PREHISTORY OF THE CARTOON
Without wishing to begin with Adam and Eve, however, it may well be appropriate to outline some of the cultural and technical preconditions underlying the invention and phenomenon known as film or moving images. One of the basic features of human nature is undoubtedly creative activity, which through the ages has manifested itself in many forms, such as. pictures, words, music, plays, church plays, and in recent times in the form of theater and film. But common to these forms is their origin in hunting magic, the joy of storytelling and the communication between people.
The mixture of hunting magic and communicative storytelling joy is exemplified already in the earliest prehistoric cultures, all the way back to the first human-like Neanderthals, over cultures such as the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, ancient Greek, Old Norse and ancient Indian, the European Renaissance and Middle Ages, Reformation and Enlightenment, Romanticism , naturalism and symbolism for recent cacophonous, technically influenced culture.
Originally, the invention of the moving images was called cinematography, a word derived from the Greek kinema = movement + graph = writing. Accordingly, a cinematographer refers to an apparatus for recording live images, in a wider sense also showing them. Cinematography, in the narrower sense, means the recording of moving images, and more broadly filmmaking in general, especially about the earliest period of the film.
The term film in the sense of vivid photographic images shown on the "white canvas", and more specifically about the concept of film art and filmmaking, first came into common parlance during the 20th century. However, the invention of a perforated celluloid or cellon strip coated with a photosensitive surface (film) had already been made in the late 1880s.
The invention of photography was the prerequisite for the invention of film. The word and concept of photography - from Greek photos = light and graph = writing - in other words means a photographically produced image formed using lenses and light-sensitive material. The photographically produced image can either be a recording of real objects or living people and / or animals (real film), or it can be a recording of drawn and painted posters (cartoon).
The technique and history of the moving images go relatively far back in time, to long before photographic and cinematographic techniques were available. Cinematography in the sense of a technical apparatus and a sum of discoveries and inventions, came, like many other inventions and techniques, mainly to the world in the 19th century, which therefore has not without reason been called "the century of technology".
But behind it all lies a knowledge of the "inertia" of the eye or sight, which in short and simplified consists in the formation of a so-called "afterimage" on the retina of the eye, or rather in the consciousness. The image is not perceived immediately, it is formed on the retina, but only about 1/5 second later, and it persists in consciousness longer after it has disappeared from the retina. This is called a positive afterimage, and the afterimage is the reason why a series of images displayed at a speed of at least 16 per second are no longer perceived as individual images, but "merge" together and become "alive". One image impression has thus not disappeared from consciousness until the other has already been perceived on top of the previous one. (Note 1)
This knowledge of the "inertia of sight" is centuries old, but it was not until the 19th century that practical use was made of it. As early as 1824, English scientists had begun to study the phenomenon they called "The persistence of vision", and in 1825 a Dr. John Ayrton Paris (1785-1856) through a very simple experiment, how the inertia of sight could be demonstrated in practice. For this purpose he had made a circular cardboard disc, where on one side was drawn e.g. a bird, and on the opposite side a birdcage. A piece of string was mounted on both sides of the disc, and when the cardboard disc was held up, the strings were tightened and rolled between the fingers and thumb of both hands, the disc was made to rotate so fast that it looked as if the bird was inside. in the cage. The inventor called his little toy Thaumatrope. (Note 2)
Here you can see the visual impression that the two sides leave when they rotate with sufficient speed. Drawing by Jakob Koch © 2005 Dansk Tegnefilms Historie.
In 1829, the Belgian professor of physics, Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau (1801-83), published his first observations and studies of the inertia of sight, and in 1836 he was able to establish the law applicable to this: If 16 images of a movement are recorded, which lasts one second, and if these 16 images are displayed successively for one second, the consciousness will merge these images, which are therefore perceived as identical with the underlying motion.
In 1832, Plateau constructed an apparatus that reproduced the illusion of movement. Independently, Simon Ritter von Stampfer, professor of geometry at the Vienna Institute of Polytechnic, invented and constructed a similar apparatus in principle. Plateau called his device the Phenakistiscope and Stampfer named his device the Stroboscope. The apparatus consisted of a disc, in the outer edge of which a number of radially arranged, narrow openings were cut out at certain intervals, and between and below these twelve or more single images or phases were drawn in a course of movement, such as e.g. a bird that flies, a frog that jumps, or a man that runs.
