An animated cartoon is a film for the cinema, television or computer screen, which is made using sequential drawings, as opposed to animations in general, which include films made using clay, puppet and other means. Animated cartoons are still created for commercial, educational, and personal purposes.
Often, the toons receive unusual objects, and the pitfalls that the characters tend to each other often end in a comic fall, thanks to many reversals of situation.
It is usually short films, using irony, exaggeration, caricature and especially imagination. Cartoons always favors humor, generally do not give much importance to the characters’ lives: only the moment of the action and the elements count leading to the end of the gag.
As for the graphic style and the animation: very important deformations of the characters (stretching, big eyes, four fingers, technique of squash and stretch). This particularity of the characters is crucial in the scenarios, because it makes it possible to make live with these all sorts of illogical and funny situations.
As for the scenario: the exaggeration of the situations and emotions expressed by the characters, the violence of these which are never dramatized: the characters are often resurrected after suffering situations that would have led to their death in normal times ; unlike the Disney style, which sometimes turns to tragedy (fairy tales, death of the mother of Bambi).
Early examples of attempts to capture the phenomenon of motion into a still drawing can be found in paleolithic cave paintings, where animals are often depicted with multiple legs in superimposed positions, clearly attempting to convey the perception of motion.
The phenakistoscope (1832), zoetrope (1834) and praxinoscope (1877), as well as the common flip book, were early animation devices to produce movement from sequential drawings using technological means, but did not develop further until the advent of motion picture film.
The first animated projection (screening) was created in France, by Charles-Émile Reynaud, who was a French science teacher. Reynaud created the Praxinoscope in 1877 and the Théâtre Optique in December 1888. On 28 October 1892, he projected the first animation in public, Pauvre Pierrot, at the Musée Grévin in Paris. This film is also notable as the first known instance of film perforations being used. His films were not photographed, but drawn directly onto the transparent strip. In 1900, more than 500,000 people had attended these screenings.
The first (photographed) animated projection was Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906) by newspaper cartoonist J. Stuart Blackton, one of the co-founders of the Vitagraph Company arrived. In the film, a cartoonist’s line drawings of two faces were ‘animated’ (or came to life) on a blackboard. The two faces smiled and winked, and the cigar-smoking man blew smoke in the lady’s face; also, a circus clown led a small dog to jump through a hoop.
The first animated projection in the traditional sense (i.e., on motion picture film) was Fantasmagorie by the French director Émile Cohl in 1908. This was followed by two more films, Le Cauchemar du fantoche [The Puppet’s Nightmare,, now lost] and Un Drame chez les fantoches [A Puppet Drama, called The Love Affair in Toyland for American release and Mystical Love-Making for British release], all completed in 1908.
One of the very first successful animated cartoons was Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) by Winsor McCay. It is considered the first example of true character animation. At first, animated cartoons were black-and-white and silent. Felix the Cat and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit are notable examples.
From the 1920s to 1960s, theatrical cartoons were produced in huge numbers, and usually shown before a feature film in a movie theater. Disney (distributed by Pat Powers, then Columbia, then United Artists, then RKO, then independently), Fleischer (distributed by Paramount), Warner Bros., MGM, and UPA (distributed by Columbia) were the largest studios producing these 5- to 10-minute “shorts.” Other studios included Walter Lantz (distributed by Universal), DePatie-Freleng (distributed by United Artists), Charles Mintz Studios (later Screen Gems) (distributed by Columbia), Famous Studios (distributed by Paramount), and Terrytoons (distributed by 20th Century Fox).
The first cartoon to use a soundtrack was in 1926 with Max Fleischer’s My Old Kentucky Home. However the Fleischers used a De Forest sound system and the sound was not completely synchronized with the film. Walt Disney’s 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie starring Mickey Mouse was the first to use a click track during the recording session, which produced better synchronism. “Mickey Mousing” became a term for any movie action (animated or live action) that was perfectly synchronized with music. The music used is original most of the time, but musical quotation is often employed. Animated characters usually performed the action in “loops,” i.e., drawings were repeated over and over.
Although other producers had made films earlier using 2-strip color, Disney produced the first cartoon in 3-strip Technicolor, Flowers and Trees, in 1932. Technicians at the Fleischer studio invented rotoscoping, in which animators trace live action in order to make animation look more realistic. However, rotoscoping made the animation look stiff and the technique was later used more for studying human and animal movement, rather than directly tracing and copying filmed movements.
Later, other movie technologies were adapted for use in animation, such as multiplane cameras with The Old Mill (1937), stereophonic sound in Fantasia (1940), widescreen processes with the feature-length Lady and the Tramp (1955), and even 3D with Lumber Jack-Rabbit.
Today, traditional animation uses traditional methods, but is aided by computers in certain areas. This gives the animator new tools not available that could not be achieved using old techniques.
A text of very few lines describing the characters, the setting and the time in which a short film takes place.
Tale that tells the story of the short film; presents the characters and describes the setting.
Text divided into scenes (ie the scenes of the short) where you describe what happens, what the characters say etc.
The realization of an animated drawing, as well as a film, foresees the drafting of the storyboard as a first step, to translate the text of the script into drawings. The storyboard is very similar to the draft of a comic book, but without clouds; the dialogues, if any, are placed under the scene, along with the annotations, while the drawing is rough, full of unsolved traits, and this is because the drawings are many, but above all it does not have to be beautiful in itself, but to show the shots in the best way.
The storyboard is progressively modified, up to the final version, with the comparison of the team of artists with the director; for example, the painters of the backgrounds must know where to paint and where instead leave white spaces reserved for the characters.
