Here is a brief video I made on the history of animation, complete with some short clips from various animations mentioned. Enjoy


The Golden Age of Animation


In 1923 a studio called Laugh-O-Grams went bankrupt and its owner Walt Disney opened a new studio in Los Angeles.  Disney’s first project was an animation called the Alice Comedies, which was a live action girl who interacted with animal characters on the screen.


Some of the first animations that were synchronised with sound were the Song Car-Tunes films (1924-1927) and Dinner Time (1928), The earliest song Car tune’s to have sound were  Oh Mabel (May 1924) and Mother, Mother, Mother Pin a Rose on Me and Goodbye My Lady Love (both from June 1924).

Disney’s first real breakthrough was  the first cartoon to include a fully post-produced soundtrack, featuring voice and sound effects printed on the film itself, called Steamboat Willie and released in 1928 it was the third in a series of Mickey Mouse Cartoons. The film was about a mouse named “Mickey” who neglected his work on the boat and instead decided to make music with the other animals on board.

In 1930 Warner Brothers Cartoons were founded. Whereas Walt Disney was know for have strict control over his releases, Warner Brothers took a different approach and allowed the animators much more creative freedom, this led to animations having more  recognizable personal styles.

The first animated feature sound film was Peludópolis (sept 1931). Below is a video i found on “the making of Peludópolis”


The first animation to use the full, three-colorTechnicolor method was “Flowers and Trees” made in 1932 by Disney Studios, this animation went on to win an academy award. Coloured animation of this type went on to become industry standard and  in 1934 Warner brothers released their first coloured animation  “Honeymoon Hotel” of the Merry Melodies series.

In 1935 Tex Avery released his first film with Warner Brothers, Avery’s style was very different from the animations by Disney which were aimed at children, Avery’s were fast paced, violent, and satirical, with a slapstick sensibility. He also introduced us to the Looney Toon characters which are still very popular today.

Below is the animation “All this rabbit and stew”  (1941) by Tex Avery

Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937, and although it was actually the eighth feature film they made it was the first to become widely successful and the first feature length animation to use Technicolor cel animation. After the success of Snow White Disney decided to concentrate on making feature length animations and Warner Brother’s took the other approach and continued to focus on shorts.


The first Japanese-made feature length anime film was the propaganda film Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors by the Japanese director Mitsuyo Seo. The film, shown in 1945, was ordered to be made to support the war by the Japanese Naval Ministry.



The first film that was recorded on standard picture film and included animated sequences was the 1900 Enchanted Drawing, which was followed by the first entirely animated film – the 1906 Humorous Phases of Funny Faces by J. Stuart Blackton.

The first animation created using traditional animation (hand drawn) techniques was the 1908 Fantasmagorie, this was created by french artist Émile Cohl. The animation was very basic and contained a stick man and various morphing objects,  the artists had would even appear during live action sections. The film was created by drawing each frame on paper and then shooting each frame onto negative film, which gave the picture a blackboard look.

Several years later more detailed animations, using teams of animators were created.  These were directed by  Winsor McCay, a successful newspaper cartoonist. Most notable examples of these were,  the 1911 Little Nemo, the 1914 Gertie the Dinosaur, and the 1918 The Sinking of the Lusitania.

During the 1910’s the production of Cartoons as they became known, became a industry of their own and were created to be shown in movie theaters.  The most successful producer at the time was John Randolph Bray, who, along with animator Earl Hurd, patented the cel animation process which dominated the animation industry for the rest of the decade.

Animation before the Advent of Film


There were numerous inventions before the advent of film that enabled people to view animations. Many of these didn’t enable the images to be projected and so most were only viewed by one person at a time. This meant that early animations were seen more as a toy than a large scale entertainment. This was until the advent of modern film, below i have listed early notable examples:

The Magic Lantern (c.1650)

The earliest known actual magic lanterns are usually credited to Christiaan Huygens or Athanasius Kircher


This was like a early projector,It was made up of a translucent oil painting, a simple lens and a candle or oil lamp. When viewed in a darkened room, the lamp would project the images onto the adjacent wall. This was mainly used in a way to convince people they were viewing the supernatural, as images used were often depicting the demonic.

Thaumatrope (1824)  

Its invention is often credited to Sir John Herschel.

A thaumatrope was a simple toy used in the Victorian era. This was basically a small disk with a different picture on each side, this would have a piece of string that ran down the centre. When this string was twirled quickly through the fingers the two pictures appeared to combine into one.

The Phenakistoscope (1831) 

It was invented simultaneously by the Belgian Joseph Plateau and the Austrian Simon von Stampfer.

The Flip Book (1868)

invented by John Barnes Linnett

The flip book known as the  kineograph, similar to what many people use today, this was a book made of pages with a springy paper, with images drawn on each one, when the pages are flicked they appear to animate the drawings.


The Praxinoscope (1877)

The first animated projection (screening) was created in France, by Charles-Émile Reynaud.

This was like modern film but instead of the film being photographed the images were drawn directly onto a transparent strip.

Earliest Forms of Animation



[mass noun]

  • 1the state of being full of life or vigour; liveliness:they started talking with animation
  •  chiefly archaic the state of being alive:the body began to show tiny signs of animation
  • 2the technique of photographing successive drawings or positions of puppets or models to create an illusion of movement when the film is shown as a sequence:a combination of live action with 3-D animation[count noun]:animations as backdrops for live action
  •  (also computer animation) the manipulation of electronic images by means of a computer in order to create moving images.

Before the invention of film, the depiction of objects/figures in motion can seen as far back as cavemen days. These  Paleolithic cave paintings showed animals and humans in motion.  Animals in these pictures were often depicted with having multilple pairs of legs superimposed ontop of the others as if trying to convey motion.

Other early examples have been found throughout the world, some are listed below:

A 5,200 year old bowl was found in Iran in Shahr-e Sukhteh, the bowl had 5 images painted on it of a goat, it one showing a different stage of the goat leaping into the air.

The  4,000 year old tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, contains an Egyptian mural with sequencial images of young soldiers in combat.


A Chinese zoetrope-type device had been invented in 180 AD. (seen below)


There are detailed drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci where he was depicted the human anatomy, In these pictures he shows how the arm moves, with each picture only having a small change to the next it shows the movement of the arms.


These early examples are all similar to a animated series of drawings, although they aren’t true animations because we are unable to see them in motion, they introduced the practice of putting pictures of movement in chronological order which is one of the most important steps in the history of animation.