History & Future of Animation

History & Future of Animation spans from the early 1800s to right now!

Animation history stretches back to the early 1920s

What comes to mind when someone refers to classic animation or cartoons? Most would consider the famous cartoons of the past generations or those from the 1940s to the 1980s. Simultaneously, these eras did utilize the traditional animation format, which was standard up into the 1990s. The format has existed since the 1920s. The animation itself has been produced for centuries in a variety of ways.

From lantern projections to ink and paint on plastic, animation has evolved as a medium with which humanity can achieve the impossible in a world created by hand. While several forms of animation exist outside of hand-drawn imagery, the cartoons of television and theater carry the most vital relationship with the term “animated.” How is the movement in an animation created? What is used to make cartoons? How old is animated media? To answer these questions, one must understand cartoon production and animation history from the very beginning.

Moving Figures

While the concept of moving figures has been around as long as the ability to depict them, it was not until the 19th century that we had more practical means of creating the illusion of movement, from simple devices for simulating art in motion to cartoons on film. The animation was fast-growing and ever-evolving. In Cartoon Animation History, starting from the early 1800s, the first milestone in modern animation came about in 1824, a toy known as the Thaumatrope.

Essentially two separate images which, when spun on strings, appeared to be one solid image. This discovery provided a basic understanding of how our brains can process and hold an image as it quickly appears and is then replaced by another. Multiple images in sequence at high speeds can create the illusion of movement so long as each image is slightly different than the last. With this knowledge, the first actual animation device was conceived, the Phenakistoscope. This device utilized a slotted disc with images along the perimeter.

What’s a Zoetrope?

As the disc spins, it is viewed through a lens, and the passing images create the animation. In 1834 the Zoetrope was conceptualized, and from 1860 onward, it was referred to as such. The Zoetrope was a cylinder with a strip of images around the inner circumference, which, when viewed through slits in the sides while the tube is spinning, created an animated sequence. Flipbooks, which are still popular today (and easily replicated with a pad of sticky notes), was patented in 1868 as the Kineograph. Due to their simplicity, they were easily replicated, enabling them to reach an audience. Kineo Graphs are a collection of pages with images on each page, and as the pages are flipped through by hand, the animation is created.


In 1894 the Mutoscope was created, a variation on the Kineograph on a larger scale. The last significant development of pre-film era animation was the Praxinoscope. It was created by a French science teacher in 1877 and perfected in 1888. In 1892 its first animation was revealed to the public and was the first animated format projected on the screen.

The Praxinoscope presented Pauvre Pierrot, one of the first animations to use perforated film. Interestingly the frames for the animation were not photographed but rather drawn directly onto the transparent film. By 1900 the animation was so popular its screenings had an attendance of up to 500,000 patrons. From 1900 the traditional animation format began development, leading to classic cel animation, which would remain popular up into the 1990s.

The Enchanted Drawing was the first recorded use of animation on the standard film format in 1900. However, the first fully animated feature would not exist until 1906. Humorous Phases of Funny Faces was this feature and was proceeded by Fantasmagorie, which was the first animation made using what is now referred to as traditional animation. Unlike many conventional cartoons, this one was recorded onto film negatives, created chalk on blackboard aesthetic.


The 1910s marked the creation of productions drawn by studio teams and the patent for cel animation. In 1914 Gertie the Dinosaur was produced solo by Winsor McCay for Vaudeville and contained 10,000 frames of offhand drawn animation. At the end of the film, McCay would walk behind the screen and appear on the screen in animated form, making it the first example of live-action to animation interaction. 1914 also marked the Cel Animation technique patent and the assembly line creation method for quick studio production. With Cel Animation, the first animated series, Colonel Heeza Liar, was created. In 1915 rotoscoping was created, which used film as a reference point for creating animations.

Felix the Cat

1920 marked the debut of Felix the Cat, whose character gained enough popularity to become the first merchandised cartoon. Skipping forward in time to 1928, the world was introduced to the Disney studio’s first successful contribution to the world of comics, Steamboat Willie. The short also marked the first appearance of total sound production in cartoons, made possible by transferring the proper format to the film. Later in 1932, Disney would produce the first cartoon in Technicolor, which earned it an academy award, and set a new industry standard.


Moving ahead to 1933, the world was introduced to the Warner Brothers studio, which would produce a variety of cartoons with distinct styles.

