The history of animation

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If it’s good enough for cavemen, it’s good enough for Gen Z!

Humans have felt the need to show things in motion since the dawn of time. Part of how we understand our surroundings is through movement; from where things are to how one thing relates to another. In this article we want to look back at how and why animation came to be so we can understand the power of it in the modern world.

Let’s rewind several thousand years.

Bronze age man captured leaping goats on their pottery, clearly showing they understood the importance of motion. It also demonstrates the value of captured movement in art and for communication; we don’t know about you but we’re not decorating things we use every day with ugly or pointless imagery!

The original stop motion.

From the 1600s to the late 1800s people were fascinated by things which appeared to move. From the magic lantern, which projected still images which could seem as if they were moving, to the zoetrope and praxinoscope which spun still images to create the illusion of movement, humans were invested in animation and the fun that could be had with it.


Moving to the big screen.

The early 1900s saw stop motion animation become a popular pastime as cartoons and silent films began showing at theatres. Betty Boop and Felix the Cat were born and developed a following. The silent era was defined by its humour as we used this incredible new invention to connect to each other through laughter. 

Humour remains popular in animation today as a way to draw people in and get a message across. We all love to laugh and our brains absorb information much more easily when we’re happy, that’s why marketing that makes people feel rather than think is so powerful.

Sound and colour and feature films, oh my!

In 1923 Walt Disney introduced the world to Mickey Mouse in what was billed as a “sound cartoon.” It was the first cartoon which had sound printed on the film and changed the face of animation for good. The focus remains on humour 

As the 1930s dawned, colour crept onto the screen as studios like Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, MGM, and Fleischer competed for audiences and new discoveries in animation. Bugs Bunny and co began making regular appearances in the Merrie Melodies series and in 1937 Disney released Snow White, the first hand drawn animated feature film.

From big screen, to small screen, and back again.

From the 1960s onwards, animation became normal programming on televisions as a variety of cartoons that we still know today drew in fans of all ages. Meanwhile the big screen continued to see improvements in animation style and execution, culminating in 1964 with an Academy Award win for The PinkPhink (of the Pink Panther series) and the release of the first x-rated animated feature film, Fritz the Cat!

Rule 44, that’s all we’re saying!

Feelings sell more than facts ever could.

Through every era we can see that humour is part of the power of animation. It allows us to connect with each other and with ideas quickly and easily making combining animation with emotion a powerful way to increase reach and sales.

Early cartoons were just a few minutes long too proving that size isn’t everything! To work with an award winning animation team on your next ad campaign, get in touch.