Animation – A Very Abridged History… work in progress

Early Animation Devices, Experiments & Toys

180AD – China – Ting Huan’s chao hua chich kuan” (the pipe which makes fantasies appear)

1833 – Britain – William George Horner‘s “Daedalum”

The 1860’s – The Zoetrope – The Phenakistoscope – The Stroboscope

…above is the Zoetrope animation created by local student Sophie Jenkinson.


The shift from Devices and Toys to Animation as Cinema


Windsor McKay

Very early animations by Windsor McKay (1868 – 1934, and famously the illustrator/creator of Little Nemo), include How a Mosquito Operates (1911) and Gertie The Dinosaur, the following video shows The story of the Gertie the Dinosaur (1912) animation being made, while the following shows the animation itself. Gertie The Dinosaur (1914),

Windsor McKay used to mime throwing the pumpkins to Gertie that she caught…

Both animations are owed a debt of thanks as the clear influence for the various elements of the Mr. DNA animation sequence by animator Bob Kurtz in Jurassic Park the Movie… This is an example Historical & Cultural references influencing Contemporary/Later Animation

Two more early pioneering fragments by McKay include The Sinking of the Lusitania (1912) a great early example of animation as documentary (see the recent “Waltz with Bashir” as modern counterpoint) …and this fragment, The Centaurs (from 1921), just beautiful animation, very Disney-esque but clearly Pre-Disney’s heyday, and done by one animator not a team.

The 1920’s

Max FleischerOut of the InkwellOuija Board (1920) which along with Otto Messmer‘s Felix the CatFelix in Hollywood (1923) continues to influence animators today, see this excellent 3D/2D digital hybrid animation by Matthieu Bessudo (AKA Mcbess) whose excellent Music Videos hark back to this period of classic animation, adding tattoos and edgy alt/rock content (that said THIS Fleischer Betty Boop cartoon from the thirties was banned for its portrayal of drug use!).
Of course then you could bring in Disney and this early violent gem (laughs) Steam Boat Willie (1928)… this again has some great info on the drop down notes. This could then be compared to classics like Tom & Jerry (The Midnight Snack 1941) and of course the Simpson’s “Itchy & Scratchy” (1992, from Season 4, ep. 6 of The Simpsons ) this clip shows them in a parody of War Time propaganda cartoons… (a fuller list of Itchy and Scratchy cartoons can be found here:)

Across to the other side of the world, the early Japanese animators were working on animation works that would eventually become the forebears of the huge eastern anime industry… take a look at these examples on the site on the ORIGINS of ANIME 1917/1931.


Len Lye – Free Radicals (1958); Rythmn (1957) & Colour Flight (1937) made in association with the British GPO for their film unit.

Stop Motion:

Early stop motion animation (1913) by Polish animator Ladislaw Starewicz (some good info in the drop down on this film…) this could be compared with Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas”.

Then you have Jan Svankmeyer’s “Alice” which was a big influence on people like the Brothers Quay (see Street of Crocodiles), as well as Burton.)

Tool Video for “Sober” – A video for “Sober” was made in 1993. Directed by Fred Stuhr, it was filmed using stop-motion animation, with the characters’ models designed by Adam Jones . The video bears a strong resemblance to the work of the Brothers Quay, however they were not involved with its creation. It was the first of Tool’s videos to be made in stop motion – Clean Version.

…and one final model animation done by one of the animators from Cosgrove Hall, Manchester.

Paul Berry – The Sandman (1992)

Pixilation… some examples:

Lost things – Written & Directed by – Angela Kohler and Ithyle Griffiths

Paul’s Trip Home From Work – Students from Hull University – Andrew Whitaker.

Then contemporary mixed media on a large environmental scale – Blu Blu

A return to the “roots” of animation… Paperman – the latest Disney short, which will appear at the front of “Wreck-it Ralph“, uses a range of digital techniques to emulate the traditional media and style of paper based animation.

Some additional contemporary works:

The Lost Thing – Trailer – Shaun Tan


One response to “Animation – A Very Abridged History… work in progress

  1. Pingback: Environment Design for Entertainment Media – Some Considerations | apophenia inc.

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