Most of us associate animated movies with fond childhood memories, whether it be a Disney classic or the latest high-tech efforts from Pixar or PDI/Dreamworks. But what we often take for granted is that the history of the animated film as we know it today developed in pieces, with sound, color, and computer-generated imagery all representing big breakthroughs in the industry.Let’s take a quick peek into the history of the animated movie to see how it has evolved over the years.
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The first animated feature film is considered to be the cut-out animation El apostol by Quirino Cristiani from the year 1917, though unfortunately all known copies were destroyed by a fire. As such, the oldest surviving animated film is The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), a German animated fairytale written by Lotte Reiniger that features silhouette animation, a technique in which cut-outs are manipulated before a camera.
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Can You Hear Me Now?
The next groundbreaking efforts came from the legendary Walt Disney, who decided to re-release his popular Mickey Mouse short, Steamboat Willie, on November 18, 1928 with synchronized sound, the very first of its kind. Shortly thereafter, another of Argentine Quirino Cristiani’s efforts, Peludópolis (1931),became the first feature-length film to feature sound. The next big accomplishment in sound came again from Walt Disney in 1940, whose Fantasia was the first to be filmed with stereophonic sound.
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Once sound had been accounted for, it was time for animators to set their sights on creating brighter worlds for their characters to live in. That accomplishment came in 1932, when the Disney short Flowers and Trees was released in three-strip Technicolor. A far more significant contribution from Disney that has withstood the test of time is the classic Snow White and The Seven Dwarves (1937), which has the distinction of being Disney’s first feature-length film to employ the three-strip Technicolor technique. The Disney princess’ famous “skin as white as snow” would have looked especially striking against her newly colored world with vibrant reds, blues, and yellows.
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Advances in Filming Techniques
Since its early origins in cut-out animation, a number of animation tactics have been employed to enhance the graphics and increase the realism in animated movies. One of the earliest developments is the use of xerography process, which replaced tedious hand inking; Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961) was the first feature film to employ this tactic. Next came the first feature-length 3D film using stereoscopic technique in 1983 with the release of the Australian movie Abra Cadabra. The first fully computer animated film was Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story in 1995, and the first fully-animated film to use motion capture technology to execute all of its characters was The Polar Express in 2004. These films helped to set the bar for what we expect from an animated movie when we go to the cinema today!
WORDS BY: Elisa Lockhart is a freelance entertainment writer and frequent blogger.