History of Animation
The beginning of animation you say? Well it could be as old as man itself.
Why? Here’s the reason:
Man has always had a compelling urge to represent his view of the surroundings. As he looks at the creatures around him, he tries to draw or mold their forms in a recognizable way. As he becomes more skilled, he attempts to capture more advanced, more dynamic. Ultimately, he attempts to portray the very essence of the subject.
Twenty-five thousand years ago, as found in the cave of Lascaux or Altamira, the Cro-Magnon man made drawings of the animals he hunted. They may not be beautiful, but they certainly are astounding and curiously enough, some of the animals had four pair of legs rather than two. Maybe the artist was simply trying to depict the running of animals by drawing another two pairs of legs over his drawing.
As Time passed by, oblivious to the fact that man became more skilled and more efficient enough to form civilizations; the urge to represent his surroundings had gained new heights. It was here that man noticed that drawing consecutive figures which differed slightly and if played rapidly enough, it would produce something closer to life. The Egyptians, ingenious as they were, painted different poses on murals, so that when someone passed by them on a chariot, the figure would appear to move.
But the Greeks begged to differ; they painted the figures on pots and urns, so that, when rotated, they gave the illusion of motion.
In 19th century, various devices such as zoetrope, thaumatrope, and flip-book were used for animation. At the start of 20th century, J Stuart Blackton used hand-drawn and stop motion techniques to create animated films. His famous work, Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906), consisted of drawing figures on the blackboard, erasing it and redrawing it again using stop motion techniques. Blackton is known as the first true animator.
Following Blackton, many artists began to experiment with animation. Winsor McKay, a newspaper cartoonist, created detailed animations with characters looking life-like. His most famous work was Gertie the Dinosaur. Performed as a vaudeville act, McKay would claim Gertie was a tamed dinosaur that would listen to him. McKay would feed Gertie and even make her give him a ride which would send the astounded crowd into wild raptures.
The production of short animated films, called cartoons, became an industry of its own in 1910s. In 1914 Earl O’Hurd patented sheets of cellulose acetate, known as cels which would dominate the industry.
Enter Walt Disney:
Walt Disney, an animator, founded the Walt Disney Studios in 1923, which would become the leader in American animation industry. The establishment of Walt Disney studios ushered the world into a golden age of animation. Disney’s most famous character was Mickey Mouse. Mickey would star in several of Disney’s short films including the first sound film Steamboat Willie released on 1928. It was the first animated movie containing synchronized sound. The audiences were amazed that the drawings not only moved but also could produce sound of their own.
Then in 1937, Disney released their first full-length animated feature film Snow White and Snow Dwarfs. Legend has it that Walt’s wife, Lillian Disney tried to talk Walt out of making Snow White telling him that No one’s gonna pay to watch a bunch of drawings. Even Hollywood called the movie Disney’s Folly, but undeterred, Disney released the movie which on its first premiere garnered applause for straight ten minutes, in a hall consisting of eminent personalities such as Charlie Chaplin. Snow White and Seven Dwarfs became the highest grossing movie and was included in National Film Registry for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
After the success of Snow White and seven Dwarfs, other animated feature films such as Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), and Bambi (1942) were released. It wasn’t long before Walt Disney put the animation industry on the map.
With studios like Disney and Warner Bros. at the helm, the world experienced a golden age of animation from 1930 to 1945.
In the year 1999, the first 3D computer animated film Toy Story was released by Pixar studios which brought on a new era of animation, where cels are discarded and computer systems are used to create animation.
Man has come a long way from drawing animals on walls of caves to drawing on cels to creating animation on computers. But the true magic of animation is the same; portraying the essence of life.
Trends and Strategies:
The rapid advancement of technology has made animation available to the masses and made animation industry one of the fastest growing industries. The demand for animated shows is ever expanding with the increase of cable and satellite TV coupled with the ever-growing popularity of the Internet. In the past, animated shows were aimed at children below the age of nine. However, in recent years, shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy and King of the Hill, which were mainly aimed at teenagers and adults, have found success.
The major animation market includes the USA, Britain, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and China among others. The current animation industry is influenced by large multinational studios and TV broadcast companies and cable channel companies. They are engaged in right from pre-production to the distribution, as well as DVD sales and intellectual property licensing.
The multinational studios influence various forms of partnership, co-production and joint ventures. Many countries subsidize their national film industries, including animation industry and thereby strategies such as co-production have been adopted to explore the global market in animation.
Co-production has emerged as a popular strategy for studios in many countries. And the biggest beneficiaries have been China and India. The animation studios in China and India have become popular co-production partners of studios of Europe, Japan and North America. The biggest advantage of co-production is that it provides flexibility while working with small studios and can bring in fresh ideas and talent from other countries.
Careers and Opportunities:
Animation as an industry is a vast one. The opportunities are endlessly overflowing for passionate and skilled artists. Interestingly, even with the ever advancing technology, drawing or 2D as it is known as hasn’t lost its sheen. Even today skilled artists with a good knowledge of 2D are much sought after.
