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Precursors to Animation

Evidence of artistic interest in depicting figures in motion can be seen as early as the still drawings of Palaeolithic cave paintings, where animals are depicted with multiple sets of legs in superimposed positions, clearly attempting to convey the perception of motion. Other examples include a 5,200-year old earthen bowl found in Iran in Shahr-i Sokhta and an ancient Egyptian mural. The Persian bowl has five images painted along the sides, showing phases of a goat leaping up to nip at a tree. The Egyptian mural, approximately 4000 years old, shows wrestlers in action.


Seven drawings by Leonardo da Vinci (ca. 1510) extending over two folios in the Windsor Collection, Anatomical Studies of the Muscles of the Neck, Shoulder, Chest, and Arm, show detailed drawings of the upper body (with a less-detailed facial image), illustrating the changes as the torso turns from profile to frontal position and the forearm extends.
Even though all these early examples may appear similar to a series of animation drawings, the lack of equipment to show the images in motion means that these image series are precursors to animation and cannot be called animation in the modern sense. They do, however, indicate the artists’ intentions and interests in depicting motion.

Victorian parlor toys

Many of the early inventions designed to animate images were meant as novelties for private amusement of children or small parties. Animation devices which fall into this category include the zoetrope, magic lantern, praxinoscope, thaumatrope, phenakistoscope, and flip book.

Zoetrope (180 AD; 1834)



The earliest elementary zoetrope was created in China around 180 AD by the inventor Ting Huan. Driven by convection Ting Huan’s device hung over a lamp. The rising air turned vanes at the top from which were hung translucent paper or mica panels. Pictures painted on the panels would appear to move if the device is spun at the right speed.

The modern zoetrope was invented in 1833 by British mathematician William George Horner. He called it the ‘Daedalum’ popularly translated as ‘the wheel of the devil’ though there is no evidence of this etymology. More likely it is a reference the to Greek myth of Daedalus. It didn’t become popular until the 1860s, when it was patented by makers in both England and America. The American developer, William F. Lincoln, named his toy the ‘zoetrope’, which means ‘wheel of life’.

Modern times

In September 1980, independent film-maker Bill Brand installed a type of linear zoetrope he called the “Masstransiscope” in an unused subway platform at Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. It consisted of a linear wall with 228 slits in the face. Behind each slit was a hand-painted panel. Riders in subways moving past the display saw a motion-picture within. After falling into a state of disrepair, the “Masstransiscope” was restored in late 2008.

Pixar created a zoetrope inspired by Ghibli’s for its 20th anniversary celebration at the Museum of Modern Art, featuring characters from Toy Story. The exhibit is currently on display at Disney’s California Adventure, sister park to Disneyland, and was (April-September 2008) shown at the Seoul Arts Center in Seoul, South Korea.

World record
In 2008 Sony built a 10 meter wide, 10 tonne zoetrope, called the BRAVIA-drome, to promote their motion interpolation technology. Sixty-four images of the Brazilian footballer Kaká were used to demonstrate that with increased frame rate (rotation rate of the zoetrope), there is increased smoothness of motion[7]. This has been declared the largest zoetrope in the world by Guinness World Records.

The magic lantern


The magic lantern is the predecessor of the modern day projector. It consisted of a translucent oil painting and a simple lamp. When put together in a darkened room, the image would appear larger on a flat surface. Athanasius Kircher spoke about this originating from China in the 16th century. Some slides for the lanterns contained parts that could be mechanically actuated to present limited movement on the screen.

The magic lantern or Lanterna Magica was the ancestor of the modern slide projector.

Thaumatrope (1824)


A thaumatrope is a toy that was popular in Victorian times. A disk or card with a picture on each side is attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to combine into a single image due to persistence of vision.
The invention of the thaumatrope is usually credited to either John Ayrton Paris or Peter Mark Roget. Paris used one to demonstrate persistence of vision to the Royal College of Physicians in London in 1824. He based his invention on ideas of the astronomer John Herschel and the geologist William Henry Fitton, and some sources attribute the actual invention to Fitton rather than Paris. Others claim that Charles Babbage was the inventor.
Examples of common thaumatrope pictures include a bare tree on one side of the disk, and its leaves on the other, or a bird on one side and a cage on the other. They often also included riddles or short poems, with one line on each side.
Thaumatropes were one of a number of simple, mechanical optical toys that used persistence of vision. They are recognised as important antecedents of cinematography and in particular of animation.
The coined name translates roughly as “wonder turner”, from Ancient Greek: “wonder” and “turn”.

