Tuesday, 18 February 2014

History of Animation

In this post I will be looking back at some of the key points and milestones in the history of animation. First of all, the term animation has origins from the word anima which does essentially mean to "to breath life into. This is obviously a very apt word for the act because animation is fundamentally creating the illusion of something that is not real as having life. 

Many people believe that the origins of animation started in the 17th century with the creation of the magic lantern (see image below). Many people believe that this device was the origins of animation as the contraption had the ability to be able to project images on to surface through using a light source. Obviously at the time which the device was created the only artificial light that was available was through lanterns, therefore the images which were project were very dim. This can be seen as the origins of animation because of the use of a slider, which when pulled over the front of the lens would project different images. (Prafgner 1974) 

The next major milestone comes in 1824, when an examiner of physiology, Peter Mark Roget explained the  idea of 'Persistence of vision' He sated that an image is retained on the retina of the eye until replaced by a new one, and when the images come very quickly then it creates the simulation of motion. This is a very important step in the history of animation because what Roget stated here is the fundamental principle of not just animation but all of motion picture. Because essentially all motion picture is a number of slightly different frames shown to the viewer very quickly and it creates the illusion of movement. 

Not long after Roget explained the idea of 'persistence of vision' George Horner created the Zoetrope in 1829. This creation perfectly showed the persistence of vision, due to the fact that the Zoetrope was a contraption which had a number of images on the inside and a hole on the outside. When the contraption is spun and the user looks through the hole they briefly see each image, however due to the persistence of vision it creates the illusion of motion. 
(Example of a Zoetrope. Source: http://zoetropic.wordpress.com/about-zoetropes/)

The next milestone in the history of animation came in 1879 when a British photographer created the Zoopraxiscope. This followed the same principle of the Zoetrope, however it allowed form more sophisticated images to be shown. What he did was set a number of cameras and took pictures as a horse ran past. When he then put the images from each camera it create the illusion of movement, which can be seen below. 
(What could be seen a Zoopraxiscope. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zoopraxiscope_16485d.gif)

The idea of the Zoopraxiscope is still used today. Metro Vista use the idea in subways. They install up to 200 boxes which each have an image and a motion detector senses an approaching train, and send out a command that sequentially illuminates each box for a split second. This creates the effect to the person looking at the images the same as watching a motion picture. 

However going back to the history of animation, the next major milestone happened in 1896 when Thomas Edison created the first motion projector. This allowed for many frames to be shown in quick succession. This essentially was the creation of all major motion pictures, because more frames could be shown and for longer. This was the case as ten years later James Stuart Blackton created the first animated motion picture, using a chalkboard. This video can be seen below. 

After this a prominent figure in the history of animation emerged. His name was Winsor McCay. His first animation was when his popular newspaper character was turned into an animation in 1912. This was soon followed by him creating another animation called "Gertie the dinosaur" being created out of over 10,000 individual pictures. Then 1918, he created one of his most prominent pieces, which was called the "Sinking of the Louisiana". This was the first time that animation had been used to re-create a real story. 

(Winsor McCay's Sinking of the LouisianaVideo Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTpZqy5Miwk)

During the same time as Winsor McCay was creating a number of prominent animations, Ma Fleischer created the rotoscope in 1917. This was a device that was used for tracing frames from live action film. What this meant is that animators would now have a much easier time when drawing their individual frames, because they would be able to trace parts from the previous frames. 

One of the next most pivotal moments was when Otto Messemer created Felix the cat. This is considered by many to be the truly first animated character and would later be the inspiration for Disney. As in 1923 Disney created the first sound feature, with "Steamboat Mickey" which featured perhaps the companies most famous character Mickey Mouse. Not long after this, in 1927, Warner Brothers created "Jazz Singer". This is recognised as the first most meaningful integration of sound and action.  

Through the 1920's to 1940's a number of prominent animated characters were created such as Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry. However it would not be until 1972 in which characters would be created for adults. Ralph Bakshi created Fritz the cat, which shunned the typical stereotype that animation was for children. This creation would help develop another type of animation which would be aimed at adults, and could in many ways be credited for the reason to why shows such as Family Guy and the Simpsons are around. 

For me it is not until 1982 when Disney created Tron, using computer animation, where the next major development in animation happened. This is because this introduced the idea of computer animation to the masses and as seen in todays animations, meant the beginning of the end for hand drawn animation. The idea of computer animation has defiantly caught on because in 2010 3D computer animation was introduced, with films such as Avatar and UP using these techniques. 

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