The flat disc was mounted on an axis and by means of a crank the disc could be made to rotate at a suitable speed, and when one then stood in front of a mirror and looked through the carved and apparently "stationary" openings in the outer edge of the disc, one sees the bird, the frog or the man move in a constant and repeated motion on the mirror image.
A phenakistiscope consisted of a circular cardboard disc whose center was mounted on a handle. Radially in the periphery of the disc, at elongated intervals, some elongated, narrow openings were cut out, and between these was drawn a series of continuous drawings of some figure or possibly. more figures. By standing in front of a mirror and bringing the disc at eye level and rotation at a speed that made the narrow openings visually "stand still", the illusion of continuous movement was produced. - Drawing by Jakob Koch © 2005 Dansk Tegnefilms Historie.
Plateau began by drawing his figures and their phases of movement on paper discs, which were carefully designed to be mounted on the phenakistiscope. But in 1849, at that time, the totally blind inventor got the idea that instead of drawing pictures, one could use photographic recordings to achieve a more realistic effect in connection with the movements of figures. It was then also a phenakistiscope, the photographer Muybridge initially used when he around 1877 began experimenting with moving photographs. However, Plateau's inventions and experiments did not go beyond curiosity, but nonetheless he must be considered a significant pioneer in the exciting history of animation. (Note 3)
As early as 1834, an apparatus emerged which made a slightly more advanced use of the same principle found in the apparatus of Plateau and Stampfer. This new apparatus was invented and constructed by William George Horner (1786-1837), and it consisted of a band with drawn single images of phases of a movement. The image tape was mounted on the inside of a drum, in the upper edge of which a number of narrow openings were cut, and when the drum was made to rotate at a suitable rotational speed, so that the narrow openings were, so to speak, "stood still" and illusory to a single opening, one could see through it the drawn figures move rather vividly. The ribbon with figures could be replaced as desired, depending on the selection available. Horner originally called his apparatus Daedelum, but later it was called both Zootrope and Zoètrope.
However, it was not until as late as 1877 that a significant improvement in the Zoètrope emerged. The greatly improved apparatus was designed by the French artist and inventor Émile Reynaud (1844-1918), and he called it the Praxinoscope. The apparatus consisted of an arrangement of small rectangular mirrors placed on the outside of an inner, central and polygonal drum. The mirrors replaced the openings in the Zoetrope. The phase drawings, which Reynaud himself had drawn and painted, were placed on the inside of an outer and larger drum, and when the apparatus was made to rotate, the illusion of fluid motion appeared.
Émile Reynaud’s Praxinoscope Theater. The function is described in the text. Drawing by Jakob Koch © 2005 Dansk Tegnefilms Historie.
Reynaud had an eye for both the technical possibilities and entertainment qualities that the praxinoscope held, and therefore he was interested in bringing his invention out to a larger audience. His next step was to construct his so-called Praxinoscope Theater, which was a significant further development of the originally rather primitive praxinoscope. He combined the praxinoscope itself with something reminiscent of a puppet show. The theater consisted of a proscenium through which the viewer could look into the praxinoscope placed behind with the mirror images of the drawings on the inside of the outer drum. But between the latter and the proscenium a wooden plate had been inserted, in which a square hole had been cut, and around this hole a backdrop had been placed, which could be replaced as needed.
To illuminate the strip with animated drawings on the inside of the praxinoscope's outer drum, Reynaud initially used a powerful candle mounted on top of the polygonal inner drum with the mirrors. The light was shielded with an ordinary lampshade.
