History of Animation

I found the animation history lecture very interesting as we were getting to explore the history of a medium that can bring inanimate objects to life. I see animation as an extremely effective form of creation as it can quite literally bring things to life before you’re eyes, even the word animation itself is defined as “The act, process, or result of imparting life, interest, spirit, motion, or activity term.”

One of the best examples of how animation actually works is a zoetrope. Classically a zoetrope was a rotating hollow cylinder with slits through it and images on the inside. As the cylinder rotated the viewer would look through the slits and the delay between images would create the illusion of a moving picture. This form of animation was astounding when it became popular in 19th century and still amazes me, however Disney decided to go one further and created a 3 dimensional version using models instead of drawings and a strobe light to create the delay for the eyes which totally blows my mind! The models come to life in front of you and it is one of the best examples of how powerful an impact animation can have over people.

The zoetrope effectively shows how animation works but to see it done well I feel there is no one better to look at than the original master of animation, Winsor McCay. McCay was a true pioneer of the medium, constantly breaking down barriers and defying what was previously thought impossible. Originally trained as a fine artist McCay saw no reason why animation should not be treated as an art form which is something I completely agree with him on. This often resulted in his works not only having very convincing movement but also being beautifully drawn. His 2 most famous works where “Little Nemo in Slumberland” and “Gertie the Dinosaur” and both where extremely important works in terms of breaking new grounds. “Little Nemo” was Winsor’s first animation and showed just how convincing and well drawn animation could be while “Gertie the Dinosaur” was in fact a stage act in which McCay would interact with a screen with the animation playing on it, getting Gertie to perform various tricks for the audience and climaxing with McCay going round the back of the screen to be lifted by Gertie and walk of the screen. This thoroughly thought out process and execution mesmerized audiences and continues to do so to this day, showing just how important and influential Winsor McCay had over animation.


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