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system in 1968. Television programming of animation made most people think of it as a medium for young children or as family entertainment. Arguably, the philosophical, psychological, and sociological overtones of the Peanuts TV specials were relatively adult-oriented, but the specials were also enjoyable for children. In 1969 director Bill Mendelez expanded the succes of the series to cinemas with A Boy Named Charlie Brown, but its theatrical follow-up Snoopy Come Home (1972) was a box-office flop, despite positive reviews. Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977) and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!) (1980) were the only other theatrical traditionally animated feature films for Peanuts, while the TV specials continued until 2011.

The anti-establishment counterculture boom at the end of the 1960s impacted Hollywood early on. In animation, anti-war sentiments were clearly present in several short underground films like Ward Kimball's Escalation (1968) (made independently from his employment at Disney) and the parody Mickey Mouse in Vietnam (1969). The less political parody Bambi meets Godzilla (1969) by Marv Newland, another underground short film for adults, is considered a great classic and was included in The 50 Greatest Cartoons (1994) (based on a poll of 1,000 people working in the animation industry).

The popularity of psychedelia reportedly made the 1969 re-release of Disney's Fantasia popular among teenagers and college students, and the film started to make a profit. Similarly, Disney's Alice in Wonderland became popular with TV screenings in this period and with its 1974 re-release.

Also influenced by the psychedelic revolution, The Beatles' animated musical feature Yellow Submarine (1968) showed a broad audience how animation could be quite different from the well known television cartoons and Disney features. Its distinctive design came from art director Heinz Edelman. It received widespread acclaim and would prove to be influential. Peter Max further popularized a similar visual style in his artworks.

Ralph Bakshi thought that the idea of "grown men sitting in cubicles drawing butterflies floating over a field of flowers, while American planes are dropping bombs in Vietnam and kids are marching in the streets, is ludicrous."[96] He therefore created a more sociopolitical type of animation, starting with Fritz the Cat (1972), based on Robert Crumb's comic books and the first animated feature to receive an X-rating. The X-rating was used to promote the film and it became the highest-grossing independent animated film of all time. The success of Heavy Traffic (1973) made Bakshi the first since Disney to have two financially successful animated feature films in a row. The film utilized an artistic blend of techniques with still photography as the background in parts, a live-action scene of models with painted faces rendered in negative cinematography, a scene rendered in very limited sketchy animation that was only partly colored, detailed drawing, archival footage, and most characters animated in a consistent cartoon style throughout it all, except the last ten minutes that were fully filmed as a standard live-action film. He continued to experiment with different techniques in most of his next projects. His next projects Hey Good Lookin' (finished in 1975, but shelved by Warner Bros. until release in an adjusted version in 1982) and Coonskin (1975, suffered from protests against its perceived racism while actually satirizing it) were far less successful, but received more appreciation later on and became cult films. Bakshi found new success with the fantasy films Wizards (1977) and The Lord of the Rings (1978). Both used rotoscoping for massive battle scenes. For Wizards the technique was used on archival footage as a solution to budgetary problems and rendered in a psychedelic and artistic style. For The Lord of the Rings it became a means to create a look that Bakshi described as "real illustration as opposed to cartoons" for a film that he wanted be true to Tolkien's work, with reference material shot with costumed actors in Spain. The more family-oriented television film The Return of the King (1979) by Rankin/Bass and Topcraft is sometimes regarded as an unofficial sequel after Bakshi's intended second part was not made, but they had already independently started their adaptation of the story on television with The Hobbit in 1977.

The imaginitive French/Czech science fiction production La Planète sauvage (1973) was awarded the Grand Prix special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival,[97] and in 2016, it was ranked the 36th-greatest animated movie ever by Rolling Stone.[98]

The British production Watership Down (film) (1978) was a huge international success. It featured animal characters that looked more realistic than anthropomorphic, against watercolor backgrounds. Despite its dark and violent aspects, it was deemed suitable for all ages in the UK and rated PG in the United States.

Bakshi's rock musical American Pop (1981) was another success, mostly made with the rotoscope technique in combination with some water colors, computer graphics, live-action shots, and archival footage. His next film Fire and Ice (1983) was a collaboration with artist Frank Frazetta. It was one of many films in the sword and sorcery genre released after the success of Conan the Barbarian (1982) and The Beastmaster (1982). Critics appreciated the visuals and action sequences, but not its script, and the film flopped at the box office. After failing to get several projects off the ground, Bakshi retired for a few years.

