History of Animation
The concept of animation is older than the motion picture. It is derived from the phenomenon known as the “persistence of vision.” Since the human eye will retain an impression of an image after it has disappeared for a short time, a rapid series of still images will be perceived as unbroken movement.
The first animation studio was opened in New York by Raul Barre around 1914 and short animation features began to be regularly screened in theaters throughout the country. Over the next few decades, cartoon series flourished, featuring popular characters such as Fleischer’s Betty Boop, Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Walter Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker and Warner Bros.’ Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote.
In late 1914, Ed Hurd, an employee of the John Bray studio, invented the process of inking the animator’s drawings onto clear pieces of celluloid and then photographing them in succession on a single painted background, which became the process that would be used in the creation of animated films for decades.
An animated film typically requires 24 cels to create one second of finished film.
In 1923, Walt and Roy Disney opened their studio, which would set the standard for the entire art form.
The Disney studios went on to create the first cartoon to synchronize sound with movement in 1928 and in 1932 won the first Academy Award for animation. The first full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs won a “Special Academy Award for Screen Innovation” in 1938.
Like Disney, the Warner Brothers Studios also used the collaborative talent of their animators to take the art to a higher level. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the creation and development of Bugs Bunny, whom many believe to be greatest cartoon character ever created. It took more than 10 years and 30-some films for Bugs’ personality to evolve into the entertaining and satirical character that he is today.
Several animators got their start at these larger studios and went on to create their own iconic characters. David H. DePatie and Isadore “Friz” Freleng, creators of the Pink Panther, met at Warner Brothers. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera met at MGM and later formed their own production company that introduced The Flintsones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo.
As the industry relies more heavily on computer graphics, these characters that sprung to life from celluloid are now part of the artistic history in our culture.