In advertising the storyboard is used to submit a commercial spot to the customer before filming it. Unlike storyboards for film scripts, these are more detailed and carefully colored, as they are already a presentation to the customer. This compendium made of drawings and annotations is then refined with the team that will work on the recording, ie actors and screenwriters.
Incision of the entries
Before starting the animation work it is used to record a preliminary audio track, which will serve as a guide to the animators. This track contains only the voices, useful to the animators to adjust with the quantity of the drawings.
The complete audio track will include voiceovers, sound effects and music, but will only be performed in the post-production phase.
Step after the storyboard and the recording of the voices; it consists of a montage realized using the vignettes of the storyboard and the voices of the preliminary audio track.
Animatic or Leica Reel
Before approving the storyboard definitively, a very approximate animation is realized, made up mainly of fixed drawings, with short and poorly articulated movements, and framing changes. This realization is known as Animatic and is the last verification of the validity of the storyboard.
Another equivalent name, today less used, is leica reel; it derives from the fact that in the past there was a wide use of Leica products in cinematography.
The background in the traditional cartoon was painted on a white sheet, where in the case, it also includes parts of the characters.
Drawing, Animation and Timing
The timing is literally the measurement of the times of the various scenes, fundamental to establish the correct quantity of drawings for each sequence.
The drawings are made using different methods: from the first cartoons in frame by frame, including both subject and background; use of the rodovetro, transparent acetate sheet, which allows to redraw only the moving characters and leaving the backgrounds fixed; until today, when the drawings are made on sheets of light, semi-transparent paper, to be then scanned and assembled by means of the electronic computer. The animator draws the frames in succession to give the characters the movement once the frames are quickly mounted one after the other.
The drawings are already made in such a way as to blend into the background with shadows and subtractions.
In ancient times to lay out the individual frames the sheets of rodovetro, with the characters drawn above, were placed in a frame together with the background, illuminated and impressed in the film one by one.
More modernly the characters and backgrounds are scanned, made digital and combined to form the computer short.
Assembly and correction
The scenes created in this way are assembled together to compose the final result.
In modern productions it is also possible to adjust small errors or to make color-correction, or to even out the colors of the various scenes, correcting it digitally
Dubbing, sound effects and music
The dubbing, as already written, is recorded before drawing the cartoon. Dubbing is usually recorded in a carefully sound-proofed recording room, where the voice actors are present, by themselves, with the written lines and, on the screen, the animations completed and assembled, in order to follow the characters’ lips. Then when the dubbing includes more than one person you make sure to put them together, to get along with the times. The dubbing is very important in a cartoon, given the absence of actors and the presence of characters without their own voice.
Finally, sound effects and music are added, also made with screen animations.
Competition from television drew audiences away from movie theaters in the late 1950s, and the theatrical cartoon began its decline. Today, animated cartoons for American audiences are produced mostly for television.
American television animation of the 1950s featured quite limited animation styles, highlighted by the work of Jay Ward on Crusader Rabbit. Chuck Jones coined the term “illustrated radio” to refer to the shoddy style of most television cartoons that depended more on their soundtracks than visuals. Other notable 1950s programs include UPA’s Gerald McBoing Boing, Hanna-Barbera’s Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw, and rebroadcast of many classic theatrical cartoons from Universal’s Walter Lantz, Warner Bros., MGM, and Disney.
The Hanna-Barbera cartoon, The Flintstones, was the first successful primetime animated series in the United States, running from 1960 to 1966 (and in reruns since). While many networks followed the show’s success by scheduling other cartoons in the early 1960s, including Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, The Jetsons, Top Cat, and The Alvin Show, none of these programs survived more than a year (save Scooby-Doo, which, despite not being a primetime cartoon, has managed to stay afloat for over four decades). However, networks found success by running these shows as Saturday morning cartoons, reaching smaller audiences with more demographic unity among children. Television animation for children flourished on Saturday morning, on cable channels like Nickelodeon, Disney Channel/Disney XD and Cartoon Network, PBS Kids, and in syndicated afternoon timeslots.
The scheduling constraints of the TV animation process, notably issues of resource management, led to the development of various techniques known now as limited animation. Full-frame animation (“on ones”) became rare in its use outside of theatrical productions in the United States.
Primetime cartoons for mature audiences were virtually non-existent in the mainstream of the United States until the 1990s hit, when The Simpsons ushered in a new era of adult animation. Now, “adult animation” programs, such as Aeon Flux, Beavis and Butt-head, South Park, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, American Dad!, Bob’s Burgers, Aqua Teen Hunger Force (currently known as Aqua TV Show Show), and Futurama have increased the number of animated sitcoms on prime-time and evening American television. In addition, animated works from other countries (notably Japan) have had varying levels of airplay in the United States since the 1960s.
Animation has been very popular in television commercials, both due to its graphic appeal, and the humour it can provide. Some animated characters in commercials have survived for decades, such as Snap, Crackle and Pop in advertisements for Kellogg’s cereals.
In 1957, “Louie the Fly” made his first appearance on Australian TV as the cartoon antagonist for Mortein, an Australian brand of household insecticide and was drawn and animated by Geoffry Morgan Pike. In a jingle created by Bryce Courtenay, it has been used in animated TV commercials since 1962, he proudly sings of his own dirtiness, claiming to be afraid of no-one except “the man with the can of Mortein.”
The legendary animation director Tex Avery was the producer of the first Raid “Kills Bugs Dead” commercials in 1966, which were very successful for the company. The concept has been used in many countries since.