What is animation? From past to present

What is animation
Bo, Woody, and Buzz in "Toy Story 4." DISNEY/PIXAR/PIXAR

Human history testifies to its close association with art from its inception. The images and drawings found in caves, pyramids, tombs depict the history of our ancestors and their imagination. The animation is the evolutionary form of these drawings. The human imagination is boundless and has been able to bring to life the images, environments, and characters that make up the imagination through Animation.

What is Animation

The animation is a technique of photography to create an illusion of movement through drawings, models, or puppets. In other words, is the way of representing them as a single moving object by the fast-moving of several images. Because our eyes can hold only 1/16 of the image per second, so these fast-moving images are perceived by the brain as a single moving image.

Traditional animation involves drawing or painting on transparent celluloid plates.  cartoons are examples of this, but today most animations are made from CGI or computer-generated imagery.

History of Animation

Ancient Egypt Animation
Ancient Egypt Mural (b2w.tv)

While it is not clear when and where the animation originated, the concept of storytelling has been around for centuries. However, historians believe that the beginning of animation dates back to the pre-Christian era. A series of murals dating back to nearly 4,000 years ago in Egypt have been recently discovered. It can be pointed out that it was a time when the man was focused on animation. In 1603, the magic lantern was discovered. Magic lantern is an image projector that uses pictures on glass plates. This is considered the first example of projected animation, as some plates contain moving parts. Another amazing art form that became close to 18th-century French animation became popular – it was called the shadowgraphy. People actually tell stories using the shadows of handmade puppets, it’s also called cinema in silhouette.

Discovery of the Phenakistoscope

The thaumatrope was invented in 1821 and had a rotating mechanism with a different picture on each side. On rotation, it looked like a moving object. Later, in 1832, Joseph Plateau discovered the Phenakistoscope. It was the world’s first widespread animation device. Using the integrity of vision principle, it created an illusion. When multiple images are mixed into a moving image, it is captured as one image in the brain. This is called a persistent vision.


After that, in 1834, William George Horner created a motion-picture projector similar to the Phoenakistoscope, which was made by rotating the drawing into a round drum. This is the innovation that laid the groundwork for film projection. Horner originally called it Dedatelum, or “Devil’s Wheel.” But the French inventor Pierre Desvignes named his own version, “Things That Turn,” or Zeotrope.

Towards modern animation

As we talk about the history of animation and its expansion to this day, we meet some of the most memorable people. James Stewart Blackton is known as the father of American animation. Stuart was a British filmmaker but also created the first American animation film. He was one of the first to use stop-motion technology. In 1900 he created his first animated film, The Enchanted Drawing, and in 1906 made a silent film. This silent film was made using blackboard drawings at 20 frames per second. He called it the Humorous Phases of Funny Faces.

However, you will find one name that stands out for the world’s “Father of Animation”. He is a French cartoonist Emily Cole. He made the first fully animated film, “Fantasmagorie”, which he made in 1908. After that, In 1914, Earl Hurd created Cell Animation, which revolutionized the 20th-century animation industry.

In 1928, “Steamboat Willie” premiered as the first Disney cartoon with synchronized sound. The Snow White and the Seven Dwarf was an entirely hand-drawn animation film, shown in 1937. Snow White’s success has been a major breakthrough for both traditional animation and the entire industry. In this way, animation technology has evolved from popular 2D and traditional animation to the current CGI.


Several types of animation are in use and we will briefly review the following categories.

  • Traditional Animation
  • 2D Animation (Vector-based)
  • 3D Animation
  • Motion Graphics
  • Stop Motion


This is one of the oldest forms of film animation. This is sometimes called cell animation. Objects are drawn on celluloid transparent paper and the animators are drawn on each frame to create an animation sequence. In other words, it can be described as a large-scale flipbook mechanism. This way it is mostly 2D animation. The Lion King and the Aladdin cartoon are great examples of this. The important thing is that not all 2D animations are traditional.


Often, 2D animation is subject to traditional animation, just like many older Disney films. Examples include Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast. But there is a vector-based 2D animation that is not traditionally considered. Images with familiar formats, such as JPG, GIF, BMP, cannot enlarge or shrink without affecting pixel image quality. Vector Animation is used with a variety of graphic software to enhance the image’s true nature.


3D animation or computer animation is one of the most common forms of animation. The computer is just another tool, and 3D animation is still a long, intense process.

In 3D animation, tools like Oculus rift, structure core, and digital drawing board are used to create characters and different environments. Also, Animators use a variety of software and programs for animation. Thus, when all parts of the character they finish are in the right place, they set up digital frames for each. Animators create a realistic story by altering the curves and movements throughout their characters. In this way, 3D films are made as a result of a complex process.


Motion graphics are digital graphics that usually create motion for the title sequence of ads and movies. But it exists to communicate something to the viewer and is often combined with sound for multimedia projects. They are the most common type of animation and are commonly used in most graphic design.


Stop motion is one of the conventional forms of animation. It includes claymation, pixelation, object-motion, cutout animation, and more. But the basic technique is similar to a traditional animation or a flipbook. However, the physical objects in each frame are arranged in place of drawings during the stop motion. Stop motion films are made by moving puppets, clay, or real human beings pre-made from frame to frame.

This is quite a difficult process because it is done by manual preparation. Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit, Nightmare Before Christmas are great examples of stop motion.

The animation is one of the most sought-after film formats of the world, and its contribution to new ways of coming out will be enormous. I hope this article will give you some knowledge of the origin, evolution, and types of animation. In future articles, we will discuss more about each category in detail and the software needed for it.

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