The past 150 years has seen tremendous strides in technological and scientific research and invention. Who would have ever imagined that men would walk on moon or that open heart surgery could be performed with robotic assistance? Still, with all of these advances man has consistently failed in one field of research: creation of life from inanimate material.
This desire, coupled with an inborn need to find creative expression, has lead to some interesting discoveries. Man has developed illusion of creating life from nothing. Spectators of this illusion are at times amazed and often carried away from reality, even if just for a few hours.
We are talking about art of cartoon animation. Using various methods an artist has ability to make his drawings move and speak. With modern computer technology, artist?s drawings may even appear to interact with with observer. Walt Disney, a monumental figure in history of animated film once said, "Animation can explain whatever mind of man can conceive."
What is history of this art form? What advances has it made in recent years?
A Brief History of Theatrical Animation
On December 28, 1895, world of art and entertainment took a drastic turn. Upon invitation Georges Méliès, a well known Paris magician, attended first public showing of Cinématographe. Méliès never forgot that evening.
"The other guests and I found ourselves in front of a small screen...after a few minutes, a stationary photograph showing Place Bellecour in Lyon was projected. A little surprised, I scarcely had time to say to my neighbor: 'Is it just to have us see projections that he has brought us here? I've been doing them for ten years.'
"No sooner had I stopped speaking when a horse pulling a cart started to walk toward us, followed by other vehicles, then passerby - in short, whole vitality of a street. We were open-mouthed, dumfounded, astonished beyond words in face of this spectacle."
How exciting it must have been for early pioneers of motion picture to learn and develop their art! Within a very short period of time, these individuals began experimenting with different forms of expression through this new and mysterious medium.
In 1896 J. Stuart Blackton, a native Englishman who emigrated to United States, walked into a studio that would change his life and launch a new industry in motion picture field. Blackton was a journalist and illustrator for New York Evening World. He was sent to interview inventor of Vitascope, Thomas Edison.
Blackton immediately fell in love with cinema. That same year he founded a production house called Vitagraph. Within a very short period, he discovered that by exposing film frame by frame and manipulating a scene between exposures, illusion of motion could be produced with inanimate objects. At time, a standard movie camera would expose eight frames per turn of a crank. Camera operators learned how to alter camera to expose only one frame per crank, and technique of animation became known as "one turn, one picture."
In time, Blackton realized that he could bring drawings to life using this method. In 1906, Vitagraph released a short film entitled "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces." Blackton?s hand draws a man and a woman on a blackboard. When his hand leaves frame, faces roll their eyes. The hand appears again and erases emboldened animated characters.
In 1905, Winsor McCay, a cartoon illustrator for New York Herald, created a strip called "Little Nemo in Slumberland." This cartoon became so popular that it was developed into a Broadway musical. In 1911, McCay left paper and began working for New York American. During this time, he began experimenting with idea of using animated pictures as part of a vaudeville act. His first project was a film adaptation of "Little Nemo." With no story line, "Little Nemo" was a beautiful study in movement.
McCay?s second film was entitled "The Story of a Mosquito." The film, a story of a mosquito?s encounter with a drunken man, was a hit. Some theatergoers felt that McCay was performing a trick with wires, not understanding the nature of drawn animation.
To prove that his drawings were actually moving McCay responded by producing film "Gertie Dinosaur." Ten thousand drawings inked on rice paper were used in creating this masterpiece. Gertie debuted February 1914 in Chicago as part of a vaudeville act. As film was projected on screen McCay stood nearby and interacted with animated dinosaur. Gertie laughed and cried. Audiences loved it. The film had a storyline and a star - first of its kind in animation history.
As time passed, other artists became involved in animation industry. In 1923, Walt and Roy Disney formed Disney Brothers Studio and signed a contract with Margaret J. Winkler, a New York film distributor, to produce six short films based on Lewis Carroll book "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." These films featured a mix of live action and drawn animation. The fifty-sixth and last Alice Comedy film was released on July 15, 1927.
In 1928, Walt Disney Studio released "Steamboat Willie," first cartoon built around a soundtrack. This film featured Disney?s latest character, Mickey Mouse. It was a sensation.
In years following "Steamboat Willie" Disney?s studio developed novelty of animated film into an art form that could express emotion and personality. In December 1937, studio released "Snow White and Seven Dwarfs," first full length animation feature. Skeptics called this project "Disney?s Folly," stating that public would not sit through a lengthy animated feature. They were wrong. Snow White was a smash hit and maintains an audience today.
Over a sixty-three year period, Walt Disney Studio has produced 38 animated features and countless animated shorts. Other companies such as Warner Brothers, MGM and DreamWorks have also produced notable animated theatrical works.
Animation and Television
Animation (usually made-for-theatre cartoons) hit small screen as early as 1930, but due to high production costs and fact that television audience was minute, it was relegated to a non-commercial, experimental novelty.
On July 1, 1941 U.S. Government allowed National Broadcasting Company (NBC) to become a commercial entity. This meant that NBC could now charge for commercial advertising between and during broadcast entertainment. Botany Mills was first company to produce animated commercials. These commercials (seven in all) featured Botany Lamb plugging company?s line of wool ties.