Innovation in Animation
In the early 1900 s, people from across the globe migrated toward a common land,that land being the newly established United States of America. The U.S. offered these immigrants freedom and a chance at success that was unthinkable anywhere else. Everyone who entered America was on the same boat, and each had their own contributions to make toward bettering the country. The sudden explosion of residents however, left America lacking certain necessities to hold on to the loyalty of these people. These foreigners required jobs, better living conditions, and maybe most importantly,entertainment. The solutions to these quandaries came in the forms of large industries,
skyscrapers, and movies. America was growing in industry but a country that does nothing other than work cannot stand for very long. Necessity is the mother of invention and the United State needed entertainment. Early animators managed to get the attention other performers lost because they not only used technology, but a way of creating life in things that weren t alive. Had not animation come into the picture when it did, visual arts today would not have come so incredibly far as they have. Today, animation can be made to look so realistic, it can actually take the place on an actor in a film. In addition, without the cartoons that were made in the past 60 years, millions of people would not have an escape from the toil and hardships of everyday life. This was done through humor and the misfortunes of characters it was all right to laugh at, as such was the case with characters only in animation, like Mickey mouse or Popeye. Animation aided in America s growth by opening gates to creativity and relating to people and the issues the faced.
As early as the late 1920 s, people were already looking into a new medium we now know to be animation. One such entrepreneur was Winsor McCay, a cartoon strip columnist from two New York newspapers (Kanfer 19). McCay, often referred to as the father of animation merely evolved an idea that had been around for hundreds of years. Working on the first ever cartoon was actually done on a bet between McCay and some of his friends, and the idea to use several different pictures to create a fluid motion on film came from a toy of his sons, a flipbook (Kanfer 24). These toys had been in circulation for a number of years before anyone ever thought of putting them to film, and McCay was the first to do so. Creating a number of characters based on those from his comic strip, Little Nemo, McCay began work on his project without any information on how to do so other than basic camera operations. Upon releasing this cartoon, people were instantly awe struck as they had never seen feat in the arts so technically genius before. The only thing Winsor could do was make more cartoons for the enjoyment of others and himself. McCay decided his next work would be of a monster of long ago, and finally decided upon Gertie the Dinosaur. This latest production proved to be a striking film with both live
action and animation intermixed. This technique only gave more praise to animation and it s splendor, and before anyone could put a word in edgewise, animation studios began to spring up out of the woodwork to gain an upper hand in this new business. Most of those interested in this medium were young men with a desire to reach a level that hadn t been reached by those before them. The silent era came abound without anyone know and crept into the heart of Americans in the forms of Felix the Cat and Betty Boop, two awkward,comically drawn characters that took peoples minds off times of hardship and onto better
things. Felix s creator was Otto Messmer, a genius of his time. Using gags that would appeal to audiences of all ages, Messmer, caught America by storm and introduced it to animation and other cartoon related topics( Kanfer 38). Messmer used very un-feline like characteristics for his cat in order to make him better relate with the audiences. Upon doing this, Messmer played funny and sometimes harsh tricks on Felix in order to make the audiences forget about their worries, and feel okay laughing at someone else s. Along with Felix and his Charlie Chaplain like adventures, other characters were eventually introduced into the animation scene during the silent era, however, none ever gained so much popularity as Felix. Felix s personality also added in his portrayal of people of that time as he questioned things, but displayed himself as being sure footed. Obviously,animation wasn t very far in terms of technology or originality, however, the innovation itself is what led to the things to come.
