There are a variety of animation styles – hand drawn cels, paper cutout, clay, puppet, stop motion, pin screen, to name a few. At the dawn of animation in the early 20th century, two styles dominated – hand drawn and stop motion. Hand drawn went on to become the most widely used style, and the vast majority of 20th century animation was hand drawn. Although computer-generated animation has become the predominant form, hand drawn animation retains its deserved respect.
As for stop motion, it, too, has retained its respect. The beauty of stop motion is that you don’t have to be good at drawing. That doesn’t necessarily make the process easier, but it certainly helps. In fact, you can use any number of stop motion apps on an iPad and create your own film. I’ve had good luck with OSnap Pro, and it’s the app I recommend for students in my History of Animation course.
Obviously, burgeoning animators in the early 20th century didn’t have the luxury of using an app. However, they still delivered amazing films, some of which are iconic. There are two examples I’ll share with you.
The first example is Emile Cohl’s The Automatic Moving Company from 1910 (the film has also been attributed to Romeo Bossetti). This is easily one of the most technically accomplished stop motion films you’ll ever see. When the furniture starts unloading at the 45 second mark, it’s mesmerizing. The smooth motion of the various objects is flawless. How they were able to accomplish this in 1910 is pretty remarkable. If you were to film it today, there’s not much you could do to improve upon the original.
The second example is one of my all-time favorite stop motion films, Wladyslaw Starewicz’s The Camerman’s Revenge from 1911. It’s the age-old story of infidelity. Only this story is told with insects (yes, insects). It’s an amazing piece of stop-motion animation from Russia. The keyhole shot that frames the infidelity act at the 4:59 mark is a unique cinematic method. The film within a film at the 11:35 mark is an astounding special effect for that time period. Even by today’s standards that effect is impressive. I have a great respect for the patience that was needed to create this film.