Some of the careers available in the 2D field are:
- Concept Artists: Concept artists are artists that convey an idea through visual means like sketches, paintings. Mainly employed by almost all entertainment industries like films, comics, games, animations etc., and their application extends to fields like product design, architectural design. Concept artists have limitless creativity and a boundless energy to express their creativity
- Storyboard Artists: Storyboard is a visual representation of the story. Very much akin to a comic strip, storyboard communicates the flow of the story, the actions in a particular scene. Storyboard artists have to tell a story through drawings. Storyboard artists must have knowledge about camera angles and have a good knack for storytelling
- Layout Artists: Layout artists are those who create layouts for the animated movies. Layouts are the locations where the scene on the movie take place. Layout artists create the locations based upon the movie. Layout artists should have a good drawing skills and a good understanding of perspective
- Key animators: Key animators manage pre-production by determining how animation will be executed. Key animators also supervise the work of a team of animators and guide junior crew members. Animators must have a good sense of timing and must be strong in animation principles
- Inbetweeners: Inbetweeners perform an important function in all types of animation. After the key scenes are drawn by the animator, it is the task of the inbetweeners to take the images and create the character’s movements in transitioning between scenes; they also take direction from assistant animators, animators, and animation directors at animation production studio. Since inbetweeners act as assistants to key animators, they too must possess the same skills as animators i.e., good sense of timing, strong in the basic principles
- Clean-up-artist: It is a part of work flow in producing traditional animation or hand drawn animation, where the clean versions of rough animation drawings are created. In largerstudios this task is given to the animator’s assistant, or to a clean-up-artist. The clean-up-artist is responsible for the final line and finished look of the shot
- Color-key-artist: Color key artists create color schemes that are appropriate for different lighting situations. For example: at night or underwater. They work primarily for animation companies, animation production studios, and gaming companies
Indian Animation Industry
The history of Indian animation is not so short. Although interest in animated movies was later than that of other countries such as USA, Japan; the first animation was made in early twenty century and the name of the animation film Agkadyanchi Mouj by Dadasaheb Phalke. The cartoon film unit was started by the film division, which was setup by the Indian government in 1940’s. The unit played a significant role in developing Indian animation.
G.K. Gokhale along with Clair.H.Weeks produced the first film from the cartoon film unit called Banyan Tree. Ram Mohan, one of the important animators in India, worked for the film division. Later he would go on to setup his own studio in 1972. Also in 1955 the children’s film society of India was established the Indian government. The organization would go on and produce many animated films.
The general theme of Indian animation is religion or biographies of eminent kings or personalities.
It can be said that the main role of Indian animation was to propagate the Indian culture. Animation was mainly broadcasted on TV.
One of the notable animated movies was released in 1992 named Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama directed by a Japanese director, Yugo Sako and Ram Mohan. Another popular 2D animated film is Hanuman, which was created by Silvertoons released in 2005.
Around 2004-2005, Indian animation industry came into the spotlight as important outsourcing place. A new outsourcing trend had gripped the global entertainment industry. Popular studios like Walt Disney, IMAX, Warner Bros. and Sony have signed up multi-millionaire contracts with Indian animation studios. Cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai have become the major animation hubs.
One of the main reasons why India has become a outsourcing hub for animation is that India as a English speaking workforce, good studios and low cost of animation services.
Current Trends in Indian Animation Industry:
India is a popular hotspot for outsourcing companies based in USA, France etc. According to NASSCOM, the size of the Indian animation industry in 2008 was $ 107 million, out of which about 27% is for domestic consumption. The rest 73% is offshore demand. One of the reasons for this statistics is Indian animation studios prefer outsourcing work as it is a bigger business than domestic market. In other words, domestic animation market in India is still in its infancy and the popularity of Indian animation in India is not so high. According to a research about the popularity of the animated TV shows, out of the top 10 animations, only one Chota Bheem is Indian; rest are from foreign countries. Hence outsourcing provides a bigger profit to the Indian animation studios than domestic market.
Future of the Indian Animation Industry:
Indian animation industry has seen a growth spurt from 2004 and is showing no signs of ceasing. It has become the fastest growing industry. It has been projected to grow by $2.9 billion by 2015 from the present $1.8 billion. The growth estimates are projected by NASSCOM, who maintain that the industry requires availability of skilled resources in vast numbers. At present, India has a shortage of skilled animators and the infrastructure, too is not in place to kick start the growth. The industry is still heavily reliant on outsourcing segment but the domestic market is expected to grow too. The gaming sector is poised to witness a massive 72% growth to reach $424 million.
Lack of a developed market such as that of U.S, Canada, low level of professionalism coupled with minimal investment in technology are some of the problems currently faced by the Indian animation industry. The current problems must be overcome by priority basis in order to put the industry on its growth trajectory.
The modern day youngsters and even the parents have understood the pace of growth of the creative industry and are impressively sailing their boat in this direction. Many colleges and universities are offering bachelors and master’s degree in animation and graphics, which opens door to the global platforms, for the creative enthusiast.
Thank You for reading!
This article is composed and compiled by an alumnus of Animaster Academy, a leading animation and graphics college, in Bangalore, India.
The readers are advised to read the article Dilemma of a Designer