Animation (pre-World War II)

Mickey_Mouse.jpg
Mickey Mouse, one of the most popular animated characters, from Steamboat Willie, 1928 (http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/arts/2010/11/18/2010-11-18_mickey_mouse_turning_82.html)
Animation offers filmmakers a unique form of artistic control. Pre-1945 animation was a time of experimentation and refinement of techniques as filmmakers used the art form to explore areas from abstract imaging to delightful entertainment. The development of animation technologies through 1945 significantly accelerated the progression of animation from short motion snippets to complex action and plots.[1]

Technological Precursors to Cinematic Animation


Zoetrope

While the zoetrope was originally invented around 180 AD in China by Ting Huan, the more modern version was invented in 1834 by William George Horner.[2] Horner created a rotating cylinder with a number of vertical slits around the circumference and an equal number of pictures on the inside of the cylinder. Each picture shows a slight progression of motion from a previous picture. When rotating, the slits allow the viewer to see just one picture for a brief period of time and then display the next slightly different picture, and so on. The rapid progression of slightly different pictures created the illusion of motion.[3] The zoetrope's ability to create motion out of still pictures earned it the nicknames, "The Wheel of the Devil" and "The Wheel of Life."[4]

Phenakistoscope

The phenakistoscope was invented in 1832 by Joseph Plateau from Belgium and simultaneously by Simon von Stampfer from Austria.[5] It included a disk with several slits around the edge and a series of frames showing drawings of the progression of motion. The disk was attached to a handle and faced a mirror. As the viewer spun the handle and peered through the slits, he or she would see the reflection of the drawings in the mirror for brief instances, creating the illusion of motion similarly seen with the zoetrope.[6]

Flip Book

The flip book, also known as the kineograph was invented in 1868 by John Barnes Linnett.[7] The flip book became popular due to its portability. Forgoing slits and spinning, the user simply had to rapidly flip through a series of pages containing sequential drawings or pictures that represented the progression of motion. Flipping through the book created the illusion of motion even though no slits were necessary.[8]

Praxinoscope

The praxinoscope was invented in France in 1877 by Charles-Émile Reynaud.[9] It contained a spinning cylinder with a series of pictures on the inside (much like the zoetrope). However, in order to stabilize the image, instead of using slits that the viewer peaked through, the praxinoscope utilized a circle of mirrors inside of the cylinder that rotated to show one image at a time in rapid succession, creating the illusion of motion. Reynaud also invented the Théâtre Optique, a precursor to more modern film projectors, which projected images that created the illusion of motion in much the same way as the praxinoscope.[10]

First Film Animations


fanstasmagorie.jpg
Fantasmagorie, 1908 (http://mubi.com/films/29934)
After the invention of the praxinoscope, many early animations came into fruition. The first animation on film stock is widely considered to be J. Stuart Blackton’s Humorous Phases of Funny Faces in 1906. The film was created for Vitagraph. The film features a combination of shots in which a hand draws faces on a chalkboard, but when the hand leaves the frame, the faces seem to come to life and move on their own. To shoot the sequences in which the faces moved alone, each frame was shot individually after Blackton slightly altered the chalk drawing between each shot. The film was shot at 20 frames per second.[11] Also in 1906, Spanish filmmaker Segundo de Chomón created Le Théâtre de Petit Bob. This animated film depicted a young boy’s toy box come to life using a technique called pixilation, a stop-motion technique in which the objects being filmed are exposed on a single frame, slightly moved, exposed again, and so on.[12] This technique gave the illusion that the toys were moving on their own. Animation was used along with a live action film in Vitagraph’s The Haunted Hotel (1907). Stop-motion technique was used to make objects seemed possessed and able to move on their own.[13]