The Canadian anthology hit film Heavy Metal (1981) was based on comics published in the popular Heavy Metal magazine and co-produced by its founder. Mixed reviews thought the film was uneven, juvenile and sexist. It was eventually followed in 2000 by the poorly received Heavy Metal 2000 and re-imagined as the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots in 2019.

The dark rock opera film Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982) contained 15 minutes worth of animated segments by British cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who had already designed related artwork for the 1979 album and 1980-81 concert tour. Some of the film's animated material was previously used for the 1979 music video for "Another Brick in the Wall: Part 2" and for the tour. Scarfe had also made animations for Pink Floyd's 1977 In the Flesh tour.

The successful British nuclear disaster film When the Wind Blows (1986) showed hand-drawn characters against real backgrounds, with stop-motion for objects that moved.

The violent post-apocalyptic cyberpunk anime Akira (1988) is widely regarded as a classic and garnered increased popularity of anime outside Japan.

Music videos and MTV from 1979 to 1989Edit

Although the combination of music and animation had a long tradition, it took some time before animation became part of music videos after the medium became a proper genre in the mid-1970s.

Pink Floyd's 1977 Welcome to the Machine music video, fully animated by Gerald Scarfe, was initially only used as backdrop for concert performances.

Possibly the first animated music video proper was Elvis Costello's Accidents Will Happen (1979) made by Annabelle Janckel and Rocky Morton, known for their animated commercials. Despite an initially lukewarm reception,[99] the video has since received acclaim.

A cartoon for Linda McCartney's Seaside Woman was made by Oscar Grillo and won a Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes festival in 1980.[100]

MTV launched in 1981 and further popularized the music video medium, which allowed relatively much artistic expression and creative techniques. Many of the most celebrated music videos of the 1980s featured animation (including many in techniques outside what is considered "traditional animation"). A-ha's "Take On Me" (1985) famously combined live-action with realistic pencil-drawing animation by Michael Patterson in a video directed by Steve Barron (who would also direct the groundbreaking computer animated Dire Straits "Money for Nothing" in the same year). The video was inspired by Alex Patterson's CalArts graduation film Commuter (1984), which had attracted the attention of Warner Bros. records executives[101] and would be partly used again for A-ha's Train of Thought video. Patterson also directed Paula Abdul's Opposites Attract (1989) featuring his creation MC Skat Kat.

The Rolling Stones' "The Harlem Shuffle" (1986) featured animated elements directed by Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi, created in a few weeks.

MTV set a wild artistic postmodern image for itself through a plethora of experimental ident bumpers, most of them animated.[102] Animators usually went uncredited, but were free to work in their own identifiable styles, with for instance Canadian animator Danny Antonucci's bumper featuring his Lupo the Butcher character.

Renaissance of US animation (1987 to 1990s)Edit

Most animation in US TV programming had grown formulaic, often based on characters known from other media, and with much of the actual (limited) animation work outsourced to cheap Asian laborers. Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures (1987-1989) was one of the first animated TV shows to recapture the earlier quality and originality (despite being based on an existing character). It was produced by Ralph Bakshi and the first season was supervised by John Kricfalusi, with much freedom for artists to work in their own style. Rather than making a nostalgic rehash of the original Terrytoons series, it tried to recreate the quality and the zany humour of the Looney Tunes classics.

In cinemas, Robert Zemeckis' live-action/animation hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) also harked back to the quality and zany comedy of the golden age of cartoons, with cameos of many of the superstars of that era (including Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Betty Boop, Droopy, Woody Woodpecker and the Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, and Sylvester). The film won several Oscars and helped revive interest in theatrical feature animation and the classic cartoons.

Matt Groening's The Simpsons had started in April 1987 as a short segment in-sketch comedy show The Tracey Ullman Show, before getting their own prime-time half-hour sitcom in December 1989. It became one of the biggest cartoon hits in history and is the longest-running American scripted primetime television series.

