A long time ago

In the beginning…

Humans have been storytellers since the start of time, using many different mediums to communicate. In ancient times, legends were told verbally around campfires.

A long time ago

60,000BC

Aboriginal storytelling

Image from: (Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery, 2019)

Australian Aboriginal culture “dates back as far as between 60,000 to 80,000 years”.  They conveyed “their important cultural stories through the generations…by symbols/icons through their artwork.” (Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery, 2019)

60,000BC

113AD

Trajan’s Column

Image from: (valtercirillo, 2019)

The 42-meter tall column features more than 2,000 carved characters that show the story of “Trajan’s war campaigns between 101-102 and 105-106AD.” (Ermengem, 2019)

113AD

1100

Bayeux Tapestry

Photo from: (Booth and McAuley, 2018)

The Bayeux Tapestry is a .5×70 meter long cloth which was embroidered with graphical representations of The epic adventure of William the Conqueror in 1066AD. (Bayeux Museum, 2019)

1100

Early 1800s

Shadow Plays

Photo from: (NYC-ARTS, 2019)

Shadow plays, “a type of theatrical entertainment performed with puppets”, have been popular in India, China, Indonesia around the early 1800s.  (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.)

Early 1800s

1824

Persistence of Vision

In 1824, British physician, Peter Mark Roget, “observed and documented an optical illusion while looking through the spokes of a wagon wheel”. (Cole, 2001)

“The capacity of the eye to maintain an image on the retina for a moment after the image has disappeared: if successive images follow quickly enough, these will be perceived as a single continuously moving image.”  (Kuhn and Westwell, 2012)

Without this visual phenomenon of the moving image, there would be no film-making.

1824

1825

Thaumatrope

Photo from: (Intelligent Heritage, 2010)

Thaumatrope means ‘turning wonder’ in Ancient Greek. It was invented by John Ayrton Paris, an English doctor, who used it to demonstrate a theory he called ‘persistence of vision’ to the Royal College of Physicians in London. (ACMI, n.d.)

1825

1832

Phenakistiscope

The Phenakistiscope was invented by Joseph Plateau and Simon von Stampfer.

It is a device featuring a cardboard disc with sequential images, in which a viewer can look through a series of moving slits while seeing the ‘moving image’ in the reflection of a mirror. (The Public Domain Review, n.d.)

1832

1833

Zoetrope

The Zoetrope, originally called a Doedaleum, was created by English mathematician William George Horner. It produces the illusion of movement by viewing individual images through narrow slits in a rotating cylinder. (Museum of the History of Science, n.d.)

1833

1868

Kineograph / Flipbook

John Barnes Linnett pattened the flipbook under the name “kineograph”. This was different from other optical toys due to using a booklet rather than drums. (Fliptomania.com, 2014)

1868

1877

Praxinoscope

Invented by Charles-Émile Reynaud, it used mirrors to simplify the viewing process.

1877

1878

Zoopraxiscope

Eadweard Muybridge studied the motion of horse locomotion, leading to him to develop a number of photography techniques including a fast shutter. He also invented the Zoopraxiscope, “a lantern he developed that projected images in rapid succession onto a screen from photographs printed on a rotating glass disc.” Many believe this to be the predecessor to the cinema projector. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019)

1878

1895

The Lumiere Brothers

Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the first successful method of filming and projecting moving pictures in Paris, 1895. They were the first to have a public screening to a paying audience. Louis was said to have remarked: “Le cinéma est une invention sans avenir—Cinema is an invention with­out a future.” (Nationalgeographic.com, 2019)

1895

1895

The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

 

This 18-second film had many firsts. One of the first films to use trained actors, as well as one of the first to use editing for the purposes of special effects. It also contained the first death scene on film. (The Public Domain Review, n.d.)

1895

1902

Georges Melies

Magician George Melies was inspired by the Lumiere Brothers work and led many technical and narrative advances in film. His surreal films, such as A Trip to the moon (1902) and the impossible Voyage (1904), used visual effects using techniques like multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, stop motions and hand-painted colour. He was one of the first filmmakers to use storyboards. (Gress, 2015)

1902

1903

The Great Train Robbery

Techniques started to get more sophisticated as filmmakers needed new ways to create more complex narratives. Techniques included parallel editing, minor camera movement and jump-cuts. (Filmsite.org, n.d.)

