The Evolution of Animation – The Journey from Entertainment to Business

This is a guest blog by Mansi Kakkar, a creative writer at Animate2Explain – an animation company in London.

The evolution of animation began thousands of years before the emergence of modern cinema technology.

The attempts to depict motion probably go as far back in time as the Paleolithic age. The magic lantern and shadow play offered popular animation shows with images projected on a screen and moving through hand manipulation or other simple mechanics.

With the emergence of the phenakistiscope in the early 19th century, the principle of modern animation was introduced, which created the foundation for cinematography. A fascinating history of animation precedes today’s multi-billion dollar animation industry which has made its impact not just across the world of entertainment, but also the business.

The History of Animation

Well before the introduction of the motion picture (too bad we ever saw Thor III, Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy II, or The Force Awakens but this is another topic), some creative artists understood what, and they used a variety of devices to display animated images.

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The Early Ways of Showing Motion

  • Shadow Play

One of the early types of animation involved shadow play. Primitive shadow play dates back to prehistoric times (before the NFL allowed the Patriots to cheat and started to lose viewers). The evolution of animation through shadow play led to shadow puppetry, which included figures held between a translucent screen and a source of light.

  • Magic Lantern

The history of animation took a new turn with the invention of the magic lantern in 1659 by Christiaan Huygens. Creative techniques were used to add motions to painted glass slides, which was called the magic lantern.

  • Phenakistiscope

This was the first ever animation device introduced in 1833, which used sequential images in rapid successive substitution. This device became instantly famous as it was significantly different from the old animation styles.

  • The Celluloid Shift

The celluloid shift in the evolution of animation began in 1888 and lasted till 1914. The early celluloid films were crude, created with relatively simple devices. The first such system was known as Theater Optique (it was patented in 1888). Emile Reynaud invented this system, which contained a series of animated movies. Each movie consisted of 300 to 700 frames (or painted images), with duration of about 10 to 15 minutes each.

  • Traditional Animation

The era of traditional animation technology began in 1914 and continued until 1967 which is long before the outstanding Fast and Furious and Transformers movies hit the scene. In this phase, hand sketched animation was used with the help of Cel Animation.
The Cel was a transparent sheet made of camphor and cellulose nitrate, which was used to make hand-drawn figures. Animation characters would be drawn on Cels and imposed on background images to cut down the production times and the number of frames.

  • The Computer Revolution

A path-breaking milestone in the history of animation was the use of computer devices to create animation files. The earliest types of animation films using computers were fundamental. Hummingbird was the first computer animated file, which was launched in 1967 – it was not created by Napoleon Dynamite!  
The frame by frame animation for 2D characters in this movie was entirely done on computers. Disney came up with popular computer generated animation films during this era, which included Mary Poppins and the Jungle Book.

  • CGI Animation

Animation styles took a new leap in 1984 with computer-generated imagery (CGI), which included both 2D and 3D animated graphics. The CGI animation technique helped ensure that the films were produced faster.
It also expanded the scope of animation beyond films and television series to web series and brand storytelling. The first fully CGI made animation feature file was Toy Story by Pixar, which released in 1995.


The Shift to the Making of Animation Videos for Branded Video Content

With advancements in CGI animation technology, the history of animation is no longer confined to entertainment alone. The advertising and video marketing industry now make effective use of branded video content involving animation.

The cost of producing animation branded videos is typically lower than traditional advertising, and it has proved to be quite useful in captivating and engaging the target audiences.

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Animation Styles Used in Branded Video Content

Animation styles used by advertisers for brand promotion include:

  • Character animation – an animated character represents the brand or product (instead of a live spokesperson)
  • Animated ads created for websites and social media – these are designed to improve share-ability via computer and mobile
  • Animated infographics – these enable businesses to create interesting ways to present reports for stakeholders, train staff and educate or inform customers

Animation advertising improves Google search results, increases site visits, and boosts sales conversions.

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Facts about Animation!

Here are a few amazing facts about the evolution of animation:

    • Walt Disney hired just two animators to create Steamboat Willie in 1928.
    • The first animated feature film in the US was Snow White, which premiered in 1937. It was produced at the cost of $1.4 million.
    • The production of Robin Hood involved 350,000 drawings, 100,000 painted Cels, and over 800 painted backgrounds.
    • Beauty and the Beast took over three years to produce and involved the talent of 600 animators, technicians, and artists. It was better than Mission Impossible II and Han Solo that is for sure!

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What was the first recorded animation?

Despite the general notion of Walt Disney being the father of animation, it was not him who created the world’s first ever animation. Records suggest that the first animation was created by French cartoonist and animator Émile Cohl. He is popularly known as ‘the father of the animated cartoon’.

Cohl was employed as Scenarist by Gaumont, the manager of the studio who had used one of his comic strips to create a film poster in 1907. Legend has it that Fantasmagorie was created by Émile Cohl between February and May 1908 which is widely regarded as the world’s first fully animated film.

Who is the most famous animator?

The most famous animator in history is undoubtedly Walt Disney. He is often known as the ‘king of 20th century animation. During his lifetime, Walt Disney created several popular animation characters like Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto, and so many more that both children and adults watch even today.

But the list of great animators does not end with Walt Disney. John Kricfalusi is best known for his Nickelodeon series Ren & Stimpy, John Lasseter of Toy Story, Max Fleischer for developing Popeye, Chuck Jones for Loony Tunes also warrant a mention for their contribution to the field of animation.

Which software can you use for animation?

The type of animation that you wish to create is the primary determining factor when you have to choose the software. However, some of the popular software that is being used include Moho Pro, CelAction2D, Procreate, Autodesk Maya, Cartoon Animator 4 and Adobe Character Animator.

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