If we look into history, cartoons have been existing for millennia. The technology and quality of cartoons have changed dramatically in the past few centuries. They have gone through many changes to get to where they are standing today.
Today, the cartoon industry rules the world, and animation gets included in almost anything and everything. Cartoons are now the number one time-pass for children. The history of cartoons is not simple. It is rich and filled with many techniques. It is tricky to locate as to exactly when the cartoons started to appear in our world. Some say it started since humans first came to roam the earth and, some say it began a few decades ago.
An Early Attempt at Capturing Motion
The first form of sketch or animation has existed since 10,000 BCE. Ancient civilizations captured motions in stones, poultry, walls, etc. These are unlike the animation we know of today. We can not call it animation since it was a series of sketches, but they did leave a blueprint of inspiration for modern animation. One of the most popular forms of stone carving dates back millennia ago, ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians carved a series of images on walls to show an action taking place. Each picture differs from the previous one in slight movements to describe a clear sketch to show how the activity got carried out. Images of human and animal positions also got carved in kitchenware. If you spin a bowl with carved images on it, the images would move and act as motion pictures.
During the 1millennium to 900 CE, shadow puppetry got invested in Asia. It originated in China, Indonesia, and the Subcontinent. Throughout the 16th century, shadow puppetry spread around Europe. The Ottomans also loved the puppet show as it was shown in their palaces. There are three types of puppetry. First, hand puppetry is different shapes formed by hands in front of a light to make the shadows on the wall. Second, shadow puppets are behind the stage, in front of the illumination, forming silhouettes on the stage cloth. And, a minion hanging with string got motioned in front of the stage. They were statues or sticks in clothing.
In the 17th century, the magic lantern came by. It was a machine that projected images on a wall. The magic lantern was the closest invention to projectors at that time. It stunned the crowds with its moving images. The magic lantern was not a machine that operated by electricity, but my hands.
Animation in the 1800s: Before Cinematography
Animation in the 19th century introduced toys to create motion. One of the toys, thaumatrope, was a disk with pictures on each side. One side had a character, while the other had an object. The strings attached to each side of the toy got used to slip and rotate the toy. The faster you revolve it, the pictures merge. It gives an illusion of the object and the character being as one.
Joseph Plateau invented the Phenakistoscope in 1832. It was a disc that got spun in front of a mirror. The viewer would look at its cut-out characters with one eye closed. The slits on the disc broke up each frame to make the image smoother and not blurry. It displayed continuous movement until the disc stopped.
In 1833, Zoetrope, or the wheel of life, was created. The disc had pictures made inside it of different positions and slits to look into the disc. When the wheel gets spun, the character moves and then disappears to later reappear in another motion.
Charles Èmile Reynaud developed the Praxinoscope in 1877. This device had mirrors in the center of the wheel instead of slits. The wall of the disc had images made on it. When spun, the mirrors reflected the pictures opposite to it to show movement. It showed the photos one by one, making the animation clearer and smoother.
Cartoons were then made by capturing or sketching different pictures of animals or humans in different positions. Then these images were collected and stacked on top of each other. The motion was created by flipping the pages as fast and smoothly as possible.
Animation in the 1900s: The Start of Modern Animation
Cameras existed in the 20th century. It was the start of modern animation. In 1906 a show was made called Humorous phases of funny faces. The cartoon consisted of a series of moving chalk drawings. It had a man and a woman that were given different features in every frame of the show. In 1914, Winsor McCay was a cartoonist who made the first-ever cartoon character with a personality in America. It was Gertie the dinosaur. It was the first smooth-moving drawn character. The dinosaur moved and responded according to the commands of its creator.
In 1928, Walt Disney created the Steamboat Willie, which featured the iconic character of Mickey mouse. The cartoon was about Mickey mouse wanting to become the captain of a steamboat. Unfortunately, he got bullied by the steamboat captain. It was the first animation to produce music instead of sounds. It got induced with cell animation. Each frame was sketched on celluloid and captured by a multi-pan camera. The background did not change as much because it was on a different layer than the characters. The movements were not realistic but comical. It was the first time people laid eyes on Mickey Mouse, who became one of the most famous and influential characters of all time.
Rotoscoping is an invention that pushed the boundaries of animation and introduced the usage of a variety of colors in cartoons.
During the great depression, many people lost their jobs and happiness. To bring some joy to their world, people started to head to theatres to watch cartoons more than ever before. It led to the immense popularity of animation. In 1937, Walt Disney created a movie that would change the cartoon world and the status of Disney. The first-ever feature film by Disney, Snow White, was made with new techniques. A movie from the 1930s has such a smooth motion because they filmed an actual person dancing or moving the way the artists wanted Snow-white to move and later traced the images turning them into frames. This technique gave the characters human-like movements. Before this invention, the emotions were stiff and not smooth. The film also used scenes shot by a multi-depth camera. The camera captured every layer of the scenery in depth. Disney produced every sound and music. One more feature that leads to its success was that every character had its personality. Unique characteristics make the viewer differentiate between and choose their favorite character, making the movie more excited.
Many admired cartoons, like The Scooby-doo and The Flintstones, were from that era. However, they were low in animation production. The animation was not smooth but had swoops for change of motion and had continued looping. Meanwhile, Disney was also sketching. However, they were detailed by taking notes on actual humans and animals, creating beautiful motion pictures.
After the 90s: Animation of Modern Era
Soon, the industry took over to more specialized techniques. The following are the two main ones we have used:
The cartoon industry grew more than ever. Iconic cartoons like Looney tunes ruled the hearts of people. Animation branched into commercials as well. The cartoon industry grew as far as characters getting placed in movies with real humans. The first animation like this was called Claymation. It means creating objects out of clay. These clay-made characters got moved bit by bit to create images to form a video. Claymation took a long time. The characters needed to get built, and the artists made tiny movements with the objects, taking a lot of time to get done with just one scene. This animation technique was also used just for cartoons like Sean the sheep.
One of the most famous types of animation today is anime. Anime is a Japanese motion picture that depicts Japanese culture. The Japanese form of art and style attracts viewers around the globe, increasing the appreciation and love for their culture around the world.
CGI or Computer-generated imagery has taken over the world and is the top way to produce any animation today. Now cartoons are designed and made on the computer. The details, smooth movements, intensified images, and many other features were impossible just decades ago. Drawing directly on a Computer is way less time-consuming and cheaper. 3D modeling is a powerful computer technology that changed the animation game.
The cartoon industry is now worth billions of dollars. Animation is all the rage, and corporations like Pixar and Disney rule the industry.
The cartoon industry history is indeed fascinating. It all began many years ago and is represented to us in the best way possible for this era!
We recommend checking out Classic cartoons to either relive your childhood or introduce it to your younger versions!