What Reynaud succeeded in creating was a combination of moving characters (animation) and stationary scenery. The disadvantage of the Praxinoscope Theater, however, was that only one spectator at a time could look in through the proscenium and the hole through which the mirror figure could be seen. But in 1882, Reynaud was able to present a significant improvement to his Praxinoscope Theater, having found himself combining the praxinoscope itself with a large paraffin lamp as a light source. Crucially, however, he had built a lamp housing on which two lenses were mounted, one for the fixed stage images and another, through which the mirror images from behind were projected onto a relatively large screen framed by a proscenium. Out in front on the other side of the screen sat the audience, who could see the projected vivid images on the backlit, translucent white screen. (Note 4)
Emile Reynaud's so - called Theater Optique made it possible to project the image strip with the drawn images onto a large screen so that quite a few spectators at a time could see the live images. Drawing by Jakob Koch © 2005 Dansk Tegnefilms Historie.
However, Reynaud was not entirely satisfied with the result, so he sought to improve and further develop his invention, and in 1892 he was able to open his Théâtre Optique, where he presented to a larger audience drawn programs such as "Pauvre Pierrot" ("Poor Pierrot") and "Clown et ses Chiens" ("The Clown and His Dogs"). It was a completely newly constructed apparatus that Reynaud used on that occasion, having in the meantime gone over to drawing and painting his figures on transparent and perforated strips of celluloid. Reynaud had, as the above titles suggest, also gone over to show a little action with his animation, and therefore considerably more animation drawings were required than had been the case with the praxinoscope. Longer strips were therefore needed, and these strips or ribbons were so long that they had to be rolled up on spools.
To show his "films", Reynaud had constructed an ingenious device, which in principle corresponds to the so-called clipboard, which has been used to edit films since the film's childhood. On the cutting table there is on one side a horizontal "feeding coil" and on the other side an equally horizontal collecting coil. During transport from the feed coil to the collection coil, the "film strip" passes via some gears, which ensure a smooth advancement of the "film image" past the light source and the lens projecting the "film image" onto the screen.
On Reynaud's "spool table", the film strip was passed around gears placed in each corner of a rectangular table, and the transport was done by hand, with both the feed spool and the collection spool having a handle that the operator rotated synchronously with each other during display. To keep the strip stretched, a large, horizontal wheel skeleton was mounted approximately in the middle of the table, the periphery of which was divided into squares, each corresponding to the dimensions of the "film image", an optical effect via a prism in the cutting table and via the mirrors in the praxinoscope so that the continuously advancing “film strip” shows stagnant but rapidly changing images.
But just as crucial is the fact that Reynaud had now switched to using electric light as a light source, which of course gave a significantly clearer and sharper image on the screen. In his Théâtre Optique, however, there were still two separate devices for showing scenery and animation, respectively. His projection of the latter was an ingenious construction in which the "film strip" passed between a projector and a lens that threw the illuminated "film image" onto a large mirror, which in turn threw the "film image" over the back of a large, translucent screen. . On the other hand, the picture was so large and clear that a relatively large number of spectators could attend the performance. (Note 5)
See here computer-animated presentation of Emile Reynaud's Theater Optique. Cinema Museum.
Watch Walt Disney's Documentary about 'Theater Optique' here.
The clip also includes: ‘The Enchanted Drawing’ (1900) and ‘Humorous Phases of Funny Faces’ (1906)
However, the development of the photographic technique and the film camera had overtaken Reynaud, and he had also gone bankrupt with his company. It reportedly made him so bitter that one day in great depression he threw his praxinoscope and most of his "cartoons" into the Seine. However, a few copies of both the praxinoscope and the Praxinoscope Theater have been preserved, just as some of his very professionally executed "cartoons" have happily been preserved. In recent decades, the latter have occasionally been seen at film festivals and on television. On January 8, 1918, Reynaud died as a broken and forgotten man in a sanatorium in Ivry, near Paris. But nowadays, film historians have rediscovered Émile Reynaud as the man who not only developed a technique, but who invented a genre and was the first to develop the drawn form of animation into small plays. (Note 6)
What had happened since Reynaud had presented his relatively advanced Théâtre Optique in 1892 was partly the development of the cinematographic apparatus and partly of the photographic technique and the double-perforated scroll film. The cinematographic apparatus underwent many experimental preliminary stages, and many different inventors and engineers constantly worked to improve the technical ability and quality of the apparatus. It was the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), nicknamed "the wizard of Menlo Park", who first applied for a patent for his Kinetograph as a photographic camera and his Kinetoscope as a projection apparatus. Furthermore, it was his laboratory that invented and introduced the double perforation of the film strip, which meant that it could be mechanically advanced both during recording and display in such a way that the film image remained calm. Next, in 1894, Edison had his close collaborator, W.K.L. Dickson (1860-19??), build the world's first film studio, called "Black Maria", and here a number of films were recorded, some of which were even so-called speech or sound films.
