The history of animation: from traditional techniques to digital animation

February 14, 2022


Today, animation, especially digital animation, is a sector of the industry that moves billions of dollars a year around the world.

All kinds of specialists and designers work there, giving life to all kinds of characters and scenes. To do this, they use quite complex tools and systems, but their beginnings were much simpler. And they date back to the beginning of the last century, since we are talking about a sector that has exceeded 100 years of life. The history of animation, as you can understand therefore, is not reduced to a couple of pages.

You can learn many of them in the higher courses that train those who follow them as animators and designers. But knowing their beginnings, how they evolved and in what contexts they were used is a support to better understand them. Discover the history of animation below.

History of animation: what is traditional animation?

Before starting to talk about the history of animation, it should be clear what we mean when we talk about it. It is a process by which drawings, photographs, figures and other static objects are given the appearance of movement.

Traditional animation, in general, is characterized by the individual drawing of each of the frames that will make up the animation. Its characters only have two dimensions (2D animation), and to give depth to the scenes he plays with color and perspective. It is also called classic animation or 2D animation, and it is the one used in popular cartoons during the last century.

What was the first animation in the world?

Want to know about cartoon facts? The cartoon technique is the oldest used in the world of animation. Also the most popular. That is why it is not surprising that the first animation made in the world is a cartoon. Although it has several antecedents in various machines in the nineteenth century, such as the thaumatrope, the zoetrope and the praxinoscope; the first cartoon or animation was Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, by James Stuart Blackton. It was presented in 1906. The second, which for many was the first, since it is the first cartoon shown on a modern movie projector, is Fantasmagorie. It was directed by the French Émile Cohl and was screened for the first time on August 17, 1908.

The following year the first film that mixed real image with animation was shown. This is Gertie the dinosaur, by Windows McCay. In 1917 came what is considered the first animated feature film in history. This is The Apostle, by the Argentine Quirino Cristiani.

How were the first animations made?

The creator of Fantasmagorie, the first animated film, used a fairly primitive animation technique to make it. For this he created around 700 illustrations, which he placed on a glass with light. The drawings simulated being created on a blackboard, but it was an optical illusion caused by their negatives.

Many more were the illustrations used to create Gertie the dinosaur: 10,000 drawings, all made by hand. These illustrations were mixed with real images to create the film. In 1920, with the birth of Felix the Cat, as a character created specifically for an animated film. His films already showed that animation was moving forward and improving rapidly. And already in 1922 Walt Disney, with Ub Iwerks, created Laugh-O-Gram Films, to create animated short films. In 1923 the Disney Studios arrived.

How has animation evolved?

The first short from this studio was Alice's Wonderland, in 1923. The film also mixed real images with animation, and in between the images the story was told through texts. Mickey Mouse, one of Walt Disney's mythical characters, already had his animated film with music in 1928: Steamboat Willie.

In the wake of Walt Disney, more studios and creators began to appear. Thus, in 1930, Betty Boop, by Max Fleischer, appears for the first time in a cartoon short that already has drawings that "talk" and have a voice. In animated shorts of this era, the animation was pretty, and its creators didn't care too much about reflecting reality. His characters, in continuous movement, are designed to be funny. In 1930 the Looney Tunes saga was born, and in 1933 Popeye arrived.

But the big change in animation came in 1995, a few years after computers began to be used in animation. That year Toy Story was released, which in addition to being Pixar's first feature film is the first film made using 3D digital animation.


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