History of Animated Video Production: From Entertainment to Business Animation

From zoetropes to CGI, the history of animated video production reveals the medium’s major strides over several decades. As a result of these advancements, animation became an indispensable part of marketing. It provides companies with a way to establish a connection between themselves and their customers. Animation fosters curiosity and enthusiasm in target audiences, capturing their imagination.

Animated Video Production

A closer look at the history of animation video production takes us back to the ancient Greeks, who used inscriptions to depict movement on pottery. From 17th-century magic lanterns to the kineographs of the 19th century, animation has evolved multiple times, entering and forever altering the markets in TV, film, advertising, and more.

An Introduction to Animation

Animation refers to the process of giving life to illustrations or inanimate objects through motion pictures. It manipulates figures, images, or drawings to create the illusion of movement. Early animations used hand-drawn images or paintings on celluloid sheets. However, in the modern era, most animations rely on computer-generated images.

Recent trends in marketing practices show a marked increase in the use of animation to create an emotional connection between customers and the company’s products and services. This psychological effect of animation fueled the remarkable advancements in animation technology over the years. Bee Video delves deep into the past to compile a brief history of animated video production.

The History of Animated Video Production

The history of animation began 4,000 years ago when people learned that quickly flipping through pictures of objects that slightly shift can create the illusion of movement. Greek and Egyptian pottery also used successive positional changes of the depicted figures to depict movement.

A Dutch physicist, Christiaan Huygens, invented the magic lantern in 1659 to tell stories with the help of moving images projected onto a screen. Eighteenth-century France witnessed the emergence of a new method to animate objects, called shadowgraphy. This technique used hand-drawn shadows that audiences called ‘cinema in silhouette.’

Joseph Plateau invented the phenakistoscope in 1832. It represented the first device that could create fluid animations, rekindling the public’s interest in animation.

Early Stages

The early stages of modern animation stretch from 1888 to 1914. This period created crudely animated films made with primitive devices. In 1888, Émile Renauld patented a system for his animated films called the Theatre Optique. He created a series of animated films that lasted about 10 to 15 minutes and contained 300 to 700 frames of painted images.

Renauld also invented the praxinoscope, an optical toy that consisted of a cylinder and a strip of paper that contained twelve frames of animation. History generally credits Renauld’s Pauvre Pierrot as the first animated film. Without access to computer-generated images, the inventor instead relied on individual, hand-painted images to produce the animations.

The Age of Traditional Animations

The first half of the 20th century saw the rise of celluloid animations. Between 1914 and 1967, animators utilized objects drawn or painted on transparent sheets made from cellulose, camphor, and nitrate. These traditional animations consisted of characters drawn on celluloid and superimposed on celluloid background images, reducing production times and the number of frames needed.

The stop-motion technique of animation also changed the history of animated video production. This method created an illusion of movement in inanimate, three-dimensional objects, bringing them to life on the screen.

The First Animated Films

Walt Disney Animated Studios produced the first feature-length animated movie in 1937. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs used traditional animations with 2D visuals rendered on transparent celluloid sheets. This animated masterpiece won Walt Disney eight Oscars two years later.

In 1940, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera released a cartoon titled Puss Gets the Boot, which led to the famous Tom and Jerry cartoons. Together, they founded Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. in 1957, an animation studio and production company dedicated to creating animated TV shows for children.

The Age of Computers and Motion Graphics

Between 1967 and 1984, computers and motion graphics started to replace traditional animations. Experiments with computer graphics began as early as 1940, with people utilizing the technology for scientific and research purposes.

Widely regarded as one of the fathers of computer animation, John Hales Whitney, Sr. built a mechanical analog computer system in the late 1950s, using mathematics to control it. Although primitive, his device could produce lines and shapes with accuracy and precision.

The first computer-generated film was Hummingbird, made in 1967. The 10-minute film used computers to generate 30,000 images and 25 motion sequences, utilizing digital morphing to distort and fade one image into another to create a sense of movement.

Computer Animation Product System (CAPS)

Through the persistence of vision, the Walt Disney and Pixar companies worked together to create the Computer Animation Product System in the late 1980s. Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid became the first full-length cartoon made with CAPS. The introduction of CAPS opened up new avenues for animators, allowing for the development of novel techniques to create animations.

The Modern Age of CGI   

Animation received a major boost with the advent of modern computers. As more production companies began to discover the capabilities of computers, the quality of computer animations improved, finally giving rise to an application of computer graphics called computer-generated imagery, or CGI.

Modern computer animation almost completely replaced the stop-motion technique implemented during the early years of animation. Modern computers create 2D and 3D animation graphics put into motion through different methods, like frame-by-frame or rigging. CGI also allows animators to create and render animated films faster.

In 1986, Pixar released a short, animated film titled Luxo Jr., which used shadow mapping to highlight shifting light and shadows. The film’s use of procedural animation changed the way production companies viewed computer animations. As a result, Luxo Jr. became the first CGI film nominated for an Academy Award in the history of animated video production.

Create high-quality animations for your company with help from the video production experts at Bee Videos. Call us today at (647) 625-9629 to learn more about our video production services, including animated films!