When Edison at all came to deal with film, it was connected with his invention of the Phonograph (1877), later called the gramophone. He had got the idea to try to combine the sound and the "living" image, and to that end he began to experiment with the manufacture of a usable recording apparatus and an equally useful viewing apparatus, which he mentioned as Kinetograph and Kinetoscope, respectively. and which he both patented in April 1891. (Note 7)
Edison's kinetoscope (film projector) was not a projection apparatus, but a so-called "cockpit" that allowed only one spectator at a time to see the film, which in the form of a 50-foot loop was hung and passed past the peephole gears at the top and bottom of the appliance. And this was not a circular series of images that were repeated over and over again, but continued, photographic images that reproduced small recognizable movement situations or "actions" from real life.
In the late 1880s, Edison and his staff experimented with projecting the live images onto a relatively large screen so that several spectators at a time would be able to watch the show. There was nothing new in this, as the Austrian army officer, Franz von Uchatius, had already in 1853 designed a projection apparatus that combined Phenakistiscope slices with a lantern, which threw the images onto a screen via a lens. In 1869, A.B. Brown obtained a patent in the United States for a "Projecting Phenakistiscope", which also had two important technical innovations in the form of a so-called Maltese cross and a shutter. What was new about Edison's projection apparatus, on the other hand, was that it was combined with the phonograph and later the gramophone, in such a way that the image was presented synchronously with the sound and vice versa.
There are a number of names of technicians and inventors of what we understand today by a film camera and a cinema machine. Among these names, it is probably especially the Englishmen Birt Acres and R.W.Paul, and the French brothers Louis Jean Lumière (1864-1948) and Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas Lumière (1862-1954) who are worth mentioning here. Birt Acres patented both his 35mm film camera and his 35mm film projector in May 1895, and after a series of private demonstrations of the latter, he screened a number of his films for the Royal Photographic Society on January 14, 1896. He later named his projector and called it Kineopticon. The films he screened he had himself recorded using a film camera designed and built by R.W. Paul. (Note 8)
Robert William Paul (1869-1943) was an optician, and although he was aware that Edison had a world patent on his Kinetoscope, he built one according to the same principles, and boldly showed films from Edison's company with it. But when he found out that Paul had copied his device, he stopped delivering films to this thieving Englishman. However, this only led to the enterprising Paul building his own camera and recording his films with it. As something completely new, Paul had mounted his film camera on a rotating tripod, so that it e.g. could follow a walking or running person or the like. In addition, he designed his own film projector, which, unlike Edison's Kinetoscope, was a projection apparatus. He demonstrated the apparatus, which he called the Theatrograph, at Finsbury Technical College on 28 February 1896. His first film was entitled Rough Sea at Dover (1896).
Here it will probably be appropriate to add that the average length of R.W. Paul's films in 1898 was 40-80 feet, ie. up to 1 1/4 minutes playing time. In 1902 the length was 100 feet = 1 2/3 minutes of playing time, and in 1906 he managed to reach 650 feet = 11 minutes of playing time.
Paul soon freed himself from Edison's models and introduced technical improvements to his apparatus, including a special kind of Maltese cross. He was not like many of his contemporary major film producers, but he usually made more out of his films than the competition. This led to his films being in demand by the audience. He also brought new topics into his films, such as adventure movies, trick movies, horror movies, comedy movies and news reviews. Trickfilm particularly interested him, and in 1898 he presented the dramatic A Railway Collision, in which two trains collide high on a steep mountain and plunge into the depths. For this film he used miniature models and single-image recordings, and it was therefore a trick film in the true sense of the word and concept. (Note 9)
In 1899, Paul built his own and in relation to the time, and especially in relation to Edison's studio, Black Maria from 1894, very modern studio with glass roof, sliding doors and equipment for trick effects. In addition, the camera stand could be mounted on a specially designed truck, if two sets of wheels were placed on separate rails on the ground. This meant that Paul's camera could pan from side to side, presumably about 5-6 meters in total. The studio was located in Sydney Road, New Southgate.
