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Ohio State University The Curtain Rises Summary

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CHAPTERI The Curtain Riaca The whole field was virgin soil and we had all the joys of explorers in an unknown country. It was wonderful-Lotte Reiniger nimation on film began in the fading years of the nineteenth century, when the early motion picture cameras were manual. It must have been obvious to most camera oper- ators that interference with the steady turning of the crank would destroy the flow of natural action and was some- thing to be strictly avoided. And yet an alert few cinematographers realized the creative and humorous possibilities in cranking, stopping, changing something in the scene, then starting up again One of these few. James Stuart Blackton, did a quick sketch routine on the vaudeville stage in New York. His act, filmed by the Edison Motion Picture Company, remains today the earliest example of stop-motion sketches. Titled The Enchanted Drawing, it bears the notice ‘copyrighted entry Nov. 17. 1900.” and though there is little frame-by- frame animation in it, the simple changes that occur indicate that the idea was waiting in the wings. Blackton’s 1900 experiment in filmed drawings came approximately seventy years after the discovery of an early ani- mation device, the phenakistoscope, and eleven years after the introduction of Edison’s movie machines, the kinetograph and kinetoscope. Winsor McCay, thirty years old at the time, was drawing polit- ical cartoons for popular American humor magazines, and Max Fleischer just sixteen, was working as an office boy in the art department of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. That same year, the future animator Ivan Ivano-Vano was born in Moscow. Lotte Reiniger, in Germany, was only a year old. Walt Disney would be born in Chicago in December of the following year. It was twelve years before Jiri Trnka and John Halas would come into the world, the former in Czechoslovakia and the latter in Hungary. It was fourteen years before Norman McLaren’s birth in Scotland and John Hubley’s in the United States But the real story of animation begins before all of this, before photo- graphy, before film, before vaudeville, and before comic strips. It begins, like all stories, at the beginning the very beginning. THE CURTAR 3 do this all the time. The prehistoric artist would have been unable to elimi nate the “wrong” set of legs, since there were no erasers then to do the job. While we may never know the purposes of cave art, conjecture about the changing shapes of early designs- whether on a cave wall, in an Egyptian tomb, on a Greek urn, or in the gestures of Asian shadow puppets–suggests that these depictions were ways of showing motion. Several centuries would pass before improved technology and specific economic and social conditions would allow for the creation of animated films. Prehistory: Before Gertie and so on, made this toy visually enter taining. This phenomenon of merging imagery prompted further scientific inquiry by such important minds as John Herschel (1792-1871), Michael Faraday (1791-1867), and Peter Mark Roget (1979- 1869). After viewing a passing cart through the slats of his blinds, Roget surmised that the vehicle registered on the retina of the eye for longer than it was actually there. He called this occur rence the persistence of vision. The un- noticed blinking of our eyelids, to cleanse the eyes, goes on continually with no disruption in what we are seeing Present-day investigators state that the Moving light creates the illusion of a persistence of vision only explains why continuous line we don’t see a strong flicker between images and not why they appear to move. One finding suggests that when an (1789-1896) in England. It was a disc image appearing in one place on a much like a large coin with dissimilar screen suddenly disappears and then pictures on each side, which when shows up in a different place on the twirled quickly gave the illusion that the screen, the brain decides by inference images overlapped that the object has moved. Other experi Lightly humorous combinations, such menters have discovered that the mind as a bald man and a wig, a bird and a perceives the correspondence between cage, a sitting cat and a saddled horse, similar, displaced shapes. However, one Making pictures which indicate the passage of time has been an assignment for the artist Pictures in Motion throughout history. -Donald W. Oraham The smooth flow of images that we call the “movies” requires a series of draw- Why do we always point to cave paint- Ings or photographs close enough in ings as the beginning of animation? sequence and shown at a rate sufficient Some historians get red in the face to make them appear to blend. Conflict about this, “Cave dwellers were not ing, disassociated images of different thinking about motion pictures, they shape, tone, or location, projected one shout. All the table-pounding doesn’t after the other, do not create this effect, alter the fact that since the earliest or at least there are no smooth transi times artists have sought to depict action tions. The illusion of motion occurs through painting and sculpture. When a when slightly varying pictures replace contemporary cartoonist sketches a each other in swift succession, each blurred, multiple image it is an exten- appearing for about one-sixteenth of sion of an idea that began in the Ice Age. There is evidence on the walls of a When a torch or candle is swung cave in Altamira, Spain, dating back in an are, the illusion of a continuous 30,000 years, that this desire led to a circle of light is formed, though the depiction of a wild boar with two sets of movement of the light occupies a series legs. Since there are very few such of separate positions. This overlapping examples, it could also be assumed that was further demonstrated in 1826 with the multiple legs were not a representa the introduction of a toy called the than tion of blurred movement but a change matrope, attributed to Dr. William Henry of mind on the part of the artist in the Fitton (1780-1861) and later manufac placement of the running limbs. Artists . tured by Dr. John Ayrton Paris a second The Thaumatrope THE CURTAIN RISE 5 4 ANIMATION THE WHOLE STORY thing remains constant–the steady per- sistence of scientists who study the via bility of the persistence of vision Early Nineteenth-Century Animation The first animations were created in 1832 using a device developed by Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau (1801-1883) of Brussels and, coincidentally, by profes- , sor Ritter von Stampfer (1792-186) of The Zoetrope Vienna. Plateau devised a wheel with slits around its edge. Under each slit was one of a series of closely related in the form of the zoetrope, designed by designs and when the disc was spun William George Horner (1786-1837). The past the eye, facing a mirror, the images