Evolution of animation over time by Bao

By Bao, Year 9

Written as part of Factory Feedback

Animation is the main entertainment of our time, and the past as well. A lot of people enjoy it around the world. It is a part of our lives; at home, school and anywhere that has a digital screen. There are many kinds of animation and they vary from what time they were being made. When we talk about cartoons, we think of Mickey Mouse or the Simpsons.  Cartoons are drawn in many styles, but they are usually drawn in unrealistic styles and events out of this world. Something that could only happen in a fictional world. I will be specifically talking about stop motion and how it has changed over time.  

The technology and techniques were quite different back then in the 1890s, but we still use some of those things today; like stop motion. Stop motion was an extremely popular way to make animations back in the day. People would set up a scene with assorted items and figures and take a photo. Then afterwards, move some things slightly and snap another photo. When doing this multiple times and editing it together, it creates the effect of motion. It is an exceptionally long process, especially for short films such as it could take up to thousands of photos. The very first stop motion film made in 1898 was called The Humpty Dumpty Circus by 2 men named J. Stuart Blackton and Albert Smith. It would show animals and acrobats moving around and performing using wooden toys. About anything can be used for stop motion whether it be inanimate objects or drawings. Alternatively, aside from stop motion, there was another way of making ‘animated films’. These were called flipbooks. Making these flipbooks would be a tedious task. Getting a book or stack of paper and drawing hundreds or even thousands of pages of a character changing slightly every page. Once they were complete, the way they would be viewed was sliding your finger down the side and flipping through the book in rapid succession to give the effect that the picture or scene was moving or changing. Although animations/cartoons were starting to become more popular, there would not be any popular and well-known cartoons until the mid-1900s.  

When we moved towards the 1900s, we started seeing more animated stop motion films. An example of one is an early 1900s short film named A Trip to the Moon. This is a short French film created by Georges Méliès. With a run time of 18 minutes. The film is a mixture of live action and stop motion. It is about astronomers that have an expedition to the moon. Stop motion can be found in this film and is used in a variety of things. Whether it be the stars twinkling in the background swapping out an actor with a ragdoll or making someone disappear. There are some fight scenes in the film. The reason this film is so popular is that it was considered one of the first science fiction films. With A Trip to the Moon, there was a mixture of live-action and stop motion, but most of it was live-action and acting. But in a film like The Enchanted Drawing, created by J. Stuart Blackton, it was a silent film that would let us see how stop motion could be used to produce overwhelming tricks on film.  The whole film shows a man drawing a face on a piece of paper. He would later draw a wine glass and a bottle of wine, then pull it out of the picture and into his hands like magic. He would do the same things with other items, like a hat. The face of a man that he drew would also change emotions throughout the film. This would not be the only film he would make as 6 years later he would create another stop motion film named Humorous phases of funny faces. This film would be the true definition of a picture coming to life. The characters he would draw would start to interact with each other in many ways. J Stuart Blackton would be a big inspiration for many other filmmakers. Only 2 years later, we would see what we now know as traditional animation.

A French woman named Émile Cohl would be the creator of Fantasmagorie. This film would be the first ever fully animated film with live action at all. This film is only 2 minutes long but consists of 700 hand drawn pictures. The 2-minute film would show characters and many other things morphing into different items, animals, and people. The film was more on the fantasy side to show how creative people could get using stop motion. Now we enter the time when characters would start to be pop culture icons. In 1919 we were introduced to the world’s first ever icon or star of the silent animation era. Felix The Cat. Felix was a leading character in the show Feline Follies. The show was a bit sad at times but was still considered proper for kids. The premise of the show is that a cat is led away from his duty of protecting a home from mice by the looks of a female cat named Miss Kitty. While he is away with his new friend, the mice trash the house causing the owner to think it was the cat’s fault getting him kicked out. The show got so popular that he was a pop culture icon. The beloved cat even got dolls, toys, watches, ceramics, and postcards made in his image and name. Although he was popular then, we would see the downfall of Felix the Cat. When we exited the silent film era into sound, they started to create short films of Felix the cat with sound but was considered a failure forcing them to end the production of the loveable feline.

Factory Feedback was created with, and generously supported by, the Dusseldorp Forum.

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