Milestones Of The Animation Industry
In The 20th Century

by Karl Cohen

The history of animation in the 20th Century has been falsified and distorted for many years. Reasons for the errors range from innocent mistakes to deliberate lies. One of the worst offenders was an author who wrote a best selling biography about Disney by inventing sensational "facts." Some of his information has been proven to be false, but much of the public that bought the book is unaware that it is fraudulent.

Other equally damaging abusers of the truth were the slick sales people who tried to get rich quick by selling animation art when the public decided it was a valuable "collectable." I knew an animator who tried his luck as a salesman. He was amazed that some of his colleagues would constantly make up facts in order to make a sale. I once received a sales flyer from a gallery in Southern Florida that claimed Disney limited edition art was especially valuable because Walt had not only created the first animated short and the first animated feature, but he had also invented the animation process!

AWN wanted to begin the new century with an accurate list of our industry's achievements in the 20th Century. We didn't want to repeat information about people's favorite films and other standard, well known information (awards, etc.). If you miss seeing your favorite animation stars, see Jerry Beck's time line in his book The 50 Greatest Cartoons. They should be there. We did not need to repeat his information. Instead the list concentrates on events and inventions that brought about significant changes in the medium.

Several professional animators and scholars were consulted after the first draft of this list was written. They added information, corrected errors and made other changes. The people contacted include Jerry Beck, John Canemaker, Kevin Coffey, Ron Diamond, Mark Kausler, Heather Kenyon, Dr. William Moritz, Paul Mular, Marv Newland, Bill Plympton, Buzz Potamkin, Steve Segal, Linda Simensky and Tom Sito.

James Stuart Blackton's The Enchanted Drawing.

1899 Arthur Melbourne Cooper's Matches: An Appeal featured stop-motion images of moving matches for a public service announcement made in England. It asked people to send matches (which were once somewhat expensive) to soldiers fighting in the Boer War.

1900 James Stuart Blackton's The Enchanted Drawing was a stop-motion of Blackton making chalk drawings.

1905 Segundo de Chomón in Spain makes The Electric Hotel. It uses stop-motion to bring to life a variety of objects. It is far more ambitious than earlier stop-motion films.

1908 In France, Emile Cohl's Fantasmagorie uses cutouts and other techniques.

1914 Winsor McCay premieres Gertie the Dinosaur in a vaudeville act. She becomes the first well known star designed for the screen. Hand colored details added to the film's appeal.

Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur. John Randolph Bray'sColonel Heeza Lair.

1914-1915 John Randolph Bray and Earl Hurd are granted patents for animation systems using drawings on transparent celluloid sheets and a registration system that kept images steady. They form the Bray-Hurd Patent Company and collect royalties on the process until 1932 when the patents expire. Bray also develops the basic division of labor still used in animation studios (animators, assistants, layout artists, etc.).

1915 Max Fleischer receives a patent for the rotoscope.

1915 Willis O'Brien completes his first stop-motion film, The Dinosaur and the Missing Link. He goes on to direct stop-motion animation for The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933).

1917 El Apóstol (The Apostle) by an Italian artist working in Argentina, Quirino Cristiani, may have been the first animated feature. No print of the film exists and the only scholar, Giannalberto Bendazzi, who has researched the film says he is not certain the film was an animated feature (Giannalberto Bendazzi, Cartoons). Bendazzi speculates it could have been animated or just a series of non-animated drawings. He also writes Cristiani directed Peludópolis (City of Peludo, a political satire), the world's first animated sound feature (1931-`33). The film was reported to have been an artistic, but not a financial, success.

1918 Winsor McCay's The Sinking of the Lusitania is the first serious re-enactment of a historical event.

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