However, R.W.Paul was not the first in film history to make trick films, nor was Méliès the first to make film tricks. That honor belongs in both cases to another Englishman, G.A.Smith (b. 1864), who was originally a portrait photographer in Brighton, but who threw himself into the new medium, the moving images, when he had become acquainted with it. He explored the possibilities of using a mobile camera, as well as exploring the effects of close-ups and ultra-close-ups, as well as the possibilities of a conscious and planned cutting technique. In 1908, he invented a color film system, which he called Kinemacolor. He had a solitary studio or studio in St Anne's Well Gardens, where he recorded his feature films, and in this there were film tricks, just as his films also contained actual trick film footage. Two examples of the latter are the films Dorothy's Dream and the melodrama The Little Witness. (Note 10)
An English film pioneer who deserves to be mentioned, and who is particularly relevant in the context of cartoon history, is Cecil Hepworth (1874-1953), who in 1896 began making self-constructed arc lamps for R.W.Paul's Theatrograph, but who was soon seized by the new medium. He quickly became a film photographer, producer and director of films, and as early as 1897 he wrote and published the trade book Animated Photography, or the ABC of the Cinematograph. That same year, he took out a patent on an automatic film developer machine, which made the previous method of hand development superfluous. In 1898 he set up his own studio and film laboratory in Walton-on-Thames. Hepworth's heyday as a producer and film director was before and in part during World War I, but then it began to go back for him, and in 1924 the formerly wealthy man was declared bankrupt. (Note 11)
In addition to the honor of introducing the later world-famous English-born theater actor Ronald Colman (1891-1958) in the film Sheba (1921), it is also Hepworth's credit that in 1919 he linked the English cartoon pioneer Ernest Anson Dyer (1876-1962) to his studio , and gave this opportunity to make some of the cartoon series he had dreamed of. See more about this later.
However, it is the Lumière brothers who have been honored, as the first, to have shown films to a paying audience. It happened on December 28, 1895 in the Grand Café, Boulevard des Capucins in Paris. The entrance ticket cost 1 franc. The device used on that occasion was designed by Jules Carpentier's mechanical company, and it worked at the same time as a film camera, copier and projector. The apparatus used 35mm perforated film which was fed frame by frame using a gripper device.
The Lumière brothers recorded, developed, and copied the films they themselves screened and later distributed, already owning a factory in Lyon where all kinds of photographic articles were produced. The factory employed a large staff of people, especially women, some of whom had the honor of appearing - presumably involuntarily - on the Lumière brothers' very first film, entitled La Sortie des Ouvriers de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon ("Workers, leaving Lumière's factory in Lyon"). On February 13, 1895, Brd. Lumière the above-mentioned apparatus, which functioned both as a camera and as a projector, under the name Kinétoscope de projection, but later had to change it to Cinématographe.
On March 22, 1895, the brothers screened their first film for the Société d'Encouragement pour l'Industrie Nationale at Rye de Rennes 44 in Paris. Then it went hand in hand with screenings for a number of French specialists, and finally came the day when the new medium was presented to a general audience, who had to pay to be allowed to come in and see the film performance. It was the prelude to Brd. Lumière began showing their films around the capitals and major cities of Europe, but as the excellent businessmen they were, they conditioned themselves on the screenings using their own operators and the screeners they brought with them. Within a few weeks, Lumière's films were shown to more than two thousand people a day. In March 1896, for example, the brothers showed a film program at the Regent Street Polytechnic and afterwards at the Empire Theater in Leicester Square, London. Among the 10 short films shown on this occasion was one that has been described as the world's first slapstick comedy, viz. filmfarce. Its title was L'Arroseur arrosé, in English "A Practical Joke on the Gardener". In Danish, probably something like "Sjov med gartneren”. Film farces were later to become an immensely popular genre in the silent film era, which also had a not insignificant influence on the cartoon medium.
