The Fascinating History and Evolution of Animated Movies: Since the invention of the zoetrope in the 1800s, animated movies have captivated audiences with their ability to transport us to fantastical worlds and tell stories in ways that live-action films cannot. From the early days of hand-drawn animation to the computer-generated imagery of today, the history and evolution of animated movies is a fascinating one. Throughout the years, we have seen groundbreaking advancements in animation technology, as well as the emergence of beloved characters and timeless stories that have become cultural touchstones. In this article, we will explore the history and evolution of animated movies, from their humble beginnings to the modern-day blockbusters that dominate the box office.
The Fascinating History and Evolution of Animated Movies
- History of Animation For Films & Movies
- The Roots of Animation
- Early Age of Animation in Films
- The Turning Point of Animation in Films & Cinema
- Mass Production & Studio Era of Animation
- Decline of Animation in The Mainstream
- The Disney Renaissance
- Modern Day Animation in Movies
- The Future of Animation in Movies
History of Animation For Films & Movies
The development of animation as a medium for theatrical screenings, television, and non-interactive home entertainment, following the emergence of celluloid film in 1888. Between 1895 and 1920, the cinematic industry witnessed the reinvention and development of various animation techniques, including stop-motion with objects, puppets, clay, or cutouts, as well as hand-drawn and painted animation on cels, which dominated throughout most of the 20th century and became known as traditional animation. However, computer animation emerged as the dominant technique around the turn of the millennium, with three-dimensional appearances and detailed shading, although different animation styles have been generated or simulated with computers. While Japanese anime and European hand-drawn productions remain popular, computer animation has become the go-to method in most regions. Notably, some computer-generated animations with a relatively two-dimensional appearance, stark outlines, and little shading are still considered “traditional animation,” such as The Rescuers Down Under (1990), the first feature film made entirely on computers without a camera.
The Roots of Animation
It didn’t take long for people to realize that photographs taken of a moving object, when flipped through in succession, could give the impression of a motion picture. Surprisingly, an ancient pottery dating back 5200 years was discovered to have a series of images depicting a moving goat. An Egyptian mural that dates back about 4000 years also showcased a wrestling match through a series of images, which is another art form resembling animation. In the 18th century, shadowgraphy gained popularity in France as a storytelling technique that involved using hand-drawn shadows, also known as “cinema in silhouette.” The magic lantern, invented by Christiaan Huygens in 1659, was also used to tell stories through projected moving images.
Early Age of Animation in Films
The early age of animation in film is a fascinating period in the history of cinema. It began in the late 19th century, with the invention of devices like the zoetrope and the flip book, which allowed viewers to see images in motion. However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that animated films began to be produced in earnest.
One of the pioneers of animation was J. Stuart Blackton, who created the first animated film in America, “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces,” in 1906. This film used the stop-motion technique, where objects are photographed one frame at a time, with slight adjustments made in between each frame to create the illusion of movement.
Another significant figure in the early age of animation was Winsor McCay, who created some of the first animated cartoons that were meant to be shown in theaters. His most famous work, “Gertie the Dinosaur,” was a sensation when it premiered in 1914, and helped to establish animation as a legitimate form of entertainment.
Over the next few decades, animation continued to evolve and improve, with studios like Disney and Warner Bros. leading the way in developing new techniques and creating memorable characters. The early age of animation on film set the stage for the vibrant and diverse animation industry that exists today, and continues to captivate audiences of all ages with its imaginative storytelling and stunning visuals.
The Turning Point of Animation in Films & Cinema
The introduction of sound to cinema in the late 1920s marked a significant turning point in the history of animation. Prior to this, animated shorts were typically silent and relied heavily on visual gags and slapstick humor. With the addition of synchronized sound, however, animation was suddenly able to tell more complex stories and appeal to a wider audience.
Walt Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” (1928) was the first animated short to feature synchronized sound, and it introduced audiences to the now-iconic character of Mickey Mouse. Disney went on to produce a series of successful animated shorts throughout the 1930s, including “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), which was the first full-length animated feature film.
Other animation studios soon followed suit, and the 1930s and 1940s saw a boom in the production of animated films. Studios like Warner Bros., Fleischer Studios, and MGM all produced their own animated shorts and feature films, featuring popular characters like Bugs Bunny, Betty Boop, and Tom and Jerry.
The introduction of color to animation in the 1930s also played a significant role in the evolution of the medium. Films like Disney’s “Fantasia” (1940) used color to stunning effect, creating vibrant and immersive worlds that captivated audiences.
