Wednesday, September 8, 2010

History of Animation

The desire to animate is as old as art itself. Early man drew pictures on cave walls, attempting to depict motion by showing animals with multiple superimposed legs. The vases of ancient Greece with their gods and heroes and the friezes of Rome with their battling warriors and galloping steeds, also sought to capture, in static images, the dynamics of action. It was only in the 19th century, in the years leading up to the invention of the motion picture, that animated pictures became a real possibility.

Here is an extract from the book “Animation Art” that sums up the origin and evolution of Animation as we know it now.

The early days of animation were filled with invention and novelty - on screen and behind the scenes. This was an era of experimentation, where techniques being created and refined. Brave newspaper cartoonists attempted to adapt their pen and ink creations to the moving screen - and most of them succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Standardization of production methods was quickly established, and then the storytellers, artists and film-makers took over. At first they told jokes, then proceeded to telling stories with original characters, classic fables and comic-strip adaptations. They tried live-action combined with animation, stop-motion, pixilation, silhouette animation, sound cartoons and colour. They then made documentaries, instructional films and pure visual art. But it was not easy…

Winsor McCay drew complete scenes - background settings and moving characters - for every frame of motion-picture film, and there were 24 frames per second. Earl Hurd improved upon this by drawing characters individually on celluloid (cels) over static background paintings. Raoul Barre created registration pegs so animator’s drawings would align under the camera. Otto Mesmer animated characters that could think, while Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks gave their cartoon drawings real personality.
It was the beginning of a new visual medium where anything was possible. In thse pioneer days before sound, the artists sharpened their skills and created an industry.

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