zoetrope, or “Wheel of life,” did not appeared to move. The intermittent slits become popular until it was widely dis- were an important factor-without them tributed in 1867. It had certain advan- the illusion was reduced to a blur. The tages over the earlier slotted discs: it disc and the repeating illustrations rep- didn’t require a mirror to provide the resenting close phases of turning illusion; and its drum shape, with the wheels, wriggling snakes, or jumping necessary viewing slits around the top. monkeys was called the phenakistoscope allowed for the insertion of new paper Stampfer’s similar disc was labeled the strips of drawings to stave off boredom. stroboscope and was spun with the The phenakistoscope and zoetrope images facing a mirror to achieve the artists, painters, and illustrators were same effect. Thus, with these simple anonymous animators, a condition that novelties, animation was born would continue into early motion pic- Plateau, a scientist and former art ture making. Film historian David student, drew the initial actions himself, Robinson identified some of these artists making him the world’s first animator and, aside from Plateau, his list includes Other artists were engaged to create Thomas Talbot Bury (1811-1877), Thomas sequential designs to accommodate a Mann Baynes (1794-1854), and the growing market for the phenakisto- famed Victorian illustrator George scopes, or “fantascopes,” as they were Cruikshank (1792-1878). As in the case of also called. A further application was modern animators, these artists had to introduced in Bristol, England, in 1834 contend with time limitations and the subtle awareness of how much change Studies of perception refer to the movie was necessary between the moves. Their illusion by various titles apparent motion work was not yet dominated by the stroboscopic motion, or the phi phenomenon. demands of a film projector, but they did have to match their drawn move traveling entrepreneurs took them ments to the number of slits that could around to towns and villages. For a fit on a small surface. These openings small sum, they enthralled the locals numbered between ten and twenty, and with quivering, projected images. Magic actions were selected that would meld Lantern showmen strove to simulate smoothly within those parameters. The movement by projecting long strips of illusion remained a simple novelty that glass or rotating discs bearing phases of played itself out, in mere seconds, for an an action. By the mid-nineteenth cen audience of one or two people at a time. tury, it was common practice to view Longer subjects for larger audiences slide programs that produced colorful were still to come and would evolve and humorous effects through the from another device that had been manipulation of a handle or a crank known for centuries. The use of slides combined with attempts to tell stories with simulated motion reached its zenith with the Light and Lenses introduction of Emile Reynaud’s theatre The camera obscura was a darkened room optique in Paris in 1892. About ten years with a tiny hole in one wall through earlier, Reynaud (1844-1919) had which sunrays passed, casting an image replaced the viewing slits of the zoetrope onto the opposite wall. This effect was with rectangular mirrors that faced the noted by the Greek philosopher Aristotle drawings and revolved as the drum was (384-322 B.C.) and was later incorpo spun. He dubbed his invention the prax- rated by medieval astronomers to chart inoscope, expanding it into an elaborate the eclipse of the sun Renaissance theater attraction via mirrors and lenses artists–Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and a belt of painted transparencies for one-were aware of the camera Accompanied by appropriate sounds, the obscura and used it in making accurate projecting praxinoscope was a forerun- perspective drawings ner of what would one day become By the 1600s, experiments with the screen animation. Reynaud entertained properties of lenses led to the introduce a record number of people with his tion of a projection instrument whose theatre optique until the close of the design was attributed to a Jesuit priest, century, when moving pictures arrived. Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680). Kircher Reynaud’s enthusiasm waned, he made drawings on translucent material, became discouraged and so depressed placed a lamp behind the drawings and that he reportedly dumped all of his a lens in front and cast the drawings apparatuses into the Seine shadows on a wall. He called this ances- tor of the present day slide projector magia catoptrica, or “magic lantern.” Photography Enters The magic lantern was soon estab- the Picture lished as a source of amusement and Developments in lens technology prod awe, and well into the next century ded the desire to capture permanently 6 ANIMATION THE WHOLE SONY The CURTAIN RIS7 views formed by a camera obscura. A made. After great success, the daguer chemical means was sought after, and it reotype eventually gave way to the was found that surfaces coated with a newer, more versatile calotype solution of silver chloride were affected Motion pictures were not yet pos by light after exceedingly long exposure.sible, as photography of living subjects Experiments with this process carried depended on long exposures and tor- out by Thomas Wedgewood (-180g) tuous body clamps to keep people still and Sir Humphrey Davy (1776-1829) in It wasn’t long, however, before posed England, and by Joseph Nicephore photographs were used to symbolize Niepce (1765-1833) in France, resulted in lifelike motion. Initially, some photo- the first photographic images. Niepce graphers projected sequenced lantern had made successful images as early as slides of melodramatic scenes to attract 1816 and developed an early form of audiences. This led, in turn, to posed photoengraving. In 1829 he formed a action phases, which, when dropped partnership with Louis Jacques Mande into a zoetrope or projected by an Daguerre (1787-1891), who had been altered magic lantern, advanced the , carrying out his own experiments transparencies intermittently. Such a Daguerre, a Parisian scenic artist, was machine was fashioned in 1875 by John known for a theatrical novelty called the Arthur Roebuck Rudge. diorama, which featured large painted views of cities and landscapes and was dramatized further by atmospheric Muybridge’s Galloping lighting effects. Unfortunately, soon Horse after joining his ideas with Daguerre, In 1872, Eadweard James Muybridge Nicephore Niepce died and his name fell (1830-1904) began photographing ani- into relative obscurity, while his part- mals in motion using a battery of still ner’s became synonymous with the cameras. The shutters were attached to process that was presented to the world stretched strings which were tripped in 1839 as the daguerreotype. This revolu- by the subjects as they ran past.
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