Movie Magic

Animation is the art of making inanimate objects appear as though they are moving. It is something that we are all likely familiar with, particularly with such huge animated production companies such as Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks. But behind these big corporate companies, are hundreds of talented artists working to bring these animations to life… Have you ever wondered how these animations are created?

The concept of an animated caricature pre-dates the invention of the cinema by a good half a century. Some of the first experiments of animation was artistic material, created for magic-lantern shows (these shows consisted of projected hand-drawn images accompanied by live narration and live music), which were extremely popular forms of entertainment during the 1800s. These creations would then initiate the discovery of a principle called the persistence of vision, which demonstrated that when scene by scene drawings were shown in fast succession the human eye would observe them as an uninterrupted motion. Thus began the animated journey.

The first official animation device was invented in 1832 by a Belgian man named Joseph Plateau. The device was named a phenakistoscope, and consisted of two cardboard disks, the first disk with slots around the edge and the second with images of consecutive action drawn around the disc in concentric circles. Shortly after, in 1834, William George Horner invented the zoetrope, a rotating cylinder which was lined with a band of sequential hand-drawn images and in 1876 a Frenchman called Émile Reynaud adapted this gadget into a form that could be projected for a larger, viewing audience. Arguably, one of the first cinematic experiences.

Following this, with the invention of the sprocket-driven film stock, animation was ready for a great leap in development. During the late 1800s and the early 1900s, animated film reels took the entertainment industry by storm, but it wasn’t until 1928 when the notorious Walt Disney took to the animation scene. After creating his first legendary character Mickey Mouse, Disney revolutionised cartoon creations by adding synchronised sound, offering another dimension to animation and bringing these hand drawn images to life before our very eyes.

For Disney, a defining move towards world-wide success was, of course, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Many of us know and love this Disney classic, but the work behind this movie is truly astonishing. This film required 24 frames per second, with each frame being meticulously hand-drawn. Thus the production consisted of around 750 professional artists, that collectively hand-drew and painted over 2 million individual images, with the final film consisting of 250,000 sequential, individually drawn artworks to bring this iconic story to life. Following this, classics such as Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942) and Cinderella (1950) were released, each movie taking millions of hand-drawn artworks by hundreds of artists and making them into a compelling feature film.

Even towards the late 1900s when technological advancements meant that animation was moving more towards digitalisation and CGI, animation was still collaborating talented artists to create scenes frame by frame. For example, Aladdin (1992) was Disney’s second animated feature-film to utilise 3D-CGI-moving and textured backgrounds, which was combined with traditionally animated characters. And who doesn’t have a nostalgic love for Aladdin’s iconic song ‘A Friend Like me’? In this song alone, around 10,000 hand-drawn images were created to produce the flawless, sequential movements of the magical genie.  

Over a century after its birth, animation continues to evolve and is becoming more and more digitalised, however even today, whilst most animated movies are now computer generated, a lot of the visual development is still done with old fashioned hand-drawn concept art. So, whether you enjoyed animated movies as a child or if you still enjoy them as a grown adult, you cannot deny that these movies are more than just entertainment... They are true artistic mastery. What is your favourite animated movie?

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