Like everything else Animation has its own history, starting with 28,000 BC cave paintings, where artists used techniques which created the illusion of movement in their images of animals which were used to communicate experiences of pre-historic hunting expeditions. Since then various forms of art have been implied over centuries to graphically communicate and record events. Animation has since then jumped leaps and bounds around the turn of the 19th Century. Now it is not only used to communicate an idea or message but has had an ever increasing use in the Media & Entertainment Industry (and naturally being termed as Entertainment Arts).
For us animation (Classical Animation) really starts in 1908 with Emile Cohl’s ‘Fantasmagorie’ in France. The Animation timeline starts to progress since then using a simple camera trick to full blown character animation for ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’. The development of ‘Celluloid’ around 1913 made animation easier to manage and came to called as ‘Cell-Animation’. Instead of numerous drawings, artists could now make a background and add characters to it, where only the characters moved giving an illusion of depth. During the 1930’s, short animated films were a popular form of entertainment. It was rather a much needed diversion during the socio economic times. It was then that saw the dawn of the most influential studio, ‘The Walt Disney Studio’, with Mickey Mouse in ‘Steamboat Willie’. It was the first time the world witnessed sound being added to the cartoon (animation). These techniques, in 1937, evolved into the full length animated feature by Walt Disney Studio, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, which had unique characters with real voices, thoughts, emotions and a wonderful story to back it up. The Entertainment Arts (Animation) industry was now on a growth path faster than ever, with new techniques and technology being developed actively. We see that in “Pinocchio” in 1940, where even till date true animators feel that the intricate levels of technical brilliance used in this animated film were too great for its time.
The ‘2D’ era of animation (2D Animation) brought a further change and enhancement in the experience of the audiences. In the 60’s, we saw the unforgettable and super entertaining (till date) release of two of the most popular characters in the animated cartoon world – “Tom and Jerry”. In the 70’s, animation in the entertainment industry were taken to newer heights, with the advent of ‘Scooby-Doo’ and ‘The Flinstones’. The 80’s saw the birth of the original cartoon of ‘Transformers G1’. Today ‘The Transformer Series’ has come to be one of the highest grossing movies in the world.
Computer Animation – A New Era
The 80’s also introduced true ‘Computer Animation’ with ‘Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan’, where computers came in to play with techniques to generate the ‘Genesis Effect’ scene. In the 1990’s, we entered the wonderful world of Digital Computer Graphics (CG). The improvement in graphic design and visual effects amplified the level of detailing to newer heights. In 1991, Computer Animation along with advanced tools and techniques saw the release of ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’, which employed special effects that were unseen before and way ahead of its time. A few more of the exceptional works done in Computer Graphics were ‘The Jurassic Park’ (1993), ‘Casper’ (1995) [which became the first film with the lead character to interact with live actors] and ‘The Matrix’ (1999). The Entertainment Arts timeline continues in the new millennium with a long list of blockbusters using CG.
3D Animation & Special Effects
In the past ten years we have seen the technology utilized in computer animation following the trend of Moore’s Law (though this law applies to digital hardware). With the growth of technology and skilled human resources we saw the past decade deliver movies like ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘King Kong’, ‘2012 – The Movie’, ‘Inception’ and the recent Oscar-Winning ‘Life of Pi’. Today animation films have Graphics Design, Character Design, Computer Aided Animations, Visual Effects, etc. incorporated in the final output. This brings us to the phenomenal work done by James Cameron, which created an entirely new dimension to computer animation. It is worthy to note here that, development of ‘Avatar’ began in 1994, when Cameron wrote an 80-page treatment for the film. Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ blockbuster in 1997, with a planned release in 1999. But according to Cameron, the necessary technology was not yet available to achieve his vision of the film. In 2009, we finally saw the Oscar-Winning ‘Avatar’ with exceptional ‘Special Effects’ and ‘3D Computer Animations’.
The Ending is Just the Beginning!!!
Animation allows one to portray scenarios that would be impossible to film or even explain, the journey which began from 28,000 BC till date shows us how Animation is truly the only effective way of getting across an idea by means of showing people a concept in a clear and comprehensible way. We live in this digital age where people want animated and entertaining videos on a constant basis. With the accessibility to world-class education (from academies like Vancouver Film School, New York Film Academy & iPixio Animation College) and the advent of state-of-the-art technology, Computer Animation is becoming an even bigger part of our life.