1903

1906

Humorous Phases of Funny Faces – First Stop Motion

 

James Stuart Blackton’s film is regarded by film historians as “the first animated film to be recorded on standard picture film.” (The Public Domain Review, n.d.)

1906

1907

Glass Shot/Matte

Photo from: (Cinepatas.com, 2005)
Norman Dawn was the first to patent the technique of Matte Painting on the film, “The Missions of California”.

He covered the camera with tape while filming a live-action take and then filmed paintings and photos placed on glass, mixing the two together.

(Dietrich, 2010)

1907

1908

First Stop Frame Animated film

Arthur Melbourne Cooper’s Dreams of Toyland, used children’s toys to create a stop motion animation scene. He shot the film outdoors, causing some strange shadow movement. (Dixon, n.d.)

1908

1911

Little Nemo

American cartoonist, Winsor McCay, took characters from his popular comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland and brought them to life in a “wildly exaggerated style”.  (IMDb, n.d.)

1911

1914

Gertie the Dinosaur

Created from over 10,000 drawings, Winsor McCay created a live performance show centred around a well-timed animation of a dinosaur which he would call out for and react to. (Waters, 2017)

1914

1915

Rotoscoping

Photo from: (Fleischer, 1915)

Max Fleischer submitted US patent US1242674A  for an invention called ‘the Rotoscope’.

This method of producing moving-picture cartoons involved tracing live action footage to either use for animation purposes or to cut a live action element out of its background to be placed into a new background. (Fleischer Studios, 2015)

1915

1918

The Sinking of Lusitania

Winsor McCay’s twelve-minute silent animation was the longest single piece of animation ever created at the time. McCay illustrated 25,000 drawings for the production. (Internet Archive, n.d.)
1918

1919

Felix the Cat

The first animated movie star was created by Otto Messmer (Felixthecat.com, n.d.). Australian producer Pat Sullivan (Deneroff, 2015)  and rubber hose animator, Bill Nolan, also worked on the short films (IMDb, n.d.).

1919

1920s

Fleischer Studios

Created by Max and Dave Fleischer, Fleischer Studios created many large animated cartoons such as Popeye the Sailor and Superman. (Fleischer Studios, n.d.)

Betty Boop was a caricature based off multiple famous leading ladies including Helen Kane, Clara Bow and Baby Esther Jones.

They worked often with rubber hose animators Roland “Doc” Crandall (Jaques, 2007) and Grim Natwick (BETTY BOOP Wiki, n.d.).

1920s

1921-23

Disney’s Laugh-O-Grams series

Walt Disney & Ub Iwerks created a series centred around drawings coming to life with children being their primary audience. (Merritt and Kaufman, 2011)
1921-23

1926

The first animated film with synchronized sound


Fleischer Studios created the first animated film with synchronized sound, My Old Kentucky Home, which was part of the Song Car-Tune series. This also led to the invention of the Karaoke Bouncing Ball following the lyric technique.(IMDb, n.d.)

1926

1927

The Jazz Singer

via Gfycat

The Jazz Singer was the first motion picture with synchronized sound. The film featured 6 songs by Al Jolson. (IMDb, n.d.)

1927

1927

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

Walt Disney’s first major character to feature in a series he produced with Universal. Disney fell out with Universal Studios over a contract disagreement. In 2016, Disney regained back the rights to the character in exchange for a sports commentator. (Oh My Disney, 2016)

1927

1927

Metropolis


One of the first science-fiction movies ever created (IMDb, n.d.) used a special effects technique called the Schüfftan process, named after its inventor, Eugen Schüfftan. This involves a special placement of mirrors to create the illusion that actors are part of a full-size set, but in reality, the sets are only miniature.  (The.hitchcock.zone, n.d.)

1927

1928

Steamboat Bill

A silent film starring Buster Keaton which is known in hindsight as the end of the silent film era. (IMDb, n.d.)

1928

1928

Steamboat Willie

After seeing “The Jazz Singer”, Walt Disney produced his first synchronized sound animation.

It was animated by Ub Iwerks and was the third Mickey Mouse film created but was released first. Its soundtrack was made up of a musical score and sound effects. (IMDb, n.d.)

1928

1929

Walt Disney’s Silly Symphony

75 animated short films produced by Walt Disney Productions from 1929 to 1939. They allowed Disney to innovate and develop techniques to be able to do longer films. This included introducing colour by signing a three year deal with Technicolour in 1932. “That year’s Silly Symphony –  Flowers & Trees, the first Technicolor cartoon, won the very first Academy Award ever given in the category of animation” (Markstein, 2004).