One of the first ever entirely hand-drawn animations was created by Émile Cohl, who worked for the French film company, Gaumont from 1908 to 1910. The film, Fantasmagorie (1908), was drawn using black ink and white paper. The negative of the drawings were shown to give the audience the impression that they were watching moving chalk figures (white chalk on a blackboard).[14] Cohl’s method was mimicked for after the release of Fantasmagorie until more efficient processes became popular. To give the impression of secure movement, Cohl would place a finished drawing (made on white paper) on a glass sheet and then place another white paper over the drawing. Light illuminated the papers from underneath the glass. The image of the drawing could be seen through the blank white paper on top. Cohl then drew the same image but slightly different to give the impression of motion.[15] Some of the most famous early animations in the United States before the 1920s were comic-strip artist Winsor McCay’s films. McCay made the animated films, Little Nemo (1911), The Story of a Mosquito (1912), and Gertie (1914). The Story of a Mosquito and Gertie were among the most complicated animated films of its time because complex backgrounds were retraced on every sheet.[16]

Standardization of Animation


By 1914, labor-saving techniques were created that allowed for animated works to be produced more regularly. The assembly-line system allowed animations to be created much more efficiently than a single worker ever could.[17] John Randolph Bray invented a method that freed animators from retracing a background onto every sheet. Instead of tracing the background onto each sheet, Bray printed the same background settings onto many paper sheets and then painted on the drawings that were to be animated.[18] . Bray used this technique in The Artist’s Dream (1913).[19] Earl Hurd further developed animation in 1914 by creating “cel animation,” in which one background is created and remains constant while images to be animated are drawn on transparent celluloid sheets. The sheets are placed over the background and photographed to create the frame.[20] Raoul Barré is credited for the creation of the “slash system” of animation around the same time as the rise of cel animation. In this method, only the part of the character that moved would be cut, or slashed, away and redrawn on a sheet of paper below, with sheets stabilized by pegs at the top. These pegs became vital for future animations. Barré created the “Animated Grouch Chasers” series using the slash system.[21] Rotoscoping, in which cartoon animations were drawn over projections of live performances, was invented by Max and Dave Fleischer sometime before 1915. This technique allowed for the creation of characters that moved naturally and fluidly. Popeye the Sailor was created using the rotoscope technique.[22]

Post-World War I Expansion


After World War I, animation reached a boon in popularity. With the basics techniques established, animations could be created on a regular basis, sometimes biweekly. Short animations were released with continuing characters.[23] The most consistently popular animated series in the 1920s was the "Felix the Cat" series, created by Otto Messmer and Pat Sullivan for Paramount.[24] The Disney Brothers Studios was one of the most successful producers of animated films. Gaining recognition with the part-animated, part-live action comedies in “Alice Comedies,” the studio made its first all-animated series in 1927 with the character, Oswald the Rabbit. After losing Oswald due to legal troubles, Disney created Mickey Mouse, a character that earned explosive popularity in one of the first sound films, Steamboat Willie (1928).[25] Animated features were also a popular in the form of serials, which would play for a few minutes at the start of films and often end on a “cliff-hanger” ending each week. These animated serials served as a draw to keep audiences coming to theaters.[26]

Feature Films


While animated films thrived in the form of short serials, it took longer for studios to commit to producing feature-length, all-animated films. The first animated film is believed to be Quirino Cristiani’s El Apóstol (1917), released in Argentina at a 70 minute runtime.[27] The following year, Argentina's Sin Dejar Rastros (1918) was released domestically.[28] Before 1937, several other international films are known to have been released before any feature length animated film in the United States. Some of these films include The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) in Germany, Peludópolis (1931) in Argentina, and The New Gulliver (1935) in the USSR.[29] The first American release of an animated feature film was Walt Disney Studio’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was also the first feature-length film produced in full Technicolor. Snow White was wildly popular when released, earning four times as much money as any other film that year and becoming the most successful film ever at the time.[30] Snow White went on to earn an Honorary Academy Award for its innovation and pioneering of a new field of screen entertainment.[31] Disney animation dominated the US animated feature film market before 1945, releasing nine out of eleven American animated feature films from 1937 to 1945.[32]

Notable Animated Feature-Length Film Releases (1917-1945)

Year
Title
Studio
Country
Notes
1917
El Apóstol
Unknown
Argentina
World's first animated feature film
1918
Sin Dejar Rastros
Unknown
Argentina

1931
Peludópolis
Unknown
Argentina
World's first animated feature film with sound
1937
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Walt Disney Studio
USA
First animated feature film with Technicolor
1939
Gulliver's Travels
Fleischer Studios
USA

