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Seminar 4D: Fantasmagorie

Fantasmagorie by Emile Cohl (1908)

Why is it important for animation history?

Fantasmagorie, created by Emile Cohl in 1908, is considered to be the first hand-drawn animation ever created. Just like its title, the animation itself turned a lot of heads as the narrative of the film was fantastic. The mysterious character, a Pierrot, as well as the background environment changed or morphed forms magically multiple times seamlessly throughout the entire “performance”. Although the visuals look like chalk drawings drawn on a blackboard, the artist actually drew these visuals on paper and then converter them to negative film through photography, causing a switch on the black and white colors. The artist would draw an image, take its photograph, then change the drawing a little bit, and take another photograph. The work is composed of a stream of conscious pattern of 700 frames –which took about 8 weeks for completion. This process helped the film have continuity, movement and flow.

Although the film did not have a proper storyline, it turned out to be very influential for its energy, inspiring many artists of the time by showing the possibilities which could be reached by a creative mind. When Cohl moved to Virginia, America, his influences over  The Newlyweds (name of his short animations based off of newsprints),  caused the trigger of animating popular print comics in America.

In spite of the fact that Cohl’s animation works were interrupted by World War I, Fantasmagorie influenced many popular animators such as Walt Disney and his emerging hand drawn animations of 1920s. In many others and particularly Disney’s case, these animation processes are still used today before being performed digitally. Each frame is hand drawn as a demonstration of a storyline or a storyboard to map out the narration of a movie or episode.

Word Count: 300 words

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