1929

1930

Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes

While originally used as openers/warm-up for feature films, many legendary characters were forged out of Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes such as Bugs Bunny,  Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety Bird.


“Termite Terrace” was the central studio at Warner Brothers where these pieces were developed by animators such as Chuck Jones, Fritz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Tex Avery, Robert Clampett, Arthur Davis and Frank Tashlin. (Ray, n.d.)

1930

1933

King Kong

The animation was one of the only industries that boomed during the great depression, due to people wanting to escape their reality. One of the first blockbuster films of this era was King Kong, which used stop motion animation, headed up by Willis O’Brien (King Kong Wiki, n.d.), to make Kong move.

1933

1933

Disney’s Multiplane camera

How Disney’s multiplane camera worked


Invented by Ub Iwerks, using parts from an old Chevrolet car, the multi-plane camera enabled animators to make complex multi-layered parallax camera moves, recreating a realistic-sense of depth to a scene. It created this effect by layering up to 7 panes of glass vertically and suspending the camera from the roof. It’s also worth noting that Fleischer Studios created a similar tool, the Stereoptical Camera, but the panes of glass were layered horizontally rather than vertically. (Kottke, 2017)

1933

1937

Disney’s Snow White

1.5 million cells were used to create the first feature-length hand-drawn animated film (Bell, 2017).

It took almost two years to come up with the final renderings of the Seven Dwarfs.

The success of this film resulted in many follow-ups in quick succession including Pinnochio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) &  Bambi (1942)

1937

1940

Tom and Jerry

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the creators of Tom and Jerry, produced 114 episodes over a 17 year period. (Cartoonson.tv, n.d.)

Famous animators working on the project included Fred Quimby, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery. He was known for non-stop, ridiculous, extreme animation style which breaks the real world rules of physics – something that Disney commonly stuck to (IMDb, n.d.).

1940

1940

The Wizard of Oz

Technicolor was invented in 1917 but was too expensive to produce for decades. The Wizard of Oz brought colour films to the masses. It wasn’t easy though! Because it was running three film strips at once, one for each colour channel, the camera was extremely loud. This required a “blimp” to cover the camera’s internal workings to stop audio leakage onto the set. (Lintelman, 2010)

1940

1941

Citizen Kane

This film, directed by Orson Welles, is claimed by many as one of the best films ever. It also used subtle visual effects including optical printing, travelling mattes, rear projection and stop-frame animation. (FX Making Of, 2014)

1941

1950s

Dynamation

Ray Harryhausen invented a technique to allow directors to combine live action actors with stop motion animation. This split-screen effect involved rear projection and a foreground glass mattes to create a part of the screen that would be filmed live on set and then matched with the stop motion after the fact. (Silverscenesblog.blogspot.com, 2013)

1950s

1960s

The Flintstones

Made by Hanna-Barbera, the Flintstones was the first animated series on prime-time television. (IMDb, n.d.)

1960s

1964

Mary Poppins

Petro Vlahos invented a method of isolating a subject from the background by using the wavelength from the yellow hue from sodium vapour lights. He then put a unique prism in front of the camera that isolated that wavelength of light from reaching the camera. The end result:  clean cutouts live-action footage interacting with animated characters. The film won an Oscar for Visual Effects. (Lee, 2018)
1964

1964

Fritz the Cat

The first animated adult feature film. Enough said! (Sokol, 2018)

1964

1968

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s film was an incredible step forward for visual effects, thanks to VFX supervisor, Douglas Trumbull. This included rotating film sets, motion control of the camera and set pieces and front projection.  (Miller, 2018)

1968

1973

Westworld

The first use of CGI to ever end up on the big screen was 2 minutes of what the world looked like through a robot’s eyes. It took 4 months to create. (BBC Timelines, 2014)
1973

1977

Industrial Light and Magic / Star Wars

George Lucas formed Industrial Light and Magic to create his vision for his new film, Star Wars. While only finishing 4 shots in the first year, ILM came home strong with new advancements in computerised motion control timed with explosions with miniatures, creative new camera rigs, and animated rotoscoped lightsabers.  (Medium, 2019)
1977

1977

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Director Steven Spielberg and VFX Supervisor Douglas Trumbull teamed up to advance to techniques around motion-control miniature photography, optical compositing, cloud tanks and the creation of matte elements. This included the first use of a real-time on-location system for digitally recording camera motion. (Failes, 2017)

1977

1981

The Illusion of Life – Disney Animation

Known as the “bible of animation”, this key book was published by two key animators at Disney, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and inspired many to become animators. (Trove, n.d.)

