Skip to content


The History of Animation

November 17, 2020

The History of Animation

We thought we’d take a break from our typical marketing blogs to bring you some rad facts about the history of animation, and how we were able to go from this:

to this:

Well, it all started with a “fantasmagoric” film. 

Early Animation

The very first animated “film” was by a french cartoonist named Émile Cohl. He’s often seen as the father of animation because of his 1908 film, Fantasmagorie, which features a playful cast of hand-drawn characters that are up to no good. This was the first film with this unique animation style, which involved drawing on an illuminated glass plate. The next drawings in the animation were traced from the last frame so it was easy to tell what image was necessary to create a fluid movement once the static images spun around quickly.

Another early animation pioneer was Winsor McCay, another cartoonist from Canada. His feature animated film from 1914, Gertie the Dinosaur, was the first animated film to feature character development. It was also the first animated film to combine animation and live action. Bonus fact: McCay hand drew every frame in this film, which was over 1,000.

The Golden Age

Let’s fast forward a few years, and meet one of the best-known animators in history, Walt Disney. While he may be best known-for his ground-breaking amusement parks, we’re here to talk about his animation. 

It should be no surprise that Mr. Disney was one of the most important pioneers of animation. With 22 Oscars, two Golden Globes, and an Emmy, Disney holds the record for the most Academy Awards earned by an individual.

Arguably, Walt Disney is best known for his first feature-animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was the first animated feature film in both full color and sound, and cost Disney three times his original budget; $1.5 million.

Disney’s goal was to make the film as realistic as possible, both in animation and sound. To achieve this, the studio developed something called a multiplane camera, where multiple glass panes could be used to create an illusion of depth. Check out the ground-breaking camera at work:

Early Modern & Modern

One name that should really stick out to most people when it comes to this Era of animation is Pixar. Specifically, Pixar’s Toy Story, as it was the first feature-length film to use all CGI to animation. 

Pixar needed a total of 117 computers running 24/7 to fully render the final product of Toy Story. They even created their own software in order to render the entire 77 minutes of animation, called Renderman.

Which only becomes more impressive when comparing the very first Toy Story movie, to the most recent one, Toy Story 4. 

How We Do It

Of course, we have a deep love for the classic hand-drawn animation, but now-a-days, it’s just not practical. So, at Digital Brew, we use computer animation to render and bring your brand stories to life. If you want to know what a day in the life of a Digital Brew animator looks like, you can check it out here.

And, as always, if you have questions about animation, or want to learn more about our process, you can always pick a time to chat with us here!