The History of 2d Animation

2D Animation is the process of making hundreds of drawings and then having them animate by playing them in rapid succession.


The thaumatrope housed a rotating mechanism with a different picture on each side. 

When rotated, you saw a combined picture (known as persistence of vision).

William Horner 1834

William Horner was a British mathematician and pioneer who created the Zoetrope. A Zoetrope is another animation device which is very similar to the phenakistoscope. He originally named it the "Deadalum" (wheel of the devil). The daedalum was an optical device that could create the illusion of movement. It worked by using a spinning drum mounted on a spindle with a series of frames attached to the inside. The drum had slits on the outside that the viewer could peer through. As the drum span, the viewer would peer through the slits and see the frames moving rapidly, which would create the illusion of animation. 

 Thomas Edison 1892

Thomas Edison was an American inventor and also the inventor of the kinetoscope, one of the first motion-picture devices ever invented. 

The kinetoscope was a large, bulky device that created the illusion of animation by continuously moving an endless loop of film over a light source with a rapid shutter. The user would have to look inside using a peephole, which meant that only one person at a time could use this device.

The Lumière brothers 1895
After viewing a demonstration of Thomas Edison's kinetoscope, Antoine Lumière presented his son with a piece of Kinetoscope film. Seeing the potential to revolutionize motion picture, his sons began working on their own motion picture device. They combined the idea of a camera, a projector and a printer to create what they would call the "Cinématographe". 

The Cinématographe was a much lighter, hand-held device which was hand-cranked. by the user. This idea of using a projector meant that the films could be seen by multiple people at the same time, rather than just one. They soon began to open theatres to show their films, which then became known as "cinemas".

Emile Cohl 1908
Walt Disney is often accredited with producing the first ever 2d animation. Although Disney himself did create one of the earliest and most popular 2d animations in history, it was in fact Emile Cohl who created the first 2d animation, known as "Fantasmagorie". 

"Fantasmagorie" was a 2d animation that was created in 1908 by using thousands of black and white drawings of a stick figure. The animation was a mere 70 seconds long, taking an estimation of seven-hundred comprised images at 24 frames-per-second to achieve the end product. 

Fantasmagorie is a 1908 French animated film by Émile Cohl. It is one of the earliest examples of traditional (hand-drawn) animation, and considered by film historians to be the first animated cartoon.

 Walt Disney 1928

Walt Disney created one of the first ever widely-distributed 2d animations in 1928. Known as "Steamboat Willie", this was a short animation that was drawn completely in black and white. In addition to the animation, "Steamboat Willie" also featured its own synchronised soundtrack, which had been added in post-production. This was also the first introduction of the character "Mickey Mouse", who would go on to become one of the most widely-recognised cartoon characters in human history.

Disney, Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barbera 1930s-1970s
During the 1930s and 1970s, more companies started to expand on creating 2d animations. The three most notable during this time period were Walt Disney, Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barbera. After the introduction of colour television, these were now starting to be broadcast exlusively in colour.

Walt Disney created countless feature-length films during this time period, along with more unique characters such as Donald Duck and Goofy.

Warner Brothers created Looney Tunes, which was accompanied by their own unique characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig). Looney Tunes was a series of cartoons made specially for television.

Hanna-Barbera also started producing cartoons specially for television and are considered to have "dominated" American animated television for over three decades. Shows such as The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Smurfs, Scooby Doo and Jonny Quest. In addition to televised cartoons, they also produced several feature-length theatrical and television films, specials and commercials.

Present Day
Nowadays the vast majority of 2d animations are produced by computer-generated imagery (otherwise known as CGI). Good examples of this are in shows such as South Park, Family Guy or The Simpsons.

CGI saves both time and money due to the simplicity and ease-of-use. Character models can be duplicated and changed rather than having to be redrawn constantly, for example. This method allows animations to be made within as short as a few days, depending on the length and quality of the animation.

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