The Evolution of Animation: From Hand-Drawn to Computer-Generated

Animation has come a long way from its humble hand-drawn beginnings to the high-tech full CGI animations that dominate our entertainment today. We’ve seen animated films, TV shows, and video games transform to become the art forms of the modern age. In this article we’ll explore the evolution of animation from its early days to the computer-generated masterpieces of today.

The Beginnings of Animation

The earliest days of animation began by telling stories through storytelling and drawings on walls. As the worlds of literature and art began to progress, people would use shadow figures to enhance their stories. This concept eventually evolved into the moving picture.

The first moving-picture device that could create an animated scene was patented by the French brothers Emile and Louis Reynaud in the late 1800s. This was the first basic animation device, using loops of drawings to create the illusion of movement.

Early Hand-Drawn Animation

Early hand-drawn animated films were known as ‘cel animation’, due to the fact that animators drew images on sheets of celluloid before painting them and transferring them onto film. This delivery system, though rudimentary, provided audiences with the first glimpses of the magic of animation.

The most influential early Cel animation films were Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia, both produced by the Walt Disney Company. These films used intricate artistry and deep storylines to capture the imagination of viewers worldwide.

Traditional Animation in the Golden Age

The Golden Age of animation began in the mid-1930s and lasted until the early 1950s. This was a time when animation films, television shows, and comics were hugely popular. Cartoons were, and still are, an integral part of mass culture.

During this period, a huge variety of animations were developed, and instead of having to redraw a whole scene for every frame, scene contents could be recycled between frames. However, the process of animating was still incredibly labor-intensive with hundreds of frames involving hundreds of pictures.

The Rise of Computer-Generated Imagery

The development of computers and computer software in the 1980s and 1990s accelerated the move towards computer-generated imagery (CGI). Technological advances in the field of computer animation made it possible to create moving images faster and with much higher quality.

CGI allowed for detailed animation of three-dimensional objects, and brought about huge advances in the field of animated films, television shows, and video games. Some of the most famous examples of computer-animated films to come out of this period are Toy Story, Shrek, and The Lion King.

High-Tech Animation Today

Today, animation has come full-circle. CGI animation is the primary medium used in feature films, television, and video games. Animators are now able to create highly-detailed, photorealistic images within a matter of hours, instead of the days and weeks needed in traditional animation.

CGI animation has become so advanced that it can even create immersive virtual worlds and work with interactive media. Computer game filmmakers turn the game world into an interactive playground with advanced graphics, storylines and sound effects.

Animation has come a long way from it’s humble beginnings. From the first hand-drawn commercial animations to the full CGI masterpieces of today, animation has become an integral part of our lives. How far we’ve come in the world of animated films, TV shows, and video games is a testament to the progress made in the field of animation.