Animation History Essay

1562 words - 6 pages

American animated film owes its beginnings to the performers of Vaudeville, which before the invention of radio and television was the most popular form of entertainment in North America from 1875 until 1932.Vaudeville originated in Europe. The actual word vaudeville came from two French phrases: Val de Vire, which meant "valley of the river Vire" and voix de ville, which meant "voices of the town." The valley was a place where people would entertain one another in the evenings with songs and dance. This became so popular that in 1792 the first vaudeville theatre opened in Paris.Although it's origins were in Europe, Vaudeville really became an art form in America specifically New York and the East Coast where immigrants of all nationalities would converge to entertain and be entertained by the various acts that would perform there. These performances would include comedy, magic, acrobatics, dancing, acting and singing.Many of the founders of American animation came out of this period, including a British filmmaker called James Stuart Blackton (1875-1941) who is credited as creating the first animated film in America.Then known as Komical Kartoonists, Blackton and his contemporaries would put on acts in which they would perform lightning sketches or high-speed drawings to the Vaudeville audiences.It wasn't until 1895 when Blackton met the inventor Thomas Edison that he became interested in putting his drawings onto film. Along with Albert E Smith, Blackton formed one of the first film studios, The Vitagraph Company. There they made a series of trick films using techniques that they had developed. These included stop motion, which entailed stopping and starting the camera and making slight adjustments in the scene, dissolves, where one scene fades out as another fades in and multiple exposures, where they filmed one scene over another to create a ghostly effect.In 1906 Blackton produced "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" a film in which you see the artists hand create the faces of a man and a woman in chalk. The two figures then start to interact, as the man blows cigar smoke in the woman's face. Blakcton went on to create the highly successful "The Haunted House" a year later but by 1910 had quit the animation business.Whilst Blackton was on his way out a new and upcoming animator called Windsor McCay (1871-1934) was making a name for himself. McCay began his career as a newspaper comic strip artist for the New York Herald in 1905 with the hugely successful "Little Nemo In Slumberland". It wasn't until 1910, after making a bet with a fellow artist that he could create enough drawings to make a four-minute film with his little nemo characters, that he produced the film Little Nemo. It took a staggering 4,000 drawings to make the subsequent film using translucent rice paper and India ink. To make the animation have a fluid quality McCay invented a registration system using a wooden holder and put crosshairs in the corners of the paper to keep the...

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