Disney feature films had been perceived as struggling since Walt Disney's death in 1966, until The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991 film)|Beauty and the Beast]] (1991), Aladdin (1992) and The Lion King (1994) successively broke box-office records. Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998) and Tarzan (1999 film) did not surpass The Lion King as the highest-grossing (traditionally) animated film of all time but all grossed over $250 million worldwide. The films of this period are regarded as part of the Disney Renaissance.

The use of animation on MTV increased when the channel started to make more and more shows that did not really fit their "music television" moniker. Bill Plympton produced several Microtoons and other short animations for the channel in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Liquid Television (1991 to 1995) showcased contributions that were mostly created by independent animators specifically for the show and spawned separate Æon Flux and Beavis and Butt-Head series. Other 1990s cartoon series on MTV included The Head (1994-1996) and The Maxx (1995), both under the MTV's Oddities banner.

John Kricfalusi's very influential The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991-1995) garnered widespread acclaim and for a while it was the most popular cable TV show. Programmed as a children's cartoon, it was notoriously controversial for its dark humor, sexual innuendos, adult jokes, and shock value.

The enormous succes of The Simpsons and The Ren & Stimpy Show prompted more new original and relatively daring series, includingBeavis and Butt-head (1993-1997), South Park (since 1997), King of the Hill (1997-2010), Family Guy (since 1999), and Futurama (1999-2003).

Television animation for children continued to flourish on specialized cable channels like Nickelodeon, Disney Channel/Disney XD and Cartoon Network, PBS Kids, and in syndicated afternoon time slots.

In the shadow of computer animation (21st century)Edit

After the success of Pixar's Toy Story (1995), 3D computer animation became dominant.

Abstract animation, absolute film, visual music and artEdit

Before the development of cinema, there were several phenomena that can be regarded as early forms of abstract animation or visual music, including color organs, chinese fireworks, the kaleidoscope and special animated slides for the magic lantern (like the chromatrope). Some of the earliest animation designs for stroboscopic devices (like the phénakisticope and the zoetrope) were abstract, including one Fantascope disc by inventor Joseph Plateau and many of Simon Stampfer's Stroboscopische Scheiben (1833).

It took a while before similar ideas popped up in cinema. The first abstract animations with notable impact were created by a group of artists in Germany in the 1920s, referred to as the "Absolute Film" movement: Walter Ruttmann, Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling and Oskar Fischinger.

Len Lye's A Colour Box (1935) was a "direct animation", created by painting patterns on a film strip. It proved to be very influential and had a big influence on Norman McLaren, who would create abstract animations for the National Film Board of Canada since founding its animation unit in 1941.

Abstract animation reached the mainstream with the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor section in Disney's "concert film" Fantasia (1940). Disney was inspired by Lye's A Colour Box and hired Oskar Fischinger to collaborate with effects animator Cy Young. Fischinger's designs were all altered and he would not receive any credits for the finished piece.

Many more artists have made abstract animations that have been appreciated in the art world, but hardly any work has gained mainstream attention.

Stop motionEdit

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. Among the animators whose work with animated puppets have received the highest acclaim are Wladyslaw Starewicz, George Pal and Henry Selick. Popular titles using animated clay include Gumby (1953), Mio Mao (1970), The Red and the Blue (1976), Pingu (1990-2000) and many Aardman Animations productions (Morph (1977), Wallace and Gromit (1989))

Until largely replaced by computer animated effects, stop motion was also a popular technique for special effects in live-action films. Pioneer Willis O'Brien and his protegé Ray Harryhausen animated many monsters and creatures for live-action Hollywood films, using models or puppets with armatures.

Stop motion as an artistic medium, rather than for pure entertainment, has been shaped by influential filmmakers like Jan Svankmajer and Brothers Quay.

Cutout animationEdit

Cutout techniques were relatively often used in animated films until cel animation became the standard method (at least in the United States). The earliest animated feature films, by Quirino Cristiani and Lotte Reiniger, were cutout animations.

Before 1934, Japanese animation mostly used cutout techniques rather than cel animation, because the celluloid was too expensive.[103][104]

Apart from his early abstract direct animations, Harry Everett Smith also experimented with cutout collage animations, resulting in several short films and the feature Heaven and Earth Magic (first released in 1957 but re-edited several times before a final version was released in 1962).

Probably the best known cutout animations are those made by Terry Gilliam for Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-1975).

