For those who recall watching cartoons and animated movies as a kid, most are probably unaware of the rich history embedded in their favorite shows. This is why in 2002 the International Film Association introduced International Animation Day as an unofficial holiday to commemorate the first public performance of Charles-Émile Reynaud’s Théȃtre Optique at the Grevin Museum in Paris in 1892 as well as acknowledge past and current creators and their passion to bring still images to life.
Raynaud’s device used a painted ribbon on a wound up spool to project its images onto the screen. During the show, Reynaud presented 3 cartoons, each one 15 minutes long, together made up of 600 individually drawn images. It was the first display of projected moving images at the time. However, in 1895, Reynaud’s invention lost its popularity as the Lumière brothers’ Cinematograph provided sharper images, better illumination, and no projections as it was a motion picture camera.
However, his invention inspired producers from around the world to explore other forms of animation as well-stop motion, puppet, and hand drawn animation included. By this point in history, the industrialization of Europe and North America had created a mass effect on the production and availability of this art form. By the early 20th century, its popularity had grown in the United States and France. Fantasmagorie, produced in 1908, was said to be the first hand drawn animated cartoon. It wasn’t until the early 1920’s when the world was introduced to household names such as Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat. The shorts had become so successful that it lead animation companies like Warner Brothers, Disney, MGM, and Fleisher into the “Golden Age” of animation. Some of their works at the time included Merrie Melodies (1930) and Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, the first animated feature film using hand-drawn animation.
Flash forward to 2016, at a time when film has exceedingly increased in popularity, it is not uncommon to see an animated film have the highest box office ratings of the whole year–Finding Dory topped in at an estimated 482 million dollars along with the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, Frozen. Yeah, no big deal.
Overall, we have this day to celebrate and look back at the origins of animation in film, it’s impressive advancements in technology, and mostly its continuous efforts to win the hearts of people around the world-young and old.