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Pre 1908 Animation - The Early Years

Steve Cavalier | Thursday April 09, 2009

Categories: Film, Animation, Pre 1908, Other Topics

The beginnings of animation can perhaps be traced back to a paper published by Peter Roget in 1824 for The British Royal Society called ‘The persistence of vision with regard to moving objects’. Following this came the invention of such devices as the phenakitstoscope (1831), the zoetrope (1834) and the praxinoscope (1892), all variations of the idea of sequence of images viewed on a rotating drum, although these were all somewhat preceded by a very basic zoetrope invented in ancient China around 180 AD!

(A modern more sophisticated version of the zoetrope can be seen in the Gibli Studios Museum in Japan, in which three-dimensional models of the characters from the studios films appear to be coming to life on a large revolving platform lit by a strobe. Pixar Studios of San Francisco created an equally spectacular version of this for their recent travelling exhibition, which some of you may have seen at the Science Museum in London or the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.)

Eadward Muybridge

In 1872, an English photographer in San Francisco called Eadward Muybridge, started his series of sequential photographs of animals in motion. At first these were taken in order to settle a hotly debated topic of the day, whether or not a horses hooves ever left the ground during its gallop! This also explains the large amount of horse photographs in his work! His photos were taken by a line of cameras, which were triggered in sequence as the subject moved in front of them. Books of these photos are still in publication and are still widely used for reference by artists and animators. In later years Muybridge used a device he called a Zoopraxiscope, yet another version of the Zoetrope, that projected his images in rapid sequence so an audience could watch the realistic motion. This can be seen as a precursor to the invention of the film projector.

Muybridge was also famous at the time for going on trial for shooting his wife’s lover...

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