Phenakistoscope (1831)

Mirror simulation

The phenakistoscope was an early animation device, the predecessor of the zoetrope. It was invented in 1831 simultaneously by the Belgian Joseph Plateau and the Austrian Simon von Stampfer.

Flip book (1868)


A flip book (sometimes, especially in British English, flick book) is a book with a series of pictures that vary gradually from one page to the next, so that when the pages are turned rapidly, the pictures appear to animate by simulating motion or some other change. Flip books are often illustrated books for children, but may also be geared towards adults and employ a series of photographs rather than drawings. Flip books are not always separate books, but may appear as an added feature in ordinary books or magazines, often in the page corners. Software packages and websites are also available that convert digital video files into custom-made flip books.


Flip books are essentially a primitive form of animation. Like motion pictures, they rely on persistence of vision to create the illusion that continuous motion is being seen rather than a series of discontinuous images being exchanged in succession. Rather than “reading” left to right, a viewer simply stares at the same location of the pictures in the flip book as the pages turn. The book must also be flipped with enough speed for the illusion to work, so the standard way to “read” a flip book is to hold the book with one hand and flip through its pages with the thumb of the other hand. The German word for flip book—Daumenkino, literally “thumb cinema”—reflects this process.
The first international flip book festival was held in 2004, by the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart. Another international flip book festival was held in Linz, Austria in 2005.
The first flip book in stereoscopic 3D was published in September 2005 in “Stereo News” ( and subsequently in “Stereoscopy” the Journal of the International Stereoscopic Union in December of 2005. (

Praxinoscope (1877)

The praxinoscope was an animation device, the successor to the zoetrope. It was invented in France in 1877 by Charles-Émile Reynaud. Like the zoetrope, it used a strip of pictures placed around the inner surface of a spinning cylinder. The praxinoscope improved on the zoetrope by replacing its narrow viewing slits with an inner circle of mirrors, placed so that the reflections of the pictures appeared more or less stationary in position as the wheel turned. Someone looking in the mirrors would therefore see a rapid succession of images producing the illusion of motion, with a brighter and less distorted picture than the zoetrope offered.
In 1889 Reynaud developed the Théâtre Optique, an improved version capable of projecting images on a screen from a longer roll of pictures. This allowed him to show hand-drawn animated cartoons to larger audiences, but it was soon eclipsed in popularity by the photographic film projector of the Lumière brothers.
A 20th century adaptation of the praxinoscope were Red Raven Magic Mirror and records. The mirror surfaced carousel sits on a spindle in the center of a record player. When the special 78 rpm picture records are played the images printed around the paper label animate. (See Unusual types of gramophone records)
The word praxinoscope translates roughly as “action viewer”, from the Greek roots – ( “action”) and scop- ( “watcher”).

The present

Traditional animation

The first animated film was created by Charles-Émile Reynaud, inventor of the praxinoscope, an animation system using loops of 12 pictures. On October 28, 1892 at Musée Grévin in Paris, France he exhibited animations consisting of loops of about 500 frames, using his Théâtre Optique system – similar in principle to a modern film projector.
The first animated work on standard picture film was Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906) by J. Stuart Blackton. It features a cartoonist drawing faces on a chalkboard, and the faces apparently coming to life.
Fantasmagorie, by the French director Émile Cohl (also called Émile Courtet), is also noteworthy. It was screened for the first time on August 17, 1908 at Théâtre du Gymnase in Paris. Émile Courtet later went to Fort Lee, New Jersey near New York City in 1912, where he worked for French studio Éclair and spread its technique in the US.
Gertie the Dinosaur is a 1914 short animated film by Winsor McCay. It was the first cartoon to feature a character that seems to think and have feelings.

