Animation and Cartoons
Thomas Edison was one of the early inventors of the motion picture process. Originally created to help sell his phonograph with sounds and images of famous singers and stage performers doing their thing – years before MTV was around!
Edison commissioned some clear photographic film from the George Eastman company and had Eastman make perforations along the edge of the film so that he could “step” the film through the camera to created small, regular photographs at a given spacing. We call these “frames” and Edison made a camera to make a rapid succession of still images of people in motion. The first film we know of made by Edison was called “The Kiss” which was made around 1894.
Edison also commissioned some of the first animated drawings, which were called “enchanted drawings” and were made around 1900.
Around 1906 the Vitagraph Company (the early Warner Brothers company) put out a series of animated “cartoon” like films known as the “Humorous Phases of Funny Face.”
The first fully animated cartoon, however was probably “Gertie the Dinosaur” made by newspaper cartoonist Winsor McCay. This was part live action and part drawing animation. McCay and a friend of his, George McManus, are seen in live action. McCay tells McManus he can make a drawing of Gertie come to life and do whatever he asked of her! We then see the animated drawings of Gertie who, like any good pet, performs on command from master McCay.
Gertie was drawn fully on paper and animated frame by frame. Thousands and thousands of drawings were required to make this film work.
Many other newspaper cartoonists started making animated versions of their offerings in the “Sunday Times” with names like the KATZENJAMMER KIDS made by Gregory La Cava at the Bray Studios. John Randolph Bray was, himself, a long standing newspaper cartoonist who employed a lot of people to make his animated cartoons.
Realizing the complexity of such an undertaking cartoonists set out to find a better way of doing this and within a few years the concept of “cel” animation was created. With this event around 1915 the era of modern animation cartoons began and endured for almost 75 years...