Émile Cohl’s Fantasmagorie was not only the first step in an entire world to be created by animation, but it also set precedents and used techniques that would continue to be used in animation today. A pair of hands (presumably Cohl’s) can be seen interacting with the animation two times throughout the course of the short film. Once at the beginning in the initial drawing of the film’s protagonist and once later on to reassemble the very same character after he is torn in two. This mixing of the drawings with real life attributes, such as the limbs of the very artist that created those drawings, is an advanced technique used by Cohl to help bridge the gap between the world of animation and the “real” world. Another one of these bridges can be seen when the main character tears the paper that the animation is drawn on to dispose of a large feather from the woman’s hat sitting in front of him. This abstract use of space may not even make us blink today, but when it was first viewed in 1908, the magic of animation was enough to cause a frenzy.
Almost right off the bat, Cohl uses the placement of the face on the main character’s head to create a faux-3d effect which had not been used up until this point. Other forms of primitive animation using projectors had only ever been able to project a still, 2d image. However, the movement in certain parts of the drawings is able to convey a new dimensionality that had not previously been seen in this regard.
Lastly, the use of morphs in Fantasmagorie is what really makes the second half of the film shine. Particularly in the transition between the first half of the film taking place in a theater and the second, more abstract half is where most of these morphs take place. This concept of one thing morphing into another, neither of which can be found in our “real” universe, is one of the most incredible things seen in this short, and is what must have made it so life-changing for those that were able to see it at the time of its release.