20 May 2018

From Winsor McCay to Walt Disney: The History of Animations

Animations have come to life more than 100 years ago. In the past, videos were made manually before the use of computer programs. For the production of one video, thousands of pictures had to be drawn and then compiled to get the required number of frames: 24 frames per second (fps). Motion is caused by a slight rotation of frames, so that objects seem to be moving when shown on a movie projector. At that time, the task of an animator was to make flat, 2-dimensional drawings of people and objects, without highlighting minute details.

 

Though Walt Disney gained widespread fame and was regarded by many people as a leader of animations, the sweeping change he brought about to the cinema industry was not absolutely revolutionary. Before Disney, Winsor McCay and John Randolph Bray achieved a remarkable progress in the world of motion picture films.

At the beginning, animations used to lack smooth movement. It was until 1910 that Winsor McCay, the American cartoonist, showed his first animated film “Little Nemo”, followed by “Gertie the Dinosaur”. Thanks to his highly accurate drawings and unprecedented smoothness, McCay had a notable impact on the animations industry.

In 1914, a breakthrough in the animations industry was achieved. John Randolph Bray, the American cartoonist, devised cel animation which was then employed in the production of animated films for a long time. Unlike the traditional way of drawing hundreds of separate frames, this technique was based on creating a complicated set of background drawings and scenes on transparent celluloid sheets, and then laying cartoon characters over them to maintain a moving illusion.

 

First famous cartoon characters

Felix the Cat was the first immensely-popular cartoon character devised by Pat Sullivan in 1920.

Walt Disney enriched the world of animations with “Alice in Wonderland”, but his first real success was marked by “Steamboat Willie” in 1928 where he first introduced Mickey Mouse and which is the first sound cartoon in the world.

Disney’s most popular 2D productions included Cindrella, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty and the Light in the Forest. However, it wasn’t only Disney; Pixar, Dream Works Animation, and Magic Selection did have valuable contributions to the animations industry.

 

Uses of Animations

Animations are not only made to produce movies; they have other uses in education and the presentation of simplified ideas. Moreover, they have a remarkable advertising profile, since many advertising companies have used animations to introduce their products and services on the TV.  The first such attempt dates back to 1899 when Arthur Melbourne Cooper, a photographer and a filmmaker, produced the Animated Matches series of films to advertise a brand.

The world has recently made a giant leap in the animations industry, due to the considerable development of digital technologies. Now, several companies are specialized in producing animated drawings which constitute a big industry involving large numbers of cartoonists and animators. The industry has also developed from 2D to 3D and more improved techniques based on a diverse array of computer programs, such as Maya- Cinema 4D- Adobe Animate- 3ds Max- Blender

 

To summarize, animations have developed from being a unique and complicated innovation, at the beginning, to a charming art and a huge cinema industry by the mid-20th century. Now, it has become indispensable for media, culture, entertainment and other productions.