Feature-length films
The first animated feature film was El Apóstol, made in 1917 by Quirino Cristiani from Argentina. He also directed two other animated feature films, including 1931’s Peludopolis, the first to use synchronized sound. None of these, however, survive to the present day. The earliest-surviving animated feature, which used colour-tinted scenes, is the silhouette-animated Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) directed by German Lotte Reiniger and French/Hungarian Berthold Bartosch. Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), often considered to be the first animated feature when in fact at least eight were previously released. However, Snow White was the first to become successful and well-known within the English-speaking world.
The first animation to use the full, three-color Technicolor method was Flowers and Trees (1932) made by Disney Studios which won an academy award for this work.
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 film’s song AIEUO no Uta was later used in Osamu Tezuka’s anime series Kimba the White Lion. Originally thought to have been destroyed during the American occupation, a negative copy survived and the film is now available in Japan on VHS

Stop motion

Stop motion is used for many animation productions using physical objects rather than images of people, as with traditional animation. An object will be photographed, moved slightly, and then photographed again. When the pictures are played back in normal speed the object will appear to move by itself.
The first example of object manipulation and stop-motion animation was the 1908 short film by Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton called The Humpty Dumpty Circus. [8] This process is used for many productions, for example, clay animations such as Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit, as well as animated movies which use poseable figures, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Sometimes even objects are used, such as with the films of Jan Å vankmajer.
Stop motion animation was also commonly used for special effects work in many live-action films, such as the 1933 version of King Kong and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

CGI animation
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) revolutionized animation. The first film done completely in CGI was Toy Story, produced by Pixar. The process of CGI animation is still very tedious and similar in that sense to traditional animation, and it still adheres to many of the same principles.
A principal difference of CGI Animation compared to traditional animation is that drawing is replaced by 3D modeling, almost like virtual version of stop-motion, though a form of animation that combines the two worlds can be considered to be computer aided animation but on 2D computer drawing (which can be considered close to traditional drawing and sometimes based on it).

The future

Animated humans
Most CGI created films are based on animal characters, monsters, machines or cartoon-like humans. Animation studios are now trying to develop ways of creating realistic-looking humans. Films that have attempted this include Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001, Final Fantasy: Advent Children in 2005, The Polar Express in 2004, Beowulf in 2007 and Resident Evil: Degeneration in 2010. However, due to the complexity of human body functions, emotions and interactions, this method of animation is rarely used. The more realistic a CG character becomes, the more difficult it is to create the nuances and details of a living person. The creation of hair and clothing that move convincingly with the animated human character is another area of difficulty.
Cel-shaded animation

Main article: Cel-shaded animation
A type of non-photorealistic rendering designed to make computer graphics appear to be hand-drawn. Cel-shading is often used to mimic the style of a comic book or cartoon. It is a somewhat recent addition to computer graphics, most commonly turning up in console video games. Though the end result of cel-shading has a very simplistic feel like that of hand-drawn animation, the process is complex. The name comes from the clear sheets of acetate, called cels, that are painted on for use in traditional 2D animation. It may be considered a “2.5D” form of animation. True real-time cel-shading was first introduced in 2000 by Sega’s Jet Set Radio for their Dreamcast console. Besides video games, a number of anime have also used this style of animation, such as Freedom Project in 2006.


History of Iranian animation
The oldest records of animation in Persia (Iran) dates back to 5000 years ago. An animated piece on an earthen goblet that belongs to 5000 years ago was found in Burnt City in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, southeastern Iran. On this ancient piece that can be called the first animation of the world, the artist has portrayed a goat that jumps toward a tree and eats its leaves.[2] Similar forms of animated pottery can also be found in medieval Persian Islamic pottery.[9] \ / as practiced in modern day began in Iran in the 1950s. Iran’s animation owes largely to the animator Noureddin Zarrinkelk. Zarrinkelk was instrumental in founding the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA) in Tehran in collaboration with the late father of Iranian graphics Morteza Momayez and other fellow artists like Farshid Mesghali, Ali Akbar Sadeghi, and Arapik Baghdasarian.[10]

History of Chinese animation
180 AD: zoetrope is invented by Ting Huan
1922: first animation in a commercial Shuzhendong Chinese Typewriter
1926: first animation to showcase technology Uproar in the Studio and acknowledge Wan Laiming and Wan Guchan as pioneers.
1935: The Camel’s Dance first chinese animation with sound.
1941: Princess Iron Fan

History of Indian Animation
Main Article: Indian animation

History of Japanese animation (Anime)