Disney had also brought another benchmark to the industry by creating a dedicated story department to develop relatable characters for cartoons. By 1934 Warner Brothers made the transition to Technicolor. In 1937 Disney created the highly popular and first entirely hand-drawn animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Moving along to 1958, Hanna-Barbera produced the first half-hour length fully animated television special. Finally, in 1960 the world was introduced to The Flintstones, the first cartoon series to air on primetime television.

With a brief understanding of traditional animation history, it becomes clear that not only was animated media a form of entertainment, but it was also a phenomenon that attracted the attention of visionary individuals. Over time the contributions to the world of animation by talented and inventive individuals accumulated to produce a form of media unlike any other. It continues to grow to this day. Unfortunately, with the progression from traditional cartoons to digital animation, the use and understanding of classic techniques are fading.

To better appreciate the modern cartoon, it is essential to understand the effort and resources to make the classic cartoons. Developed in 1914 even and used as recently as the 1990s, Cel Animation was the standard in animation studios for decades leading up to the digital age. The process was tedious and time-consuming, requiring teams of animators to work assembly-line style to quickly and efficiently produce quality shorts and feature films.

Introduction of Computer Graphics

Computer graphics first began in 1952 with the “Whirlwind” computer used to help calculate missile trajectory. This led the way to the first digital “cartoon,” a 30-second clip of a car traveling down a road, broadcast on National Television in 1961 called Rendering of a planned highway. In 1963, a sketchpad was first created, which allowed users to sketch drawings on computers that would finish them. This program was quickly expanded on. By 1966, 3D images could be made.

In 1968 the first animated character was created, a cat. In the early 1970’s the first program that could have computers fill in missing frames was created, and in 1974, the first digitally animated film, Hunger, was produced. This film introduced morphing, which had one object changing into another. The first use of mainstream 3D animation was in the movie Westworld in 1976. Funny enough, the third movie to use these effects was Star Wars, with the death star plans and targeting systems. In 1981, the Paintbox by Quantel was released, which was designed to create television videos and graphics.


In 1985 the first 3D short film was produced, Tony de Peltrie, and in 1982 the first use of “solid” CGI was done in Tron, used for digital terrain and other such objects. This was considered groundbreaking for its time. The first “cartoon show” that was entirely computer-animated premiered in 1994, called ReBoot, followed by the first full-length animated movie, Toy Story, the following year. In 1992, Terminator 2: Judgement day once again blew away audiences with its groundbreaking use of CGI.

While motion capture had been around since 1978, it never really took off until 1997 and 1999 when Titanic and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace used it to great success. This technique records the movement of an object and has the computer mimic it. “In 2000, a team led by Paul Debevec managed to adequately capture (and simulate) the reflectance field over the human face using the simples of light stages. Which was the last missing piece of the puzzle to make digital look-alikes of known actors”? Since the early 2000s, animation has become much more available to those outside of the field,. Now we can use programs such as Flash to create our simplistic animations utilizing all of these methods developed in the past 100 years.

New animation technologies are constantly being invented,, and the field is continually evolving. From the first beginnings of animation in 1906 to modern-day films such as Avatar, it is truly amazing how much animation has progressed, significantly in recent years. Digital animation continues to progress and creates new opportunities in animation in both 2D and 3D, and with each innovation, we work towards an interface anyone can utilize. Now more than ever, anyone can try their hand at animation, and those who do may find the medium provides more freedom than ever thought possible.

Future of Animation

Almost everything in the media is animated, from educational television shows to the background of movies. Animation is a visual technique that creates that illusion of motion rather than recording motion through live-action. It is most prevalent in creating cartoon movies. In the past fifty years, animation has taken significant steps in improvements to what it is today. It has changed in many ways from techniques to their usage in entertainment.

Animations are without doubt promising. We think that animation in the future will be magnificent because computers and the techniques that we have used every day are becoming so advanced that they came out with supercomputers.

A supercomputer is a mainframe computer that is one of the fastest and most powerful. According to “The Future Of Video Games Is The Future Of Animation,” Mark Wilson illustrates to us that Pixar would spend 29 hours rendering a single frame of Monsters University using a supercomputer, which considered as one of the fastest computers in the world with 2,000 computers and 24,000 processing cores.

As life progresses, so will technology, and technology cannot move without animation. It has become a massive part of life and one that has many benefits. Wherever there is technology, there is animation. Also, in the future, the amount of data generated during the creation of animated films will only grow. Films will move from HD to Ultra-HD which is 4K resolution.

Animations’ future is headed into using the computer a lot more than now. Regardless, the need for classic animation will also be in demand. The time it takes to make an animated film will decrease along with the need for so many animators. People in the future, most of the time will not be able to tell the difference between animation and the real thing. Actors will not be needed for movies so much because animation could replace them.