1981

1982

Tron

This was the first extensive use of computer graphics in a film, 20 minutes. The most that had been done before was 1 minute. Many different elements  – landscapes, buildings and vehicles – were created on a computer which only had 2MB of ram. (BBC Timelines, 2014)

1982

1982

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

Nicholas Meyer’s film featured the first fractally-generated geometry and the first use of particle systems on a film. This became known as the Genesis effect. (Historyofinformation.com, 2019)

1982

1983

Star Wars – Return of the Jedi

One of the biggest visual effects achievements at the time, due to the 900 effects shots in the film. ILM invented a new camera rig they called the Technirama – a high speed, servo-driven track system capable of very fast moves. They also used a Steadicam shot played extremely fast in reverse to create a background plate for a forest chase scene. (Industrial Light & Magic, n.d.)
1983

1984

The Adventures of Andre & Wally B

John Lasseter animated the first fully CGI-animated Film. It was made by The Graphics Group, which would later become Pixar. It was also the first use of motion blur in computer graphics. (ANDRE & WALLY B. | Pixar Animation Studios, n.d.)
1984

1985

Young Sherlock Holmes

The Glass Knight scene was the first time a CGI image was blended into a moving film background, also known as digital compositing. The 30-second sequence took 6 months to create. (BBC Timelines, 2014)
1985

1986

Luxo Jr – Pixar

John Lasseter’s short film was the first use of shadow maps within rendering software and showed the artistry of 3D animation to bring life to inanimate objects. The film was received with a standing ovation at SIGGRAPH. (McCracken, 1990)

1986

1987

The Simpsons

The Simpsons was created by Matt Groening for Fox. It is the longest-running American sitcom and animated program. (IMDb, n.d.)

1987

1988

Photoshop Invented

Thomas Knoll invented Photoshop while his brother John, who worked for Industrial Light and Magic, advised him of the industry features it required. (Creative Bloq, 2005)

1988

1991

Beauty and the Beast

First animated film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. (IMDb, n.d.)

1991

1991

Terminator 2

The first use of motion capture in cinema allowed the main character to turn into shape-shifting liquid metal. (BBC Timelines, 2014)

1991

1993

Jurassic Park

Spielberg’s film was the first to use textured CGI to create photo-realistic dinosaurs. They deliberately chose nighttime, wet scenes to allow the dinosaurs to be more glossy than usual, as diffused textures took longer to render (Acuna, 2014).

1993

1994

Forrest Gump

Brilliant use of compositing of archival footage synced meticulously to new footage of Tom Hanks, resulted in “re-writing of history”. (Industrial Light & Magic, n.d.)

1994

1995

Toy Story

The first fully computer-animated feature film. (IMDb, n.d.)

1995

1999

The Matrix

Lana and Andy Wachowski’s film brought bullet time to the masses. A green screen set with a 360 array of cameras allowed visual effects supervisor John Gaeta to capture many frames at once. New software techniques such as morphing and interpolation allowed a seamless blend from one image and position to another. (Taub, 2003)

1999

2001

Shrek

The first ever winner of the  Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. (IMDb, n.d.)

2001

2002

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The first use of performance capture – using face cameras as well as full body motion capture – including the incredible performance of Andy Serkis. (BBC Timelines, 2014)

2002

2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

52 minutes of the film featured a full CGI head for the main character, completely driven by emotion capture from Brad Pitt while being aged up over 40 years.  (Ulbrich, 2009)

2008

2009

Avatar

The highest grossing film of all time was an incredible technical accomplishment. Next level performance capture combined with a new virtual camera shooting style allowed James Cameron to execute his vision he’d be waiting on for 14 years after writing the script. (BBC Timelines, 2014)

2009

2013

Gravity

Gravity used a new form of set effects by using huge LED walls to cast accurate light patterns onto the actors’ faces to match the virtual space environment that was added in CGI. (BBC Timelines, 2014)

2013

2014

Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s film resulted in a new scientific simulation of what black holes and wormholes are really like. This resulted in a new academic scientific paper. (WIRED, 2014)

2014

2016

Sausage Party

First R-rated 3D CGI animated feature film (IMDb, n.d.)

2016

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