The first Japanese Animation
Found recently in Kyoto, the film depicts a boy wearing a sailor uniform performing a salute. The film dates back to around the year 1900 and is on 35mm Celluloid, composed of 50 frames put together with paste.
Pre-Tezuka experiments
Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki (1917)
Saru Kani Gattsen (1917)
Usagi to Kame (1924)
Iburigusa Monogatari (1924)
Kujira (1927)
Entotuya pero (1930)
Nansensu Monogatari/Sarugasima (1930)
Norakuro (1935)
Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1942)
Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (1945)
Mushi Productions and Toei Animation
Madame White Snake (1958)
Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy (1963), Kimba the White Lion (1965)
Isao Takahata’s Hols: Prince of the Sun (1968), helped by Hayao Miyazaki and Yoichi Kotabe

Tetsujin 28-go
8 Man
Obake no Q-taro
Sally, the Witch
Star of the Giants
Attack No. 1
Tomorrow’s Joe and the beginning of sports and martial arts anime
Rise of the Mecha and Super Robot genres and fall of Japanese film industry
Impact of Gundam and the beginning of the Real Robot genre
Candy Candy and Lady Oscar and the rise of shojo genre
Lupin III
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
Heidi, Girl of the Alps
Space Battleship Yamato
The Rose of Versailles
A Dog of Flanders

Rise of space operas with Macross (1982) and Z Gundam (1985)
Rise of Otaku subculture
Beginning of Studio Ghibli
Rise of fantasy adventures with the Hayao Miyazaki films Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky
Dragon Ball and the rise of martial arts anime
Ambitious productions such as Megazone 23 (1985) and Akira (1988) and the beginning of cyberpunk and postmodern anime
Dr. Slump
Urusei Yatsura
Fist of the North Star
The Transformers (TV series)
Glass Mask
Kaze to Ki no Uta
Grave of the Fireflies
Decline of domestic industry combined with international growth
Rise of harem anime
Dragon Ball Z and the rise of superhuman martial arts anime
Sailor Moon and the rise of magical girl anime
The impact of Neon Genesis Evangelion series and the post-Evangelion trend
The Anime Explosion in America.
Critical acclaim in North America and the rise of Moe series domestically
Anime goes from a almost-nonexistent to mainstream in the U.S. and Canada from 1995-1999.[11] Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon start the success.[12] Pokemon, and Gundam Wing add to the explosive success.[11] Later popularized anime includes Digimon Adventure, Ranma 1/2, and then Ghost in the Shell and Princess Mononoke.[11] Tenchi Muyo!, Cowboy Bebop, and Outlaw Star become successful in America just prior to the beginning of the 2000s.
Post-explosion: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragon Ball Z, and Pokemon remain extremely popular in the next decade.

Rise of digital fansubs outside of Japan, particularly among anime fans in America and the rest of the Western world
Revival of sports anime with titles such as Hajime no Ippo and Hikaru no Go
Rise of psychological horrors and psychological thrillers with titles such as Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Death Note
Rise of 3D computer graphics in anime, including anime titles by Hayao Miyazaki and Katsuhiro Otomo
Rise of cel-shading in anime such as Freedom Project
Shonen anime such as One Piece, Naruto and Bleach
Shojo anime such as Full Moon o Sagashite and Kodocha
Real Robot genre re-popularized by Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Eureka Seven, Code Geass and Mobile Suit Gundam 00
Revival of Super Robot genre and beginning of counter-Evangelion trend with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann


Animation before film in 20th century.

History of British animation
Animal Farm
Watership Down
Plague Dogs
The Dream Stone
Watership Down (Tv series)

History of Czech animation
Puppet animation, Jirí Trnka, the Poetic animation school
Catalogue of Czech animation
Czech animation homepage

History of Estonian animation

See also: Cinema of Estonia#Estonian Animation and List of Estonian animated films
1931 – The Adventures of Juku The Dog, first Estonian animated short film
1950s – founding of puppet animation division of Tallinnfilm by Elbert Tuganov
1970s – founding of drawn animation division, Joonisfilm, by Rein Raamat
Article summarizing the history

History of French animation
1908-1925, Work of Émile Cohl:
The first animated cartoon (1908), and most animation techniques: morphing (1909), puppet animation and color animated cartoon (1910), pixilation (1911), first animated series (Le chien Flambeau, 1916).