As far as the eye can see, the animation will be needed, wanted, and improved more in the future. The new animated, “A Boy and His Kite” was rendered on a single computer that means the 30 frames of blowing leaves, rich textures, and realistic light that glows are calculated in real-time. In today’s society, we make video games and animation that looks like it’s in the real world. If you watch the film “A Boy and His Kite” you’ll see what we mean when the boy was running after his kite, how his feet push down on the grass, how his hair strands were moving, and other realistic textures of the film.

Animation is Evolving

What makes Animation a new media is the fact that it is constantly evolving into something that is innovative and becomes a method of art, expression, communication, and learning. By using animation, people can get messages across in entertaining and fascinating ways. When it comes to animation, education and children are our first priorities. The future of animation will be based on that.

Animation today has affected so many views on certain topics we care about. For example, back in WWII, Looney Toons took the role to support the United States troops. There are many educational animation productions. Animation is used today for many things, to show action, to express all kinds of emotions, or simply to encourage laughter. It may have also affected the public’s behavior. From what I’ve researched, there are plenty of reports and studies that prove that animation and a child’s education go together.

Studies have found that animation can help primary children take a real interest in the subject that they are interested in. By using visual, moving representations of what would have been words written in a science textbook, the animation will strike up interest and expose children to science in a fun, and creative way (Barak). Also, earlier today I’ve come across an animation on Facebook of a boy that got a new puppy from his mom. The film shows that he rejected the puppy and pushed him away because of how it looks (broken leg) but in the end, the boy got up and it shows that he was in crutches and also has a broken leg.

Then he decided to take the puppy outside to play. This video not only has taught children but it also has taught adults and the public that he rejected the dog initially because he rejects himself. He believed that he couldn’t do things like other kids so he would stay indoors and do things like playing video games that don’t physically challenge him because he isn’t hindered then. The student creators of this animation were offered jobs at Disney Animation and Pixar because of how good and thoughtful this was.

  1. Economics will force a return of shorts. The way the internet and viewing habits are going, the short is likely to return to prominence as a form of entertainment. They may have been rendered obsolete by a wide variety of causes (chief among them the end of the package films) but in an internet age when viewing habits generally favor short-form content that can be turned out quickly and cheaply, the short is ripe for renewal.
  2. Mature animation will become even more widespread. Block like adult swim has shown that mature animation has a place in western entertainment. In the years to come as teenagers now turn into adults, expect them to continue to demand animation to satisfy their needs. Mature animation will continue to proliferate the entertainment world and will continuously improve in quality too.
  3. Economics will kill off the expensive animated feature. Toy Story 3 had a budget rumored at around the $300 million mark. In the years to come, that will be an exorbitant amount of money to spend on a feature, even one with as much recognition as Toy Story. The economics that will force a return to shorts will also severely impact the budgets of feature animation too. Animated films can and have been made on a shoestring for a long time, so it should be expected that we will see some truly great films made for much less than the hundreds of millions that major studios throw at them.
  4. Merchandise will become the primary revenue source. Merchandise is already a major form of revenue generation for animated films (both big and small), however, expected it form a much larger share of the digital revolution eats away at the traditional streams. Cinemas will continue to exist and TV will never go away, but when people get used to viewing content for free, it will become ever harder to persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash just to simply watch something: at least at the cinema, you get a giant screen and sound loud enough to set off seismic meters.
  5. Animation’s stature will equal that of live-action. Yes, it kind of echos the number five from the article, but that one only went so far as to say that animation would not be seen as the ugly sister of live-action. I firmly believe that animation will come to be seen as the equal of live-action in terms of skill and variety. Right now, we’re seeing an epic shift in how animation is perceived. No longer is it simply “for the kids”. Live-action directors like Wes Anderson and Gore Verbinski have shown that there is a sincere interest on the part of live-action directors to embrace animation as a creative technique. We can look forward to a lot more cross-pollination in the future. The animation will become even more widespread. Many people will see and use it daily basis.

Takeaway on Animation

Overall, it is clear that animation has a huge impact on our lives and that animation services should be taken seriously. Without much of the technology, we use today would not even have the ability to function or even be created in the first place. Also, what makes animation is how it can be used for any purpose and adapted to work with humans. It teaches the public the meaningful things in life. Its technology is also constantly advancing in all the fields, especially in business and work, education and children, and entertainment. Animations Future is not around the corner, but already here!