1940
Fantasia
Walt Disney Studio
USA
First year Walt Disney Studio releases two animated feature films in the same year
1940
Pinocchio
Walt Disney Studio
USA

1941
Dumbo
Walt Disney Studio
USA

1941
The Reluctant Dragon
Walt Disney Studio
USA

1941
Mister Bug Goes to Town
Fleischer Studios
USA

1941
Tie Shan Gong Zhun
Unknown
China

1942
Bambi
Walt Disney Studio
USA

1942
Saludos Amigos
Walt Disney Studio
USA

1943
Victory Through Air Power
Walt Disney Studio
USA

1944
The Three Caballeros
Walt Disney Studio
USA

1945
Propavshaya Gramota
Soyuzmultfilm
USSR

1945
Momotarō Umi no Shinpei
Shôchiku Dôga Kenkyûjo
Japan

1945
Garbancito de la Mancha
Balet y Blay
Spain

[33]

External Links


Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animated_film

CineWiki:
Disney Animation pre-1945
Early Animation
Disney Animated Villains

Web sites:
Chronology of Animation
Big Cartoon Database

Videos


Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906)


Fantasmagorie (1908)


Little Nemo (1911)


Steamboat Willie (1928)



References


Bendazzi, Giannalberto (1994). Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN: 0253209374
Butler, Rebecca P. (2008). "Do you have one of these in your attic?" TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning vol. 52 no. 4 (July), p. 33.
Gabler, Neal (2006). Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. New York: Vintage Books, Inc. ISBN: 978-0-679-75747-4
History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010.
Inge, M. Thomas (2004). "Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Journal of Popular Film & Television, vol. 32 no. 3 (September), pp. 132-142.
List of Animated Feature Films: 1910s-1950s. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010.
List of Animated Feature-Length Films. Wikipedia. Retrieved 11/25/2010.
Sigall, Martha (2005). Living Life Inside the Lines: Tales from the Golden Age of Animation. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN: 1-57806-748-0
Solomon, Charles (1989). Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation. New York: Knoft Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN: 0517118599
Thompson, Kristin and David Bordwell (2003). Film History: An Introduction. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. ISBN: 0-07-038429-0

Notes


  1. ^ Sigall, Living Life Inside the Lines: Tales from the Golden Age of Animation, p. 97.
  2. ^ History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010; Butler, "Do you have one of these in your attic?," p. 33.
  3. ^ History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010; Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, pp. 8-10.
  4. ^ Butler, "Do you have one of these in your attic?," p. 33.
  5. ^ History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010.
  6. ^ History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010; Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, pp.7-9.
  7. ^ History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010; Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, p. 8.
  8. ^ History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010; Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, p. 8.
  9. ^ History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010.
  10. ^ History of Animation. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010; Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, pp. 8-9.
  11. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 40.; Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, p. 13.
  12. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 40.
  13. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 41.
  14. ^ Bendazzi, Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animations, p.60.
  15. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 41.
  16. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 40.
  17. ^ Bendazzi, Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animations, p.37.
  18. ^ Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, pp. 23-26
  19. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 65.
  20. ^ Bendazzi, Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animations, pp. 167-168.
  21. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 65.
  22. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 150; Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, pp.30-31.
  23. ^ Bendazzi, Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animations, p.214.
  24. ^ Sigall, Living Life Inside the Lines: Tales from the Golden Age of Animation, p. 152.
  25. ^ Thompson and Bordwell, Film History, p. 150.
  26. ^ Bendazzi, Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animations, p.104.
  27. ^ List of Animated Feature-Length Films. Wikipedia. Retrieved 11/25/2010.
  28. ^ List of Animated Feature-Length Films. Wikipedia. Retrieved 11/25/2010.
  29. ^ List of Animated Feature-Length Films. Wikipedia. Retrieved 11/25/2010.
  30. ^ Inge, "Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," p. 141
  31. ^ Gabler, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, p. 277
  32. ^ List of Animated Feature Films: 1910s-1950s. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010.
  33. ^ List of Animated Feature Films: 1910s-1950s. Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/20/2010.