History of Italian animation
The 1970 Italian animated cartoon art and industry (La Linea (cartoon), Caliméro…)
The 1977 animated Italian classic, Allegro non troppo, is both a parody of and homage to Disney’s Fantasia. This is director Bruno Bozzetto’s most ambitious work and his only feature-length animation, although he also directed several notable shorter works including West and Soda, an animated spaghetti western. [3]

History of Russian animation
1910-1913 Ladislas Starevich creates puppet animations
1935 First animated feature film in the USSR, The New Gulliver
1935 Soyuzmultfilm Studio is created, will go on to fund many thousands of short animated films, mostly for kids
late 1930s to 1950s – enforced Socialist Realism in cartoons (with a few exceptions).
1953 Puppet animation division re-founded at Soyuzmultfilm (it was closed shortly after The New Gulliver was released)
1962 Fyodor Khitruk’s short film History of a Crime introduces new aesthetic to Soviet animation
1969 First episode of popular series Nu, Pogodi!
1972 First Cheburashka short is made
1979 Yuriy Norshteyn releases Tale of Tales, since then voted twice by a large panel of international critics as the best animated film ever made.
1989 Studio Pilot, the first private animation studio in the USSR, is founded
1990s government subsidies shrink dramatically, while the number of studios grow.
2000s some high-profile animated features are made.

History of animation in Croatia (in former Yugoslavia)

The Zagreb school, cf. Zagreb Film
The Cakovec school, cf. Å kola Animiranog Filma Cakovec

North and South America

History of Argentinian animation

World’s first two feature-length animated films and first film with sound by Quirino Cristiani[4];Quirio Cristiani’s page (Spanish)
History of Canadian animation
Early Work
Contributions of the National Film Board of Canada’s animation department
Early commercial productions
Contributions of Canadian voice actor recordings
The 1980s- rise of the major indigenous industry

History of Cuban animation
¡Vampiros en la Habana!
Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano

History of United States animation

Beginning of industrial production of animated cartoon.
Because the history of Hollywood animation as an art form has undergone many changes in its hundred-year history, Wikipedia presents four separate chapters in the development of its animation:
Animation in the United States during the silent era (1900s through 1920s)
The beginnings of theatrical, the earliest animated cartoons in the era of silent film, ranging from the works of Winsor McCay through Koko the Clown and Felix the Cat
The Bray Studios was the first and foremost cartoon studio, housed in New York City. Many aspiring cartoonists started their careers at Bray, including Paul Terry of “Mighty Mouse” fame, Max Fleischer of “Betty Boop” fame, as well as Walter Lantz of “Woody Woodpecker” fame. The cartoon studio operated from circa 1915 until 1928. Some of the first cartoon stars from the Bray studios were Farmer Alfalfa (by Paul Terry) and Bobby Bumps (by Earl Hurd).
Max and Dave Fleischer formed their own studio Fleischer Studios, and created the Koko the Clown, Out of the Inkwell, and Sound Car-Tunes series.
Golden Age of American animation (1920s through 1950s)
The dominance of Walt Disney throughout the 1930s, through revolutionary cartoons Silly Symphonies, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck.
The rise of Warner Bros. and MGM
The Fleischer Studios creation of Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons
Disney’s Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs marks the start of the “Golden Age” at Disney.
The departure from realism, and UPA
Animation in the United States in the television era (1950s through 1980s)
The emergence of TV animated series from Hanna-Barbera Productions
The decline of theatrical cartoons and feature films
Saturday morning cartoons
The attempts at reviving animated features through the 1960s
The rise of adult animation in the early 1970s
The onslaught of commercial cartoons in the 1980s
Modern animation in the United States (1980s through present)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Disney Renaissance
Steven Spielberg’s collaborations with Warner Bros.
A flood of newer, bolder animation studios
The Simpsons marks the resurgence of adult-oriented animation.
The rise of computer animation
The decline of traditional animation
The decline of Saturday morning cartoons, the rise of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network
The Anime Explosion: mainstream popularization of Japanese animation, known as anime. Toonami/Cartoon Network contributes largely to the success.
Cartoon Network’s late-night animation block Adult Swim becomes immensely popular and leads to a resurgence in short, adult animation.