Evolution of Animation

Evolution of Animation

Animation has been around for many years, from spinning images to look like they move, to beautiful cinematic masterpieces. I’m talking about animation like those classic Mickey Mouse cartoons you watch at school on a rainy day, or those early morning cartoons you watch while lazily eating Eggos on your couch, or even those mind boggling Pixar movies that confused you as a kid and make you cry now. This is the animation we know, and love. Animation is a truly beautiful thing, and I wanted to ask the question of how it came to be.


Some of the first forms of animation in film come from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This kind of animation was hand-drawn over and over again until the image seemed to move. Many mini films came out in the 1900’s with this form like Fantasmagorie, and Gertie the Dinosaur. These films really showed the possibilities of animation. They showed what people could do with animation. To summarize the one I saw, Gertie the Dinosaur, it is basically a short film about the dinosaur, Gertie doing tricks and getting into trouble. It is a simple film, but then you realize it was made in 1914. The film basically consists of a man asking Gertie to do tricks, and these tricks use a lot of skill in animation. The film was a showing of skill, kind of, which is pretty cool.


Then came the beginnings of the animation giant we all know and love today, Disney. The beginning of Disney came to be when Walt Disney’s first studio went bankrupt. He then opened something new where he would have live action characters interact with an animated character. This was basically half a play, and half animation. This was doing Walt Disney pretty well, but then he created one of the most recognizable animations ever, Steamboat Willie. It wasn’t the first Mickey Mouse animation, but it is one of the most influential. Then the main competitor of Disney arose, Warner Bros. Warner Bros. was a pretty popular studio, and gave the animators more freedom with their work, but then Disney came out with the first color animation, Flowers and Trees. This started the massive amount of colored animations to come out in the next few decades into now. Walt Disney really summarizes Disney and it’s possibilities in this, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”


Then came the first completely hand-drawn animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which wowed everyone. Snow White also led to the beginning of animation being a part of our main media, like movies and TV. I mention Snow White later in the story, but this started the boom of cartoons on television with studios like Hanna-Barbera making animated shows called cartoons. Shows like, Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo, and others. These were major hits, even up to the point of being shown on prime time, when people watch the most TV. This is what started the boom of cartoons.


Into the 70’s and 80’s, we started seeing fewer new cartoons.  A huge event in animation that did happen in the 80’s was Reagan’s repeal of an act that banned toy companies from making cartoons. This is important because it allowed cartoons like GI Joe, Transformers, and He-Man to be made. The great boom in cartoons comes in the 90’s, though, with the introduction of Cartoon Network and the gaining popularity of Nickelodeon. You’ve probably heard of the shows that came out of the cartoon boom of the 90’s, like Recess, The Animaniacs, Rugrats, Hey Arnold, TMNT, Pokémon, and many others. This also started a lot of innovation in animation. Cartoons became smoother, and used improved techniques.


These cartoons eventually led into the cartoons we watched as a kid. I know I watched a lot of cartoons when I was little. We all remember those early 2000’s cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants, Fairly OddParents, Jimmy Neutron, Danny Phantom, MAD, Adventure Time, Regular Show, Samurai Jack, Ben 10, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Phineas and Ferb, Justice League, and many more. These shows, for most of us, were influential to our childhood. Not to be overdramatic, but they truly shaped our childhoods. These cartoons let us enjoy the world as a kid, and not worry about the problems adults had to face. We just got to relax and watch some cartoons.


Now that we have talked a lot about cartoons, let’s take it back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and its impact on animated film. To really show you how influential this movie was, it started the integration of animated films into main media. This was huge. It opened the gates to new possibilities. Imagine all the animated moves you’ve seen. All of them basically branch from Snow White.

From the success of Snow White, Disney came out with Pinocchio and Fantasia. This continous success only added to Disney’s fame. Disney then became one of the biggest studios in Hollywood. Eventually, they became famous for their movies about princesses. Snow White led to the animated kids movies, and animated princess movies, while Fantasia led to the experimentation of animation, and animation’s new ideas. Fantasia was a risk that experimented with new ideas, while Snow White set up a formula that worked. Snow White led to Disney’s commercial success, while Fantasia led to Disney’s artistic progress. Walt Disney then passed away in the middle of Disney’s prime. However, Disney would continue to flourish.

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There was a little slump in animation that I previously talked about. This slump happened during the 70’s and 80’s. No really good cartoons or animated movies  came out of this time. The slump ended in the mid to late 80’s. Then came the Disney renaissance. This period was a sort of revival of good Disney movies, movies like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Lion King, and Beauty and The Beast. As usual, Disney was the leader during this new period of good animation.


Then a new challenger approached, Pixar. With the release of Toy Story, Pixar became an instant favorite, continuously pumping out great movies. Pixar was one of the first animation studios using computers to animate. They showed the possibilities animation and computers had. They became famous for their innovation. A clear indication of their will to innovate and their drive to improve, is this statement by John Lasseter, “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.”. This innovation and great storytelling eventually led to Pixar receiving Oscar nominations and, eventually, a couple wins. Pixar would continue to be a main power-house of animation.


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This leads us to now. Animation has changed a lot of the years, from simple, hand-drawn shorts, to beautiful, computer generated films. With animation enjoyable to any age, any race, or gender, it makes it relatable to anyone. Animation has endless possibilities, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.