In the first months of 1896, Brd. Lumière directly or indirectly behind the opening of cinema theaters in Lyon, London, Bordeaux, Brussels, Berlin and New York, and audiences almost flocked to. Therefore, not so strange that some of the great showmen of the time spotted the possibilities of the film medium, not least as a source of income. Among the many who offered considerable sums for the rights to use Lumière's process was the magician and director of the Théâtre Robert Houdin in Paris, Georges Méliès (1861-1938), but all were denied without exception. Brd. Lumière would keep their source of money to themselves. (Note 12)
Méliès is to be mentioned here, because he must probably be regarded as the film medium's very first and original magician, who especially technically knew how to create primarily entertaining film tricks, but only to a lesser extent and extent actual trick films. He began as a mechanic, actor, illustrator and set designer, but then apprenticed to the famous French magician Jean Eugène Robert Houdin (1805-71), and in 1888 he became director of the Théâtre Robert Houdin. After that Brd. Lumière had refused to deal with him, he even set about constructing his own film camera, and already a month later he was able to show his first films at the Théâtre Robert Houdin, which at the time was the world's first public cinema. In 1897 he had his very special film studio built in Montreil-sous-Bois, and it became the setting for a hectic and productive activity from morning to evening for the following many years. (Note 13)
In the years 1896-1914, Méliès' film company, Star Film, produced around 4,000 films with an average length of 65 feet = 43.3 seconds of playing time at 16 frames per second. But he also recorded longer films, such as Cinderella at 410 feet = 4.33 minutes, and Joan of Arc at 815 feet = 9.3 minutes. His films ranged from dramas, comedies, vaudevilles, operas, opera-comics, operettas, travel films, fantasy films, documentaries and news films. And what is more, he was responsible for everything himself: financing, design, decorations, stage technique and illusion technique, while at the same time being a screenwriter, actor and director on his films. But, of course, he was assisted by a number of stage technicians and other staff, including people of both sexes, who acted in his films.
Georges Méliès was best known for filming almost all of Jules Verne's science fiction tales, and perhaps the most famous of these is Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902: "The Journey to the Moon"). For these films, Méliès desperately needed his great abilities as a constructor of various mechanical devices and other technical aids. For a film like Á la Conquête du Pôle (1903 ?; "The Conquest of the North Pole"), he constructed a giant ice monster that required twenty stage assistants to make it blink its eyes and move its arms and fingers.
However, the special thing about Méliès' films was that they did not in fact meet the requirements for either drama or comedy, but in terms of form constituted a series of sensational variety numbers. His camera was placed in the middle of the stage, and here it remained standing, no matter what the action was about, and the films therefore came to consist of a series of tableaux, as numbers in a magic show. Méliès did not worry about, or did not understand, the means specific to the film medium: alternating scenes, recorded from different distances (close-ups and total shots) and angles (straight on, from above, from below), and in some cases with moving camera (zoom in or out, tilt and pan), all finally edited (clipped) together, to create a specific course of action and / or mood.
But still he probably deserved to be called Roi de la Fantasmagorie, Jules Verne du Cinéma, Magicien d l'Écran, as was the case then and which he himself appreciated being called. In 1900-12 he was president of the Chambre Syndicale des Éditeurs Cinématographiques, but after 1912 his creative abilities and powers were evidently exhausted and he was soon forgotten. But in 1932, a director of a Parisian avant-garde theater discovered that the formerly so famous and affluent but now impoverished Méliès was the owner of a kiosk at Gare Montparnasse railway station, from which he sold tourist souvenirs. He came back into the spotlight and his films were collected and shown again, while learned articles and books were written about the former magician and film wizard. Chaplin called him "the alchemist of light", D.W.Griffith declared "I owe everything to him", and Jean Cocteau spent days studying Méliès' old films before embarking on his own film work. However, the lords also exerted their influence in order to provide their idol with a small pension and a place in a nursing home for film veterans, but this cash recognition did not benefit Méliès for long, as he died on June 21, 1938.