Posted in Unit 3, Unit 53- 2D & Stop Motion Animation

Timeline of Animation


History of animation

As far back as 3o,000 B.C. there has been signs of trying to show motion- with archaeological artifacts further proving this. Early examples of attempts to capture motion into a drawing can be found in paleolithic cave paintings- in which animals are typically drawn with multiple legs to show it moving. It’s been claimed that the flickering light of flames can show an illusion of motion in these paintings.

5,200 B.C.

A bronze-age pottery bowl showing goats leaping (Shahr-e Sukhteh, Iran.) The bowl has five continuing images painted around it, showing phases of a goat leaping up at a tree.


1500 A.D.

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ drawing shows multiple angles which implies movement. 54d18ad496ddd0e94489455c_davinci_book

With the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America in the 18th & 19th centuries came experimentation with machines which would make images appear to move. 

These devices were used before animation became motion pictures; and were used to entertain, amaze and even frighten people. The majority of these didn’t project their images- only being able to


A machine called the ‘Magic Lantern’ is an image projector using pictures on sheets of glass. Since some sheets contain moving parts, it’s considered the first example of projected animation. It was created by Christiaan Huygens in 1659.

His sketches for the magic lantern slides have been dated to this year, and are the oldest known document concerning the magic lantern.

One of these sketches shows Death raising his arm from his toes to his head, another shows him moving his right arm up and down from his elbow, and another taking his skull off his neck and placing it back. Dotted lines indicate the movements.




The ‘thaumatrope’ used a rotating mechanism with a different picture on each side. When the strings on each side were twirled quickly, the disks on each side rotated, letting you see a combined picture (known as persistence of vision- the fact that the perception of an object by the eyes and brain continues for a fraction of a second after the view is blocked/ the object is removed).

It is a simple toy which was popular in the 19th century. One of the more popular versions was a bird and a cage, making the image seem as if the bird was stuck in a cage.

Invented by Sir John Herschel,it was popularized in 1824 by John Ayrton Paris when he demonstrated it to the Royal College of Physicians. Many of these devices are still built by and for film students learning the basic principles of animation.


The ‘phenakistoscope’ featured spinning disks reflected in mirrors- making it seem as if the pictures were moving as it spun. It was early animation device, simultaneously invented by the Belgian Joseph Plateau and the Austrian Simon von Stampfer.

As the phenakistoscope spins, a viewer looks through the slots at the reflection of the drawings and are momentarily visible when a slot passes by the viewer’s eye- creating the illusion of animation.



Similarly- the ‘zoetrope’ was a hollow drum which had images on long interchangeable strips that also spun and made the images appear to move.

To use it, the observer looked through vertical slits around the sides to view the moving images. As it spins, the material between the viewing slits moves in the opposite direction of the images on the other side, serving as a simple shutter.

The zoetrope has several advantages over the phenakistoscope- such as not requiring a mirror to view the illusion, and because of its cylindrical shape, it could be viewed by several people at once.


The ‘flip-book’ (also known as the kineograph) reached a wide audience and inspires early animators more than the machines developed in this era as it was simpler and easier to start out with.

John Barnes Linnett patented the first flip book in 1868 as the ‘kineograph’. A flip book is typically a small book with relatively springy pages, each page having a series of animation images located near it’s unbound edge. The user bends back all of the pages- typically with the thumb- and by using a gradual motion of the hand, allows them to spring free one at the time- creating movement.

Unlike other inventions, there was no view-interrupting shutter or mirrors required to view it other than the user’s hand. Early animators used flip books as  


The ‘praxinoscope’ expanded the zoetrope, using multiple wheels to rotate images. It’s considered to have shown the first prototypes of the animated cartoon.

In the early 20th century, the beginnings of theatrical showings of cartoons, especially in the United States and France was shown.

Many animators formed studios, with Bray Studios in New York proved the most successful in this era. Bray helped launch the careers of the cartoonists which created Mighty Mouse, Betty Boop and Woody Woodpecker.  

This period of time was known as ‘The Silent Era’


‘Humorous phases of funny faces’ marks the first entirely animated film which used stop-motion photography to create action.


‘Fantasmagorie’ is the first animated film using hand-drawn animation, and is considered by film historians to be the first animated cartoon.


‘Gertie the dinosaur’ is considered the first cartoon to feature an appealing character.


‘Musical Mews’ and ‘Feline Follies’ introduced ‘Felix the Cat’– often considered the first animated movie star.



‘Steamboat Willie’ featuring Mickey Mouse became the first cartoon with sound printed on the film and is the first notable success for Walt Disney Studios (founded in Los Angeles in 1923).


Walt Disney and his brother Roy co-founded Walt Disney Productions, which became one of the best-known motion-picture production companies in the world.

He was an innovative animator and theme park designs, winning 22 Academy Awards during his lifetime, also being the founder of theme parks ‘Disneyland’ and ‘Walt Disney World’.

Disney and his staff created numerous fictional characters including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck. In addition to his Academy Awards, he also won 7 Emmy Awards.

Today, there are Disney theme parks around the world, including Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong.



During what is considered the ‘Golden Age’ of animation, theatrical cartoons became an important and essential part of popular culture. 

These years are defined by the rise of Walt Disney (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Silly Symphonies); Warner Brothers, MGM and Fleischer (Betty Boop, Popeye).



Warner Brothers Cartoons was founded, and created the ‘Merrie Melodies’ series. It was a series of short comedy animated films. It featured some of the most famous cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd.


Walt Disney releases ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, the first animated feature film to use hand-drawn animation.

The animation industry began to adapt to the fact that television continued its rise as the entertainment medium of choice for American families- bringing about the ‘Television Era’.

Studios created many cartoons for TV, using a ‘limited animation’ style. By the mid 80s, with help from cable channels such as The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon , cartoons were found everywhere on TV. 


The ‘Yogi Bear’ show- a spin-off of Huckleberry Hound (another Hanna-Barbera production), debuts on national TV.



DePatie-Freleng Enterprises wins the Academy Award for Best Short Film for ‘The PinkPhink’ (of the Pink Panter series) and continues to create short films for theatrical release. giphy1

Additionally in this year, ‘Fritz the Cat’– the first animated adult rated feature film was released. fritz-the-cat-movie-poster

The CGI (Computer generated imagery) revolutionised animation in the ‘Modern Era’. A difference between CGI animation compared to traditional animation is that drawing is replaced by 3D modeling, almost like a virtual version of stop-motion. 

A form of animation that combines the two and uses 2D computer drawing can be considered computer aided animation.


‘The Adventures of Andre and Wally B’ was released, it being the first fully CGI-animated film short.



‘The Simpsons’ was created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. It is the longest-running sitcom, animated program and scripted primetime television series.



‘Toy Story’– the first fully computer-animated feature film was released.



‘Big Hero 6’ is the first Disney animated film to feature Marvel Comics-style characters.



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