Before studios like Walt Disney or Pixar, animation was not considered an art form. For a lot of time, moving images were seen as a manner of entertainment for children. However, these inventions provided the basis for cinematography and inspired 19th and 20th century path breakers to create the first ever animated films.
English photographer Eadweard J. Muybridge made experiments with moving images. In 1872, the Governor of California wasn’t sure that the paintings of galloping horses depicted the animals movements. He hired Muybridge to settle the question: “When a horse gallops, are all four of its hooves off the ground simultaneously?”
Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion studies involved using twelve thread-triggered cameras to photograph a galloping horse. Contrary to the paintings, the ground-breaking images proved that horses have all four hooves off the ground during their running stride. Muybridge copied the images onto a disc to be viewed in rotation on a machine called a zoopraxiscope. This object is seen as an early movie projector. He continued to capture movement with “instantaneous photography”, extending his studies to animation in 1893 when he used the phenakistoscope disc.
Co-founder of Vitagraph Studios, James Stuart Blackton was one of the first artists who used the stop-motion technique with his film The Humpty Dumpty Circus. In 1990, he mixed the stop-motion technique with hand-drawn animation in his film, The Enchanted Drawing. The film shows the artist drawing a cartoon face, a top hat, a bottle of wine, a glass and a cigar. The Enchanted Drawing is considered the first animated sequences recorded on standard picture film.
Winsor McCay was an American cartoonist and animator who became famous for his comic strip, Little Nemo. The artist began experimenting in order to transform his cartoons into moving characters, resulting in ten animated films made between 1911 and 1921. The silent film starts with sequences where McCay is seen betting his non-believing colleagues that in one month he can make his drawings move. He surprised them when his drawn illustrations burst into action.