Blackton--Father of American Animation
American animation owes its beginnings to J. Stuart Blackton, a British filmmaker who created the first animated film in America. Before creating cartoons, Blackton was a vaudeville performer known as "The Komikal Kartoonist." In his act, he drew "lightning sketches" or high-speed drawings. In 1895, he met
Thomas Edison. Can you guess what this meeting with the famous inventor inspired him to do?After meeting Edison, Blackton became interested in putting his drawings on film. He and Albert E. Smith formed one of the first film studios, the Vitagraph Company. They made a series of "trick films," using techniques including stop motion (stopping and starting the camera while making a change in the scene being filmed), dissolves (the first scene slowly fades out at the same time that a second scene slowly fades in), and multiple exposures (filming one image, then rewinding the film and shooting a second image) to achieve what they called "magical effects." (Today we call them special effects.) Blackton's first creation, combining drawings and film, was "The Enchanted Drawing." Using the trick film techniques he and Smith developed, the drawing magically comes alive!
Six years after creating "The Enchanted Drawing," Blackton made "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces," a film in which you see an artist's hand draw faces and figures that begin to move. Take a look at this film and see what kind of film techniques you recognize. How much has animated film changed? Although today we remember Blackton for creating the earliest cartoons, his main work was making dramatic films with actors. How do you think his other filmmaking influenced his animated films?
Library of Congress, American Memory