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Evolution of Animation

Would you be surprised if we told you that animation is older than cinema? It is true, but most people have no clue that the beginning of what is animation today goes as far back as the Paleolithic age.

In those ancient times, animation involved magic lanterns and shadow play. With the help of these tools, animation shows were made by projecting images on the screen and moving them with the use of simple techniques like hand manipulation.



In the 19th century, animation got a boost with the invention of the phenakistiscope. It is considered one of the founding principles of modern animation which also created the foundation for cinematography.

Animation today is huge for the movie industry and mesmerises audiences all over the world. This multi-billion dollar industry that has made an impact on both entertainment and business has a fascinating history behind it.

 The Beginning of the Animation

Even before the invention of the moving picture, some artists knew the meaning of animation and regularly used a number of different means to create and display animated images. Although these creative brains find little to no mention today, they are the ones who laid the foundation for modern animation styles to thrive too.

As mentioned, even though modern technology did not exist yet there were simple mechanics that helped in creating animated images. In fact, these techniques were hugely popular for the lack of any other means of entertainment.

Some of the earliest types of animation were:


One of the first types of animation was shadow play. Even today, a lot of us are familiar with this technique. Shadowplay is nothing but using your hands or figures like puppets between a screen and source of light to create moving images. Shadowplay can still sometimes be found at fairs and is enjoyed by people of all ages. Shadowplay later led to shadow puppetry.

Magic lantern:

The evolution of animation was further improved with the invention of the magic lantern. This also became a famous technique for creating animated images.

It was in 1659 that Christian Huygens invented the magic lantern which essentially was a type of projector using painted pictures, transparent glass plates, lenses, and a light source. Called Lanterna magica in Latin, the device was also used for educational purposes later in the 19th century. A kaleidoscope is a form of the magic lantern.

Magic Lantern


Magic Lantern


This was the first proper animation device created in 1833. With this device, sequential images were shown in rapid succession. One of the newest animation styles of the time, the phenakistiscope became popular because it was unique and different from the animation styles people were using back then. 

Animation Movies

The history of animation movies began in 1888 and continued till 1914 (this was when WWI started). Animation movies of the time were nowhere near what we know today. The images produced were crude and lacked the sophistication of modern animation. This was the era of traditional animation using very simple devices.

The first of these animation devices was the theatre Optique, patented in 1888 by Emile Reynaud. The system consisted of a series of animated movies each containing 300 to 700 frames or painted images 10 to 15 minutes long.

Although primitive by today’s standards, these devices were what helped modern animation to take place.

 Traditional animation continued from 1914 until 1967. Unlike the phase that took us to 1914 animation on the stage was hand sketched using a tool called Cel. This was a transparent sheet need of cellulose nitrate and camphor.

This sheet was on which figures were hand sketched. Once the characters were drawn on the sheet, they were imposed on background images to reduce the number of frames as well as production time.

The earliest and most popular animations of Walt Disney were also hand sketched. Although time-consuming and painstaking, the results were not only flawless but also more enjoyable than many of today’s modern animated cartoons.

 Computer Animation

The invention of computers changed a lot of things including animation. Computer animation was a significant boost for the industry-leading its success to skyrocket.

Starting in 1967, which began a new era in this technological development, this was the time when proper animated full-length movies began to be produced.

The Hummingbird was the first computer animated project, launched in 1967.

All the animation for the movie’s 2D characters was done entirely on computers. Later in this era, Disney created popular animated movies on the computer, including Mary Poppins and the Jungle Book. These were nowhere near as entertaining as Transformers, Sicario, Blackhat, Spy, or Fast and Furious 5 but they did signify development.

2d animation

2D Animation

In 1984, the evolution of animation got a new dimension with the invention of computer-generated imagery (CGI).

This kind of computer animation used both 2D and 3D graphics. With the help of CGI, animation movies were produced in a quicker time, also expanding the use of animation to brand storytelling and web series. The first full-length CGI animation movie was Pixar’s Toy Story in 1995.

 The Animation in the Digital Age

With the advent of the Internet or Digital Age, animation has become a preferred medium for online advertisers.

Creating branded content in the form of animation videos is the most cost-effective way to garner maximum eyeballs online. Though this can be achieved with inexpensive tools available online, hiring an animation company London will go a long way in establishing your brand identity online.

Moreover, an agency has required know-how and expertise to execute marketing campaigns of all sizes. Finally, remember that quality of animation matters, but what matters the most is the storyline that will help your brand gain recognition.

 What the Future Holds?

Animation has already adjusted itself to handheld devices. The next span of innovation is going to be in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality

Corporations are already busy producing content around these technologies. As these are still considered emerging technologies, the entry to the barrier (regarding cost) might be on the higher side, but that will surely change once the economies of scale come into play.

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By Mansi Kakkar

Mansi Kakkar is the creative writer for Animate2Explain Ltd.from Croydon, South London. She has worked her magic on the company for years with her writing skills. Delivering on point information every single time, she captures the various aspects of customer experiences when it comes to animation related queries. She is not shy to make new friends, indulge in interesting conversations and makes sure to bring all those memories back home.

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