Monday, December 31, 2007

The History of Animation 1 - J. Stuart Blackton: Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906)

Animation has been around for a long time, but we're concentrating on animating characters for entertainment. That started with a man named Blackton.


"J. Stuart Blackton was possibly the first American filmmaker to use the techniques of stop-motion and hand-drawn animation. Introduced to filmmaking by Edison, he pioneered these concepts at the turn of the 20th century, with his first copyrighted work dated 1900. Several of his films, among them The Enchanted Drawing (1900) and Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906) were film versions of Blackton's "lightning artist" routine, and utilized modified versions of Méliès' early stop-motion techniques to make a series of blackboard drawings appear to move and reshape themselves. Humorous Phases of Funny Faces' is regularly cited as the first true animated film, and Blackton is considered the first true animator."

J. Stuart Blackton:


"James Stuart Blackton (January 5, 1875 - August 13, 1941), usually known as J. Stuart Blackton, was an American film producer of the Silent Era, the founder of Vitagraph Studios and among the first filmmakers to use the techniques of stop-motion and drawn animation. He is considered the father of American animation."

"Blackton ended up as a reporter/artist for the New York Evening World newspaper. In 1896, Thomas Edison publicly demonstrated the Vitascope, one of the first film projectors, and Blackton was sent to interview Edison and provide drawings of how his films were made. Eager for good publicity, Edison took Blackton out to his "Black Maria", the special cabin he used to do his filming, and created a film on the spot of Blackton doing a lightning portrait of Edison. The inventor did such a good job selling the art of movie-making that he talked Blackton and partner Smith into buying a print of the new film as well as nine other films, plus a Vitascope to show them to paying audiences (Reader was brought back in to run the projector).

"In a series of films, Blackton developed the concepts of animation. The first of these films is The Enchanted Drawing, with a copyright date of 1900 but probably made at least a year earlier. In this film, Blackton the lightning artist sketches a face, cigars, and a bottle of wine. He appears to remove the last drawings as real objects, and the face appears to react. The "animation" here is of the stop-action variety (the camera is stopped, a single change is made..."

The Enchanted Drawing:


"Humorous Phases of Funny Faces is a silent cartoon by J. Stuart Blackton in the year 1906. It features a cartoonist drawing faces on a chalkboard, and the faces coming to life. It is generally regarded as the first animated film. It features movements as where a dog jumps through a hoop. The film moves at 20 frames per second."

Humorous Phases of Funny Faces:


"1906, Blackton directed Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, which uses stop-motion as well as stick puppetry to produce a series of effects. After Blackton's hand draws two faces on a chalkboard, they appear to come to life and engage in antics. Most of the film uses life action effects instead of animation, but nevertheless this film had a huge effect in stimulating the creation of animated films in America."


Our first blog on the history of animation is also our first and last blog on Stuart Blackton. He was the father of animation, but he abandoned it as soon as he discovered it.

Stuart Blackton did a few more animations and then concentrated on live film. Had he caught the vision that other people did who were inspired by his work, then he could have started the animation industry rolling in about 15 years before others did. He could have been as successful as Walt Disney was, 20 years before Walt got famous.



History of Animation 3 - Winsor McCay: How a Mosquito Operates (1912)

History of Animation 2 - Winsor McCay: Little Nemo (1911)

History of Animation 1 - J. Stuart Blackton: Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906)

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