History of Animation: American

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Today a lovely woman called Helen Haswell, who is a final year PhD candidate in Film Studies at Queens University, came in to talk to us about the history of animation in America, Disney and Pixar to be specific. She wanted to show us how Disney is different from Pixar, looking at Disney first. Helen first showed us a breakdown of where Disney is mainly getting their profit from;

  • TV Channels 45%
  • Park and resorts 31%
  • Studio Entertainment 13%
  • Consumer Products 8%
  • Interactive 3%

Walt Disney Animation Studios are considered to be the pioneer of 2D Animation. Their first animation was Alice’s Wonderland which was released in 1923. It features live characters with an animated background, it was also inspired by silent films as the characters did not speak but went along with music.

Sadly this animated film bankrupted him so he went back to his brother and worked with a producer to create the Alice Comedies Series between 1924-1927 and then came Oswald the lucky rabbit in 1927. Another important step for Walt Disney was Steamboat Willie in 1928 as this was the first animation to feature their mascot Mickey Mouse, as well as Minnie Mouse. Steamboat Willie was the first animated film to have synchronised sound to animation (although Helen Haswell mentioned that this could be argued but considered by many as the first) Steamboat Willies used a lot of exaggerated movements, making it very humorous, the animators also brought inanimate object to life by giving them character through movements which also went along with the music.

Then came Disney’s highest grossing film, Snow White, which was first being worked on in 1934 using the 2D cell animation process and then released in 1937. This was the start to their many traditional fairy tale animated films and the beginning of the Classic Era or also known as Early Period.

  • Snow White (1937)
  • Pinocchio (1940)
  • Fantasia (1940
  • Dumbo (1941)
  • Bambi (1942)
  • Saludos Amigos (1943)
  • The Three Caballeros (1944)
  • Make Mine Music (1946)
  • Fun And Fancy Free (1947)

Then came the Renaissance Era 1989-1999, which had aesthetic and industrial growth, and the introduction of the use of digital technology using CGI (computer generated imagery) Using this within the background of Beauty and the Beast in the dancing scene.

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  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
  • Beauty And The Beast (1991)
  • Aladdin (1992)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • Pocahontas (1995)
  • The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1996)
  • Hercules (1997)
  • Mulan (1998)
  • Tarzan (1999)

Then came the Neo Disney Period which was in 1999 to 2004, which was very artistic and experimental for Disney but they did not do well with their animated films within this period. Although I really loved The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo and Stitch from this period.


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  • Fantasia 2000 (1999)
  • The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  • Lilo And Stitch (2002)
  • Treasure Planet (2002)
  • Brother Bear (2003)
  • Home On The Range (2004)

Next was the Digital Disney Period from 2005 to 2007 which was just bad, it did not do well, I feel they jumped into digital CGI because every other animation company started to do it and it did not create the best result for them.

  • Chicken Little (2005)
  • Meet The Robinsons (2007)

Post Pixar Disney is 2008 to now which has all been thumbs up in my books, I especially love The Princess and The Frog (2009) as they went back to their old 2D routes and created a great animated film where the girl is a business driven woman which is different from the other protagonists.

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Pixar is considered to be pioneers of CGI, bringing together art and technology. Their first animated film was Tin Toy released in 1988, which I have to say was kind of horrifying, the baby looked scary and wrinkly! Pixar has come a long way from then! They then moved on to more Research and Development in 1998 to 2006 and came out with Presto which was very funny and charming.

Pixar is still pushing the boundaries with their animation since 2010 and have came out with some amazing animations, including their short La Luna, which I referenced in another post about light.


The History of Animation: Chinese and Japanese

YuanYuan Chen taught us the history of animation in Asia, starting with Chinese animation. She talked about the Chinese school of animation, which is a group of painters, writers or poets, basically a group of creative people, and how the early days of Chinese animation it is mainly artistic animation due to the fact that the government pays for the making of them  because of how it is cultural, so they did not have to worry about the amount that will be sold.

I found when looking at Chinese animators, such as Wan Laining, they use a very classic Chinese style, incorporating Peking Opera which is traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. This really shows though as a lot of the characters movements are not realistic, they move like they are performing.

Here is Wan Lainings animation called Havoc in Heaven

We also looked at Japanese animators where we looked into the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, whom founded Studio Ghibli together. I found that their animations had a more western feel to them but also incorporated their spiritual background, their most famous working being Spirited away showed this.

They also weren’t afraid to show death, violence and blood, as well as mainly focusing on emotion, unlike the likes of Walt Disney. Miyazaki and Takahata see it as sad and beautiful, which is why they get so much more recognition because of the emotion and relatability that the implement into their animation.

The history of animation in Canada

Today we learned about the animation within Canada, which I found really interesting as I have always wanted to live in Canada myself, but this was a really great insight into the history of animation within Canada and really opened my eyes.

One of the animators that really stuck out for me was Ryan Larkin who is a Canadian animator who produced some of the most influential animated films of his time, I just love his animation style and his history.

This animated short documentary on Ryan Larkin, directed by Chris Landreth. Chris Ryan is living every artist’s worst nightmare – succumbing to addiction, panhandling on the streets to make ends meet. Chris Landreth portrays the whole interview with Ryan, on his downward spiral, through 3D animated characters which are brilliantly styled to show their troubles.

History of Animation

Today we had out first history of animation class which I was excited about because I want to know more about the history of animation and how it came to be, as well as the different styles. Our tutor, Yuan, introduced us to the subject and said that we would have to do a 2000 – 2500 word essay that is relevant to animation which I am okay with as I have done countless of essays, having been in a Business Studies and ICT course which you practically have to write a book for. It’ll just be finding a topic that I am interested in and getting into the swing of writing essays again but all in all I’m hopeful that I’ll do well. Yuan then gave us a presentation on Abstract Animation in Europe which was really intriguing, we learnt about various abstract animator including, Walter Ruttman, Viking Eggeling, Hans Ritcher, Oscar Fischinger and Len Lye, I especially liked learning about Oscar Fischinger and Len Lye.

For the essay I was thinking along the lines of something to do with Studio Ghibli but then again I feel its been done too many times, then I was thinking of Wolf Children or 5 Centimetres Per Second both by Mamoru Hosoda, but then I also really like the art style in 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp, which had beautifully painted backgrounds that I absolutely love. I feel more lenient to 101 Dalmatians because of the artistic style that they used within it, it embraces modernism and a gutsy graphic style never attempted before, even though they only did it because of their low budget from Sleeping Beauty not doing as well as they hoped.