A Brief History Of Animated Cartoons

An animated cartoon is a short, hand-drawn (or created with computers to look similar to something hand-drawn) film for the cinema, tv or computer screen, featuring some sort of story or plot (even if it is a very short one).

Animation itself can be described as the rapid display of a sequence of images of 2-D or 3-D artwork or model positions in order to create an illusion of movement. The effect is an optical illusion of motion due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision, and can be created and demonstrated in several methods.

It is hard to believe but the very earliest instances of attempts to capture the impression of motion by drawing can be found in Paleolithic cave paintings. Here animals are shown with multiple legs in superimposed positions, clearly trying to express the perception of motion.

Further instances can be seen on an earthenware bowl more than 5,000 years old from Persia and an Egyptian mural of wrestlers in action, which is about 4,000 years old.

However these examples cannot really be described as animation as there was no means of making the characters actually move.

The first mechanical devices designed to supply the illusion of movement were invented for children?s amusement or as entertainment at private parties. These included the zoetrope, magic lantern, praxinoscope, thaumatrope, phenakistoscope, and flip book.

Charles-Emile Reynaud created the first animated film in 1892 while he exhibited an animated film consisting of loops of about 500 frames. This film is also notable as the first known instance of film perforations being used. His films were not recorded, but drawn directly onto the transparent strip.

However the first film which can truly be called an animated cartoon was 'Humorous Phases of Funny Faces' produced by J. Stuart Blackton in 1906. It features a cartoonist drawing faces on a chalkboard, and the faces seemingly coming to life.

One of the very first successful animated cartoons was "Gertie the Dinosaur" (1914) by Winsor McCay. It is thought of as the first example of real character animation.

All the major movie studios used animated cartoons of 5 to 10 minute lengths as ?fillers? before the main movie was shown during the period of the 1930s to the 1960s.Theatrical cartoons were made in huge numbers and MGM, Disney, Paramount and Warner Brothers were the largest studios producing these 5 to 10-minute "shorts".

However the ever increasing popularity of TV and the subsequent waning in cinema going has meant that today most animated cartoons are produced for EV.

The most famous animated cartoon character of all is no doubt Mickey Mouse who was introduced to the world by Walt Disney in May 1928 in Plane Crazy but also starred some six months later in the first animated cartoon with sound - 'Steamboat Willie'.

By the way, Mickey was originally christened Mortimer Mouse until Walt Disney?s wife persuaded him to make the modification.

Mickey Mouse, predated by another cartoon animal called Felix The Cat, made his debut in 1919. However another all time favourite cartoon series Tom and Jerry had to wait until 1931 to put in an appearance.

All these characters and numerous more have long since made the transition from movies to television where, no doubt, they will be seen for many years to come.


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