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The Evolution of Animation: A brief journey through time

  |   Business, Enhancing Business with Videos, Video Animation, Videos in Online Marketing   |   10 Comments

Some of our fondest childhood memories belong to those lazy Sunday mornings spent watching cartoons on TV. Whether it was the iconic tales of our favourite house cat, futilely attempting to catch his adversary mouse, or the carrot-chewing rabbit humouring us repeatedly with “Eh… What’s up, doc?”, animated pictures have always captured our imagination. It is perhaps this curiosity and enthusiasm, which has led to so many dramatic changes in the animation industry, in such a short period of time.

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The difficult beginnings

People realized very quickly that pictures taken of a moving object, could be flipped through in succession, to create the illusion of a motion picture. The earliest animations were created this way; simple drawings photographed one at a time. It was obviously an extremely tedious process, and we had to wait till the development of celluloid in the 1920’s for easier methods to evolve.

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The celluloid shift

Image caption: One of the 400 surviving original drawings of Gertie. Source: Wikimedia Commons

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.The first successful, fully animated cartoon was Gerti The Dinosaur, created by Winsor McCay in 1914. It is considered to be the first cartoon to feature an appealing personality.

 

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Image caption: A still from the movie ‘Steamboat Willie’. Copyright MCMXXIX (1929) DISNEY.

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After Gertie, it wasn’t until a young animator named Walt Disney came along, that we got to witness the next revolution in animation. Steamboat Willie was released in 1928 and it was the first animated film to include sound. The movie also marked the debut of the lovable Mickey Mouse.

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Following the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, animated films became a popular form of entertainment. The stories and the characters started getting widely recognized and remembered by everyone, everywhere on the globe.

Image caption: The Cel Animation technique, where two transparent cells, each with a different character drawn on them, and an opaque background are photographed together to form a composite image.  Source: Wikemedia Commons

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But the Cel Animation technique used during that era still required each frame to be drawn by hand. It wasn’t until the advent of Computer Animation that we found a less tedious and time-consuming process.

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The Computer Revolution

Although the first few computer animated films very basic to say the least, it nevertheless changed the way animation was done. The frame by frame animation of 2D characters could now be done entirely on computers. Not only did it make the process less arduous, it gave graphic artists more control and they were able to produce content without the use of actors, expensive set pieces or props.

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Image Caption: To create the illusion of movement, an image is displayed on the computer monitor and repeatedly replaced by a new image similar to it, but advanced slightly in time.

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 But where computers have really pushed the envelope is with the development of 3D animation. 3D models or characters were constructed on the computer monitor using geometrical shapes in a 3D co-ordinate system. Once a virtual skeleton of the character was complete, eyes, limbs and clothes were moved on to the frames and the animation was rendered.

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The golden era of CGI

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Terminator 2: Judgement Day in 1991 showcased exactly what was capable of with cutting-edge morphing effects for its partially computer-generated character, T1000.

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Pixar presented its ground-breaking form of entirely CGI-rendered animation with Toy Story in 1995. Using a complex system of model articulation and motion-control coding, Pixar was able to create characters with depth, charm and personality.

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Everything culminated with James Cameron’s two-decades-in-the-making masterpiece, Avatar. It used advanced CGI and motion capture techniques, requiring 2,000 Hewlett-Packard servers, sporting 35,000 processor cores and 104 terabytes of RAM, to render the film.

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Where does the future lie?

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Today, we see animation everywhere. Switch on the TV and you will witness Computer Generated Imagery in form or the other. But the big question is this. Has all this technology replaced the role of an animator?

The simple answer is no. Despite all the breakthroughs in computer animation, any piece of animation still needs the creative talent of an animator to give it a story, character and dialogue. Which is way, traditional animation still remains a prominent form of animation to this day. Computer animation is not seen as a replacement for traditional hand-drawn characters, but rather as another tool in the animator’s box of tricks.

As animators and animation studios continue to blend technological advances with brilliant creative talent, the sky is the limit for what we will see, next time we find ourselves in a movie hall.





  • obinna agha

    please my drawing is quite weak, will it prevent me from being a very good animator?

    • Maneesh Garg – Admin

      Hi Obinna, drawing is majorly required for character designing, frame by frame animation and illustration work. There are many animation processes that don’t require drawing. Yes, it helps but doesn’t mean that you can’t be a good animator if your drawing is not good.

  • informative site!!!! i love it

    • Maneesh Garg – Admin

      Thanks, Maraj. We strive to create more informative content for our users.

  • May

    Thank you!

    • Maneesh Garg – Admin

      You are welcome, May.

  • Anonymous

    Good!!

    • Maneesh Garg – Admin

      Thank you

  • Anonymous

    This article contain good but minimal information. The creators of this article should have focused more on the facts instead of having half the page be filled with movie trailers.

    • Maneesh Garg – Admin

      Hi Anonymous, thank you for your feedback. Those movie trailers are just to showcase how animation evolved over time. But yes, we will include more factual information in our articles in future.