The turning point of animation in films and cinema marked a new era of storytelling and entertainment, and paved the way for the continued success of animation as a medium. Today, animation continues to push boundaries and captivate audiences with its endless possibilities for creativity and innovation.
Mass Production & Studio Era of Animation
The 1920s and 1930s marked a significant period in the history of animation, as the introduction of synchronized sound to cinema led to the emergence of animation studios and the mass production of animated shorts and feature films. Walt Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” (1928), which featured the debut of Mickey Mouse and synchronized sound, was a game-changer that established Disney as a major player in the industry.
Other studios soon followed, including Warner Bros., Fleischer Studios, and MGM, each with its own unique style and characters such as Bugs Bunny, Betty Boop, and Tom and Jerry. With the rise of these studios, animation became a profitable industry, with animated shorts and feature films shown in movie theaters before feature films.
However, the mass production era of animation was not without its challenges. In 1941, a strike by Disney animators led to a unionization movement in the industry, which resulted in improved working conditions and better pay for animators.
Despite these challenges, the mass production and studio era of animation left an indelible mark on the industry, with iconic characters and stories that have become a part of popular culture. The era also saw the development of animation techniques and technologies that continue to shape the industry today. Overall, the mass production and studio era of animation marked a significant period of growth and innovation that helped to establish animation as a major form of entertainment.
Decline of Animation in The Mainstream
The decline of animation in the mainstream can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s, when television began to overtake movie theaters as the primary form of entertainment. With the rise of television, animation studios shifted their focus to producing content for TV, resulting in a decline in the production of animated feature films.
The 1960s also saw a shift in cultural attitudes, with animation being viewed as primarily for children, while live-action films were seen as more adult-oriented. This perception further contributed to the decline of animation in the mainstream, as it limited the audience appeal of animated films.
The Disney Renaissance
The Disney Renaissance refers to a period of time from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s when Walt Disney Animation Studios experienced a creative and commercial resurgence. The term was coined by film critic and historian Leonard Maltin in the 1990s.
During this period, Disney released a series of critically acclaimed and commercially successful animated films, including “The Little Mermaid” (1989), “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), “Aladdin” (1992), “The Lion King” (1994), and “Pocahontas” (1995).
These films were characterized by their use of Broadway-style musical numbers, advanced animation techniques, and engaging storytelling. They also featured strong and memorable characters, many of which have become cultural icons.
The success of these films helped to revive Disney’s animation division and solidify the company’s position as a leader in the animation industry. The Disney Renaissance has since become a defining era in the history of animation and a beloved part of pop culture.
Modern Day Animation in Movies
Modern day animation in movies has come a long way since the early days of animation. Today, animation is used in a wide range of films, from animated feature films to live-action movies that incorporate animation into their visual effects.
One of the most significant developments in modern animation is the use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology. This technology has allowed filmmakers to create more realistic and detailed animated worlds and characters, with increased control over lighting, textures, and movements.
In recent years, there has been a trend toward more diverse representation in animated films, with filmmakers exploring themes of race, gender, and identity in their storytelling. Films like “Moana” (2016), “Coco” (2017), and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) have been praised for their inclusive storytelling and diverse representation.
Another trend in modern animation is the use of 3D animation and virtual reality (VR) technologies, which allow filmmakers to create immersive and interactive experiences for audiences. This has led to the development of new forms of animation, such as VR experiences, interactive games, and 360-degree videos.
The Future of Animation in Movies
The future of animation in movies is bright, with technological advancements and creative innovations driving the industry forward. Here are some key trends and developments to watch out for in the coming years:
Enhanced Realism: The use of advanced motion-capture technology and computer-generated imagery (CGI) will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of realistic animation. This means that we can expect to see more lifelike characters and environments in animated films.
Expanded Diversity: As the world becomes more diverse, so too will the characters and stories portrayed in animated films. We can expect to see more representation of different races, cultures, and identities in animation.
Interactivity: With the rise of virtual reality and augmented reality, animation will become more interactive, allowing audiences to immerse themselves in the world of the film like never before.
Hybridization: We can expect to see more hybridization between live-action and animated films. This may involve blending animated characters into live-action environments or vice versa.
New Distribution Channels: As streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ continue to grow in popularity, we can expect to see more animated content created specifically for these platforms. This may include shorter-form content and episodic series.
Also Read: Disney’s Impact on the Animation Industry and Beyond
The Fascinating History and Evolution of Animated Movies