The evolution of animation – a timeline

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We kick things off with a silent film by J. Stuart Blackton, who some call the father of animation. His silent film shot in Thomas Edison’s Black Moria studio in New Jersey is credited as the first animated sequence on film ever.

An actor essentially does a bit of prop work and a cartoon man drawn on an easel occasionally changes expression thanks to some basic stop motion photography. Nothing fancy, but enough to capture the imagination of its viewers and other’s looking to run with this new and exciting visual entertainment medium.


1906 – Humorous Phases of Funny Faces

Without any live action actor this time, J. Stuart Blackton returns with this, the first animation recorded on standard picture film. Humorous Phases begins with an artist drawing portraits on a blackboard in chalk, before they begin to animate and interact with each other.

It may be primitive, but this film would have blown your monocle clean off your face if you hadn’t seen a drawing come to life before!

Whilst Gertie was perhaps the first animated character to gain notoriety, Windsor McCay’s animated dinosaur film is worth a mention because it is the first animation to make use of key framing, inbetweening, registration marks and animation loops. These all became part of standard industry practice for traditional animation production for decades to come.

Humorous Phases of Funny Faces

1922 – Steamboat Willie


We all know this one! Steamboat is often mistakenly thought to be Mickey Mouse’s debut, when in fact, this wasn’t his first outing. It was, however, the first animated film to both popularise Mickey and to be fully scored.

Yeah that doesn’t sound as impressive, but it’s still an iconic moment in animation history with some of the most recognisable visuals of any animation ever.