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Film and Media Studies

Film and Media


Traditional History

Arriving on the scene at roughly the same time as its live-action counterparts, traditionally animated films have certainly come a long way since the early days of crude drawings and experimental narratives. Traditional animation made its debut in 1906 with Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, a short film featuring different facial expressions.

The genre allows for the illusion of animated movement due to the frame-by-frame manipulation of drawings and illustrations. Although computer technology has assisted animators in their efforts over the years, the basic means by which an animated film comes to life has essentially remained the same -- by drawing frames one by one.

The popularization of the cel-animation process in the early 1920s proved instrumental in the genre's meteoric rise to infamy, with the technique ensuring that animators no longer had to draw the same image over and over again as see-through cels containing a character or object in motion could be laid on top of a stationary background.


Stop-Motion History

Stop-motion animation is based on a simple procedure: position an object in front of your camera and then expose one frame of film. Move the object slightly and then expose a second frame. Repeat this process until the object reaches its final location. In the final product, when the frames are played in sequence, they create the illusion of movement - in the film, the object will appear to move across the screen. To create a full movie, this process is much more complicated and time-consuming, requiring tens of thousands of small, repetitive movements and scenery changes.

The very first documented stop motion animated film is credited to J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith, called The Humpty Dumpty Circus, which was released in 1898. The film is a display of the day and the life in a toy circus, where wooden toys were used to depict acrobats and moving animals. There is a lot of speculation as to when the stop-motion technique was discovered, but we at least know that the first commercial release was with this film. Blackton continued working with and developing the stop-motion technique, using a blend of live action and stop-motion in The Enchanted Drawing (1900). In 1907, Blackton made another film titled The Haunted Hotel, which became a huge hit. It showed moving furniture and demonstrated the basic technique of object animation.

There were many more productions by pioneers of film around this time that demonstrated stop motion as a film making technique, but we can credit one of the world's greatest pioneers of animation, who was stop motion's first real rock star as well, Wladyslaw Starewicz. Starewicz produced many films, but one of his first note worthy films is his narrative short film titled Lucanus Cervus (1910), which used insects as puppets. He went on to create many magical worlds filled with stop motion puppets and is credited with directing many big animated films throughout stop motion history. If interested it is suggested that the reader of this article look into watching the films The Tale of The Fox, along with The Mascot, which are both considered classic works by Starewicz.