Despite the recent birth of animation and it s ability to appeal to both young and old, people grew weary of the same sort of cartoon recreated in theaters and desired something that would be more refreshing. For this reason, animators struggled to find ways to liven up their cartoons, a sure fire way of doing so was by adding music to the cartoons. Prior to this time, cartoons were shown with the accompaniment of a live pianist to offer something other than a visual pleasure, but this wasn t doing enough for audiences. This was all changed however by an unpopular and unheard of animator by the name of Walt Disney who was credited with creating the first cartoon that had sound (Bohl 16). This wasn t a whole truth however, as two artists had created animated films with sound before Disney, but his attempt proved to be much more successful than the others, giving this Golden Age in animation a temporary name of The Disney Era . The first film with sound created by Disney and his co-workers was Steamboat Willie, a comical portrayal of Disney s own Mickey Mouse who, at the time, resembled more of a rat then anything. Disney soon learned not to make a mean or ill tempered character as it would never be as greatly appreciated as a fun loving, easy going one. Along with new ideas in making animation better to view, the tail end of the industrial revolution made it easier for animators to make the cartoons, one such idea being the assembly line which came from Henry Ford as well as using cels for animation, rather then whole scenes drawn for every shot. Due to the speed at which animation and it s technologies progressed it was only a matter of time before a studio made a cartoon with color as well as sound, the perfect place to do so was Walt Disney Studios. In 1932, only four years after sound was added to cartoons, Disney jumped yet another hurdle by adding color to his film, Flowers and Trees, which consequently earned Walt Disney an academy award (Bohl 16). Color
began to show up everywhere in cartoons as other studios wanted to keep up with their largest competitor, Disney, however no other studio could capture the spirit of life as well as the beautiful artwork first used by Walt Disney. It seemed like this new field would soon become monopolized by Disney, as other men had done to many different industries in the past, due to his wonderful insight and desire to do better than his previous film. It was practically hopeless for someone to begin a studio at this time and expect to remain long enough to make themselves a name, but there was still a chance to make a living in the one place Disney did not wish to have part of, the animated short film. Prior to 1946,Disney excelled in this territory as well, but in order to make the dreams of Walt Disney more alive then ever, the studio focused its attention on feature films, or full length animated stories, their first success being Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1937 (Bohl 16). As Disney ignored the comical animated shorts for nearly twenty years, other studios managed to make their way to the top of this field as well, but the one place that seemed to hold the reigns of this area in animation was Warner Brothers Studios.
Warner Brothers career began during the same time as world war II and therefore always had some way to promote something or make a gag out of something that would almost always reach everyone who viewed it. If the studio needed political or financial support, it was customary to make a war promoting cartoon to sell it s viewers on the idea it portrayed. Another way of gaining publicity was to make cartoons that would relate to the people who saw the cartoons, those who did not want to leave home and fight. One such cartoon was that of a short man for the drafting agency coming to draft Daffy Duck into the war, but Daffy did everything possible to avoid his fate of leaving for the war.
This almost anti-war cartoon received much criticism by those who use to support such studios as Warner, however, was openly accepted by the general public. These same cartoons were much like those that ran into heavy rotation on television in what was know as the Golden Age of Television Animation. Much like before, Warner was a pioneer in this field and had little competition as Disney remained almost completely in the full length animated movie scene. Animation suffered a blow however during the late sixties all the way until the late seventies, bringing a halt to all studios who couldn t afford not having an
audience. Today however, animation and cartoons have grown to a completely new level, using technology and creativity together to make realistic and meaningful films that let the viewer escape the world they live in, but unlike the past, helps them also to learn from the mistakes of the main character, giving the patron a small lesson in morals as well. Animation has also proven to be very useful in computer sciences as well by giving it a visual efficiency that is much more useful than if it were without.
Animation today still uses the basic rules and regulations of the past by lying to the eyes and telling them there is movement in still things, but has also managed to find a way to better mankind while it entertains and informs as well. Animation is also partially responsible for working as a vent for creativity in children by giving them a blue print of something to draw or something to try that s new and will help them learn more about life and the arts. Without animation, the arts would still be here and popular as well, however, this relatively new medium has merely given us another way to express ourselves and relate to one another in an artistic way. Animation has merely helped to create a country that is always searching for a way to create more, and has given it a way to see itself and laugh because everyone has their faults but at least we aren t punished with falling anvils.