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Animation- A Brief History

What does Mickey Mouse, Snow White and Georges Méliès’ “Rubber Head'' have in common? You guessed it: they are all pieces of classic animation. But how did we get here, having CGI and hyper-realistic effects on movies -animated or not?

Before we begin our brief history journey to the art of animation, we shall begin by understanding the term itself. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, the term for “animation” is: the process of making movies, videos, and computer games in which drawings or models of people and animals seem to move. An interesting addition would be the etymology of the word, dating back to the latin language and the word anima, meaning soul. To animate is -in few words- the art of bringing something to life - to “give” it a soul.

As in comics, the birth of animation might not have a clear ground zero. Some might say that animation and comics go back a long way, to the prehistoric times and cave drawings. That is only valid in the sense that comics is the predecessor of animation and is, moreover, a sequence of (moving) pictures, depicting a storyline.

We can confidently talk about animation from the 19th century and forth. In 1887, in France, Charles-Émile Reynaud created the 1st Praxinoscope, presenting his first animated artwork five years later, Pauvre Pierrot, at the Musée Grévin.

Moving on to the 20th century, Georges Méliès accidentally invents the prominent “stop-motion” technique by continuously shooting one scene after the other and then the animation effect appeared after a rapid frame change.

Classic animation as we know it begins around 1927, with the creation of Mickey Mouse by Walt Disney and his partners. Interesting trivia facts include the input of sound into the animated work, as well as the introduction of color into the frames. The first feature-length film was Snow White, in 1932.

By 1930, there were a number of animation studios that still operate today, including Universal Pictures, Paramount, and Warner Bros.

Later on, in 1963, Ivan Edward Sutherland, from MIT, invented the well known innovative program Sketchpad, shooting the starting gun for the alternative use of computers for animation.

In the early 70's there were some important works in the field of animation. The animation quality seems primitive now, but at the time it was impressive. In the late 1970s, the New York Institute of Technology began working on a project to create an all-computer-made movie, "The Works," using 3D animation. The project wasn't finished yet, but some snippets were shown during one of the most important conferences. These fragments exhibited high visualization quality, articulated figures, and interacting objects. When creating "The Works", the 3D animation system BBOP system was used to move the characters.

In the 80s, graphical programs became more complex. The concept of "ray tracing" was introduced to eliminate sampling errors. Loren Carpenter has announced software for generating and rendering fractal-generated landscapes.

Getting closer to the contemporary cinematic works, “Jurassic Park” and “Jumanji” aired in the 90s presenting state-of-the-art technologies in their animated features. It is important to mention that “motion capture” was also invented at the end of the 20th century, a technique that is still used today, in most animation and CGI based films. Some classic blockbusters include “Polar Express”, “The Lord of the Rings”, “Avatar” and ”Harry Potter”.

To conclude, animation has come a long way and has also earned its position amongst the most prominent digital forms of art of our century. Animation is proven not only to animate objects and stories, but also to breathe life into the audience’s souls, having a special place in the hearts of people of any age.

Sources: , Animation | Motion Picture, Dave Kehr, Apr 27, 2023, last shown 05/13/2023, History of Animation, Odessa Animation Studio, last shown 05/13/2023, Definition of animation noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary, last shown 05/13/2023

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