Jim Blashfield used cutout animation in his music videos for Talking Heads' And She Was (1985), Paul Simon's Boy in the Bubble, Michael Jackson's Leave Me Alone (1989, winning a Grammy Award, a Cannes Golden Lion and an MTV Award), Tears for Fears' Sowing the Seeds of Love (1989, winning two MTV Awards) and others.

The pilot for South Park was created with cutout techniques, but subsequent episodes emulated the look through computer animation.

Computer animationEdit

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 animationEdit

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 Short film
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[105] 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[106] 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
1937 First film using Disney's multiplane camera The Old Mill Short film. A predecessor of the multiplane technique had already been used for The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Ub Iwerks had developed an early version of the multiplane camera in 1934 for his The Headless Horseman Comicolor Cartoon.[107]
1937 Feature filmed in three-strip Technicolor Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
1940 Stereophonic sound Fantasia Recorded in Fantasound with 33 microphones on eight channels, but the reproduction of multi-channel Fantasound in theaters was eventually more limited than intended
1942 First film applying limited animation The Dover Boys Short film
1951 First animated 3-D films Now is the time - To put on your glasses Abstract dual-strip stereoscopic short films by Norman McLaren for the Festival of Britain[108]
Around is around
1953 First cartoon presented in widescreen format Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom Short film
1955 First animated feature in widescreen format Lady and the Tramp
First stop-motion television series The Gumby Show[109]
1956 First US animated primetime TV series CBS Cartoon Theatre Compilation television series
1957 First animated TV series broadcast in color Colonel Bleep Television series
1959 Syncro-Vox Clutch Cargo Television series
1960 Xerography process (replacing hand inking) Goliath II Short film
First primetime animated sitcom The Flintstones Television series
1961 Feature film using xerography process One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Long-running animated TV series Minna no Uta
1964 First feature film based on a television show Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!
1969 First animated feature deemed to be x-rated A Thousand and One Nights Japanese anime hit. Pornographic animations had already been made for the phénakisticope and the short film Buried Treasure featuring Eveready Harton (circa 1928)
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
1985 Feature length clay-animated film The Adventures of Mark Twain
1988 First feature film to have live-action and cartoon animation share the screen for the entire film Who Framed Roger Rabbit
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 CGI-animated TV series Insektors
1995 Feature film fully animated with computers
G-rated CGI feature film
Toy Story
Animated television series to be broadcast in Dolby Surround Pinky and the Brain
1997 First animated series produced for the Internet[110]
Flash-animated series
The Goddamn George Liquor Program
1999 First animated IMAX feature Fantasia 2000
2001 Motion-capture animation
PG-13-rated CGI animated film
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
First Academy Award for Best Animated Feature 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
2007 Feature digitally animated by one person Flatland
Presented in 7.1 surround sound Ultimate Avengers Blu-ray release
2008 Feature film designed, created and released exclusively in 3D Fly Me to the Moon
2009 Stop-motion character animated using rapid prototyping Coraline
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 colour 3-D printing technology for models ParaNorman

Other developments per regionEdit


History of Cuban animationEdit

History of Mexican animationEdit

  • 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
  • 2003: Ánima Estudios releases Magos y gigantes a full-length Mexican-animated feature after many years of hiatus in the country's industry.

Animation in the United States in the television era

  • 1938: Chad Grothkopf's eight-minute experimental Willie the Worm, cited as the first animated film created for TV, was shown on NBC.[111][112]
  • The first TV animated series from Jay Ward Productions (1948-1959): Crusader Rabbit.
  • The competition begins in television animation with the animated series of Cambria Studios (1959-1966), Filmation (1962-1989) and Total Television (1959-1969).
  • 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 critics.Cawley, John. "Don Bluth The Disney Years: The Rescuers". John Cawley. Retrieved 2019-08-23.
  • 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 critics.Ebert, Roger. "The Secret of NIMH Movie Review (1982)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2019-08-23.
  • 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 Estonian animationEdit

Estonian animation began in the 1930s and has carried on into the modern day.[113]

History of Italian animationEdit

History of animation in Croatia (in former Yugoslavia)Edit



History of Australian animationEdit

See: Animal Logic, Yoram Gross, Flying Bark Productions

History of New Zealand animationEdit

See: Weta Digital



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  2. ^ 津堅 信之, b. 1968



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External linksEdit