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Chronicles of Cartoon Animation – The Silent Mainstream

Winsor McCay and Gertie the Dinosaur

It’s been nearly 100 years since the first modern cartoon animation “Gretie the Dinosaur” by Winsor McCay, was created. McCay, who is also considered the “father of animated cartoons”, with his lovable animated dinosaur Gertie made their cartoon in debut 1914.

Although by today standards, the cartoon animation of Gertie the Dinosaur might appear to be simple and boring to many. However, nonetheless, Winsor McCay’s animated creation was a major breakthrough as it brought back the life of something many believed had thought to be extinct and gone forever, a live, living, moving and sensible dinosaur.

However, McCay’s success as the first cartoon animator didn’t last long. By the early 1920′s he drifted away from animation altogether. But of course, this was not the end of the cartoon animation. In fact, the next big cartoon success would be succeeded by his assistant Otto Messmer who ultimately creates the biggest cartoon star of the Silent Era, Felix the Cat.

Felix the Cat Felix the Cat made his debut in 1919 in Feline Follies, however; it wasn’t until after his second episode, Musical Mews, was Felix officially named.

Although Felix becomes the biggest star in the Silent Era of cartoon animation, an era where animated shows were recorded with out sound. Felix, unfortunately lost all his stardom by the early 1930′s, as he was unable to survive the transition from silent films to sound films.

But as we all know, when one star falls, another one rises. As Felix the Cat tries to cope with his failure to make sound and noise, a new star rose to popularity; a star that is still known today as Mickey Mouse.

Originally, Mickey Mouse was preceded by a former Disney trademark star called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. However, due to licensing issues over Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney was forced to give in the character to his distributor Charles Mintz in 1927.

Disney, without a star character, a budget, and even animators, was lost on what to do next. But fortunately for him, he still had his best animator Ub Iwerks, as it was Ub Iwerks who created the star mouse Mickey in 1928.

Mickey’s first cartoon debut was called Plane Crazy (1928), which was all hand drawn in less than two weeks by Ub Irweks. Though, Mickey’s biggest achievement and probably still his biggest achievement, came in his third cartoon animation “Steam Boat Wille” (1929).

Why is “Steam boat Willie” Mickey’s biggest cartoon animation? Well, because it became the first cartoon film to featured sound :) . And of course, it’s not just any type sound, but synchronized sound that actually followed the movement and rhythm on screen and used without a metronome.

However, Steam Boat Willie did not exactly mark the end of the Silent Era, though it certainly marked the beginning of the end for it. But the real culprit to mark the end of the silent era was the tool called the metronome which suggested that a pattern of a musical score did not have to be composed before the film was made; only the meter had to be determine.

In order words, the animation was produced after the musical score was completed. This allowed the animation to be done at a specific beat and sound effects that flow with the comical gags.

As a result, the metronome allowed Walt Disney to pioneer musical scores into his films, which were ultimately done by a famous music composure and producer Carl Stalling. This ingenuity ultimately gave Disney the edge over other cartoon studios and eventually contributes the end of the Silent Era of cartoon animation films.

Steamboat Willie


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