1908 – Fantasmagorie

Directed by: Émile Cohl

This film is one of the earliest examples of traditional animation: each of the 700-odd ink drawings were completed by hand and photographed on negative film (which contributed to the blackboard look). It was projected at 16 frames per second; Émile Cohl only made 8 drawings for each second and photographed each twice. As a result, the animation appears smooth. There are two instances where the creator’s hands interact with the animation (though in this case, they are replaced with cut-outs that can be manipulated and the film briefly becomes live action) which is somewhat reminiscent of J. Stuart Blackton’s Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906).

There is not much of a coherent story – images transform in a dream-like, stream-of-consciousness fashion, likely influenced by Émile Cohl’s background in les arts incohérents(a brief French art movement that encouraged the irrational, nonsensical and silly and served as a precursor to what would become surrealism).

Bibliography

Artlark (2021). ‘The World’s First Cartoon: Fantasmagorie’, Artlark, 17 August. Available at: https://artlark.org/2021/08/17/fantasmagorie-the-first-ever-cartoon/ [Accessed: 9 February 2022].

Ettleman, T. (2017). ‘The First Animated Film Is a Rhythmic Delight’, Medium, 12 November. Available at: https://trettleman.medium.com/the-first-animated-film-is-a-rhythmic-delight-68275df5095 [Accessed: 9 February 2022].

IMDb contributors (n.d.). ‘A Fantasy (1908)’, IMDb. Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0000682/ [Accessed: 9 February 2022].

JEC (2020). ‘Fantasmagorie (1908) A Fantasy’, A Cinema History. Available at: http://www.acinemahistory.com/2020/06/fantasmagorie-1908-fantasy.html [Accessed: 9 February 2022].

Wikipedia contributors (2021). ‘Incoherents’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 December. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incoherents [Accessed: 9 February 2022].

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