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The History of Animation: From Ancient Times to Future Stories

Without even realizing it Animation is a big part of your life. Almost daily you are surrounded by examples of these effects. Animation is used anywhere from the emails you send at work, ads on social media, or displayed in public places. The use of animation as a way to tell a story or depict motion is not new. Evidence of animation can be traced to 3,000 B.C. with images painted on cave walls, and early pottery. In this article we will explore the history of animation, its technological advances over time, and the animation trends we are seeing today.

Animation in Ancient Times

Some of the earliest examples of animation were discovered with archaeological evidence displayed on cave walls dating back to paleolithic times. These examples consist of wall drawings of animals with multiple legs in superimposed positions. Although these ancient drawings were still images they would combine with the flickering light of the fire to superimpose the image and give the impression of motion.

Paleolithic cave painting of bisons (replica) from the Altamira cave, Cantabria, Spain, painted c. 20,000 years ago

A 5,200 year old pottery bowl was discovered at the site of the Burnt city in Iran. This bowl had a sequence of images slightly differing to make the goat appear to be leaping at the tree.

Animated Sequence from pottery from 3000 B.C. found at the site of The Burnt City in Iran.

The First Machines of Animation

In the 18th and 19th century machines began being the tool for moving images. Beginning with the Magic Lantern which was invented in the year 1659. It acted as a projector and used a number of painted glass slides to display motion.

The Phénakisticope was viewed through the slits of its spinning disc in front of a mirror and showcased elements of Animation. The invention was born in 1833 and was sold successfully as a novelty toy.

Animated phenakistiscope disc - Running rats, Fantascope by Thomas Mann Baynes, 1833

Also invented in 1833 was the Zoetrope. Invented by Simon Stampfer, the device would use the stroboscope principle in a cylinder in a pamphlet. In 1865 William Ensign Lincoln advanced the zoetrope by making images easily replaceable and began being sold by Milton Bradley.

In 1877 the Praxinoscope succeeded the zoetrope. Invented by Charles-Émile Reynaud it added a middle circle of mirrors to display the image strips on its spinning cylinder.

Traditional Animation in film

The first film using traditional animation methods was released in 1908. After small roles in films animation techniques such as lettering, stop motion, and simple cut out animation, the silent film Fantasmagorie was created by drawing each frame on paper and then shooting each frame onto negative film, which gave the picture a blackboard look. On the background were flowing images of morphing objects and stick figures.

In 1914 the first film with character development for drawn animation was Gertie the Dinosaur. Gertie could be seen responding to script with drawn gestures. Directed by Winsor McCay the film collectively had over 10,000 hand drawn images by McCay himself.

Soon after Gertie the Dinosaur the creation of the cel technique involved animated moving objects on transparent celluloid sheets in 1914. These innovative upgrades brought classic films like Betty Boop, Popeye, and Superman to life.

All of these things prior set the stage for an animation take over. Walt Disney released Steamboat Willie as one of the first cartoons with matching sound. Warner Brothers Cartoon and Walt Disney's studio became a place of adventure. New ideas and technologies were constantly being brought into existence. So many of the worlds favorite cartoons still standing to this day were created in this time. Color animation became an industry standard. Snow White and the seven dwarfs was the first full length feature film that was hand drawn and many more monumental animation feats occurred.

Cartoons soon penetrated into the television sphere and were taking crowds away from the theater. Programs like 'The Flintstones' took prime time slots. Because of the demand new networks began. Animation took over Saturday Morning as people would wait all week to be able to see their favorite Saturday Morning Cartoons. The power of animation became very clear.

Modern Animation

As animation grows through ways such as CGI and computer done animation enhance the experience its power grows too. Through animation you can tell a story, make people laugh, and explain something new. We notice them from the films and cartoons we choose to see. What we don't notice are the examples in our day to day life. The animated video you got when you signed up for that new service online that is teaching how to use it. The simple ad YouTube is slipping in before the video you are watching finishes. Animation works and it has for decades. The ways to use animation keep on growing. Businesses are using it to as a vital part of their sales and email marketing campains, broadcasting their idea, tutorials for their product, running for public office and so much more.

Below are a few examples of companies creatively marketing their business or brand with animation.

About us: A short video telling their story and using their platform.

The Email Marketing Demo:

Delivering Information:

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