Hand-Drawn to Computers: The Animated Film

Hand-Drawn to Computers: The Animated Film

Let's take a break from the real world and see what started animation in media - we all need some bright colors.
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When you compare where technology was in one era and where it is now, it is obvious that things will be improved in ways almost unimaginable. Less than seventy years after the Wright Brothers made their first flight, Neil Armstrong took his giant leap onto the Moon. Comic books were propaganda machines during the Second World War, but by 1989, famed graphic novels such as Watchmen and Maus were top sellers. Film is the same way, with technology and techniques changing almost every year. Among many shining examples of this is animation. What began as simple drawings and music has evolved into almost lifelike computer effects. While the combination of animation and live-action is notable, this is going to focus on entirely-animated films, with some exceptions. So, how did animated movies become a mainstay of the industry?

In 1906, the first animated short film appeared – Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, directed by J. Steward Blackton. This project used chalkboard drawings put to film and sped up in order to give the appearance of motion. This, in turn, led to others trying to jump in on the cartoon market, and “traditional animation” was born following the release of the French cartoon Phantasm. A massive boom in animation started, with political cartoonists started taking animation jobs in the rising film industry. During the silent film era, studios would package cartoons with their releases, making a typical movie-going experience as seeing a cartoon or two, then a few serials (half-hour “chapters” not unlike a television program), a newsreel, another cartoon, then the feature film. In 1926, the oldest surviving animated full-length film was released, being The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Many of these films are lost, with only frames or rough descriptions available. However, at this point in time, none of the features used all hand-drawn animation for the entire project.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney was running an animation studio when it went bankrupt. Disney formed another company and produced the Alice Comedies, which combined a live-action girl with animated characters. He also created Steamboat Willie, which introduced Mickey Mouse. Warner Brothers started bringing in people to work on their cartoon packages, and Disney kept his people working. In 1934, Disney announced his first feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. During the production, the animators who were working on Betty Boop cartoons were brought in, as Disney's team was not used to animating people. These animators had a vastly different design for Snow White, a modest dress that showed her ankles and fuller facial features. Disney declared this too “risque” for the audience, and the design was changed. Going over budget countless times, the project was almost set to be a failure. This would be proven wrong following the 1937 release, to widespread acclaim. Walt Disney led his company to produce at least one film a year, in addition to countless shorts. At Warner Brothers, Mel Blanc and Tex Avery were just starting out, and the Looney Tunes followed shortly thereafter. Disney and Warner Brothers became fast competitors, a rivalry that continues to this day.

To achieve the lifelike motion of the characters, Disney employed live-action models for the films. A difficult to draw scene would be filmed with some props and actors in full costume, and then the animators would use that to work the scenes out on paper. This method would be used and expanded upon in a process called rotoscoping. A live-action reference was filmed, then animators drew over the frames of the actors to match the cartoon – think of it as early motion capture. The controversial Song of the South and the less-remembered Reluctant Dragon were the first features to have actors directly interacting with animated characters. As time went on, more and more techniques were used, and the Japanese film industry began producing animated films and television programs. To go into an explanation about every innovation and new territory the animators found themselves discovering would be almost impossible. The world of animation exploded in the Cold War era, leading to more and more people trying to push the limits. One of these people was none other than George Lucas, visionary behind Star Wars.

During production on The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas established the Graphics Group as a division of Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM). They were tasked with finding new ways of creating images for film, using any and all resources. The 1982 Disney film Tron introduced computer-generated environments and pushed the Group to attempt it themselves. Meanwhile, John Lasseter was fired from Disney and showed his plans for a computer-animated film. Working as a freelance animator, Lasseter made The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. Around this time, Lucas was finalizing a bitter divorce, and Lucasfilm was losing money due to the decline of licensed merchandise for Return of the Jedi. After the team developed the Pixar Image Computer, Lucas began shopping the company around, eventually making a deal with Steve Jobs, then recently fired from Apple. The Graphics Group was renamed Pixar in 1985, and Lasseter continued to work with the team to produce computer animation, winning Oscars in the process. Eventually, this led to an attempt to create an entirely computer-animated feature. In 1995, Toy Story took the film industry by storm and launched a multi-billion dollar empire for Pixar.

American animation began leaning towards CG, while Japanese animation (anime) was still a traditional medium. Studio Ghibli's famed string of hit films continued to keep hand-drawn animation afloat in Japan, such as Kiki's Delivery Service. By the early 2000s, Dreamworks entered the scene as a competitor for Pixar. Disney, who had distributed the Pixar films, wanted total ownership of the studio, and when they refused, Disney created Circle 7, a failed animation studio that would have produced sequels to Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. Eventually, Pixar and Disney were able to strike a deal, and Pixar was free to make the sequels at their leisure. The last traditionally animated mainstream American film was The Princess and the Frog – while there are others, it is the last one to be given true fanfare and promotion. Since then, the studios have moved to only CGI.

In the last one hundred or so years of film, animation has changed as dramatically as any other tool or method. From simple flipbooks to Moana and Frozen, the cartoon has become a mainstay of cinema. Since the anti-Axis propaganda of World War II, we have evolved animation into a powerhouse and a genuine respected form of art. All because of some artists trying to test the waters of what early film could do, Walt Disney was able to create a studio that now owns one network, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and the list goes on and on. Every year, the Academy Awards features categories for features and shorts made by a team of artists, digital or hand-drawn, using cartoons to present their story to the world. Considering all these advancements in technology, we must wonder what animation will look like in another one hundred years.

Cover Image Credit: Walt Disney/Disney

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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10 Unique Couples' Halloween Costumes You HAVEN'T Seen Done A Bajillion Times Before

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