Topic 15: Animated film

● history ● types ● techniques / processes

History: The Beginnings

1906James Stuart Blackton makes Humorous Phases Of Funny Faces, he used chalk drawings on a blackboard which he modified phase by phase, photographing each phase with a film camera. For this reason, it was more of a stop-motion animation than drawn animation.

1907Émile Cohl, Fantasmagorie, he made a series of progressive drawings which he photographed on motion picture film. He is considered to be the first cartoon animator.

1911Winsor McCay, creates incredibly smooth animations of his various drawn characters, like Little Nemo and mainly Gertie The Dinosaur (1914). He set a high standard of artistry and quality of drawn animation that would not be surpassed for 20 years and he inspired others to start working with animation.

1919Otto Messmer, employed by the Pat Sullivan Studio, creates Felix the Cat – a revolutionary animation, which developed it into a form of art. Felix was the first true cartoon character with a personality, with his characteristic walk and individualistic mannerisms. Felix was the first massively popular cartoon character.

1928Walt Disney & Ub Iwerks release Steamboat Willie – the first Mickey Mouse sound cartoon. It was the first Disney cartoon with synchronized sound.

1932Max Fleischer – the head of Fleischer Studios, creates such characters as Betty Boop (1932), Koko the Clown, Popeye the Sailor (1933), and Superman to the movie screen. He is also responsible for a number of technological innovations, like the Rotoscope (1915).

1930Looney Tunes, a Warner Bros. animated cartoon series with legendary characters, like Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Duffy Duck, Tweety, etc., run in many movie theatres till 1969.

1937Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animation motion picture is released by the Walt Disney Studios.

>> more details in topic No 16 Famous world animators of the past and the present.


short for celluloid, is a transparent sheet on which objects are drawn or painted for traditional, hand-drawn animation. Celluloid was used for animation and film production up until the late 20th century, however, it burned easily and suffered from spontaneous decomposition, and was largely replaced by cellulose acetate plastics.

Generally, the characters are drawn on cels and laid over a static background drawing. This reduces the number of times an image has to be redrawn and enables studios to split up the production process to different specialised teams. Using this assembly line way to animate has made it possible to produce films much more cost-effectively. The invention of the technique is generally attributed to Earl Hurd, who patented the process in 1914. The outline of the images are drawn on the back of the cel. The colors are also painted on the back to eliminate brushstrokes.

an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films. Originally, pre-recorded live-action film images were projected onto a frosted glass panel and re-drawn by an animator. This projection equipment is called a rotoscope, although this device has been replaced by computers in recent years. In the visual effects industry, the term rotoscoping refers to the technique of manually creating a matte for an element on a live-action plate so it may be composited over another background.

– patent drawing for Fleischer’s original rotoscope. The artist is drawing on a transparent easel, onto which the movie projector at the right is throwing an image of a single film frame.

Be ready to talk about your favourite animation filmmaker and film, as this is definitely the question we’ll be asking you.

<< back


animation – definition, types, techniques
history of animated film
– a great essay on the art of animation and its history, with great insights on how the studio system (Sullivan, Disney) caused many original names and creative talents behind the most famous animations unknown and largely forgotten
– another good source on the history of animation, with a useful history of animation timeline
– the essentials on animatics in the making of animation in simple, clear English with visual examples

as always, feel free to leave a comment, ask, recommend ;)



5 thoughts on “Topic 15: Animated film

  1. Hello,

    I am a student of animation, and I do a clean up documentation.
    Unfortunately I have very little documentation on this étapte.

    I need to know how the artistic director decides to apply a particular style clean up.
    How does the clean up has changed over time.

    thank you

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