History of Animated Films

As a movie goer of the 21st century, animated movies are an integral part of your repertoire. Animation has produced iconic movies like Star Wars, Lion King, Ice Age, Frozen and Toy Story, among so many others. This genre is widely believed to have come to the fore in 1937 with the Disney Classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, animated movies have been around for a much longer time.

Animated movies have been around almost as long as their regular counterparts. In 1906, a short three- minute feature was released called the Humorous Phases of the Funny Faces. Directed by James Stuart Blackton, the silent animation also features Blackton’s hand against a blackboard. Blackton would draw the figures on the blackboard, record them and then erase to make the next figure. This was how the first ever animated film was created.

There were no more animated films for two years and the silence was broken with the release of Fantasmagorie in 1908. The French animated film was created by Emile Cohl and premiered in Paris. It is credited as the first movie to exclusively contain animated images. The same year also witnessed the release of another animated film, Humpty Dumpty Circus. In 1910, Emile Cohl came up with a clever technique that was much more efficient than drawing figures every time. En Route, the animation film by her, used the paper cut out technique. Here, to create movement, only the paper has to be moved and not has to be drawn from scratch.

Animation movies were now being made almost every year. Winsor McCay, the creator of the comic strip titled Little Nemo in Slumberland, also made an animation in 1911 that featured his protagonist, Little Nemo. 1913 saw animated movies like J.R. Bray’s Colonel Heeza Liar and Sidney Smith’s Old Doc Yak. Starting 1914, J.R. Bray, the producer, along with director and animator, Earl Hurd, applied for numerous patents related to processes in making animation movies. Among the most significant of them was the technique of cel animation. Cels are transparent and separate characters are drawn on them, which are then held together with a solid background. This brings about a complete picture without having to draw the characters for each frame.

In 1915, Max Fleischer patented Rotoscope that enabled the artist to draw characters over the live action film frame by frame. Many animated short features followed. Gertie, the Trained Dinosaur, by McCay in 1914, Bringing Up Father, Silk Hat Harry and Krazy Kat in 1917 by the International Feature Syndicate, and Pat Sullivan’s Felix the Cat in 1919. 1917 marked the release of the first full-length animated film, El apostol, made by Quirino Cristiani in Argentina. Unfortunately, all the copies of the movie were burnt down in a fire.

It was in 1920 that color showed up in animation with The Debut of Thomas Cat by John Randolph Bray. 1923 was another landmark year in the world of animation as Walt Disney and Roy Disney start the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. Walt Disney had already created an animated short, Little Red Riding Hood. With the establishment of the company, they started producing the Alice in Wonderland series using a technique similar to Max Fleischer’s, which combined cartoon drawings and live action. It took Disney another five years to introduce their iconic character, Mickey Mouse, who was mute when launched.

Though color in animation features was not yet perfected, Fleischer makes a leap to include sound in animation and Mother Pin a Rose on Me is born. The cartoon released in association with Arrow Film Corp. becomes the first one ever to have a sound. Then, in 1929, Disney came up with Silly Symphonies, the legendary series of animated short films. The year also saw many other iconic characters come to life. The most popular of these were Betty Boop in Dizzy Dishes and Looney Toons from the house of Warner Brothers, among others.

Quirino Cristiani is not only credited with giving the world its first full length animated feature film, but also the first one with sound within this long duration format in 1931. The film was titled Peludopolis and was about a military rebellion against a notorious president. This movie also does not have any known copies in circulation. 1933 was the year when it started raining color. Disney released its first short, Flowers and Trees in Technicolor. This creation went on to win Disney an Oscar in the category for the Best Short Subject. 1933 saw movies like King Kong hitting the screens as well as characters like Popeye coming to life.

The year is particularly known for the invention of multiplane camera by UB Iwerks. This device allowed the 2D cartoons to come to life by creating a 3D effect. Finally, in 1937, Disney produced its first full length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The movie was just a beginning of a very successful journey and it was also the first production of its kind to come from the United States.

The following years till 1941, saw the introduction of Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and Woody Woodpecker. Mr. Bug Goes to Town, the first fully animated musical, was also released during this time. The later part of the decade saw a new format in the animated movies. Song of the South becomes the first movie to include actors as well as animated characters, interacting with each other. This had been done earlier with Gertie, the Trained Dinosaur by McCay, but never for a full-length feature film. The coming two decades saw many animated movies, cartoons and short films being released regularly.

An interesting addition to the world of animation, happened in 1972, when Ralph Bakshi gave us the first X-rated animated movie, Fritz the Cat. Another significant development that happened in this period was the debut of computer generated images, though briefly. Westworld became the first movie to showcase such images. Though, the decade would not see a movie with computer generated graphics, its seeds were planted at the time with the incorporation of Industrial Light and Magic, a special effects company founded by George Lucas.

It was only in 1982 with Tron that the computer generated images find a predominant part in animated movies. It took another couple of years for the technology to make its presence felt with an Academy Award nomination for Luxo Jr., an exclusively computer animated short movie. It was made by Pixar.

The 90s saw animated movies taking the center stage when they were pitted against regular movies for the Oscars. The wall was broken by Beauty and the Beast, which became the first completely animated movie to receive an Oscar nomination for the Best Picture in 1991. Then came the iconic, Jurassic Park in 1993 that used photorealistic computer generated graphics in a live action film. Toy Story was also released in 1995 and used only computer animated characters, a first for any production.

With the turn of the millennium, animation is acknowledged as a genre in itself, with the Oscars creating a completely separate category to confer recognition in the field. For the first time ever, the award was presented to a movie, The Shrek in 2002. The decade also saw the introduction of motion capture technology and its extensive use in the 2004 movie, The Polar Express.

Animation is a constantly evolving field. The surge in technology in the present decade has led to a surge in animated productions too. Most of the movies and shows today would have never materialized if it was not for animation. It took more than a 100 years for us to watch our favorite cartoons and futuristic flicks today. When you sign up for one of the Comcast Internet Plans offered here, you will be able to watch all kinds of awesome entertainment online.