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Take an illuminating trip through the early days of animated filmmaking

Many view 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as the advent of animated entertainment. And while it was certainly instrumental in pushing the medium forward, especially in terms of the animated feature’s ability to tell stories, it’s rather best seen as a culmination of decades of experimentation in moving animation. A new video essay from The Royal Ocean Film Society takes us back to roughly 1917, when it’s believed that Argentinian animator Quirino Cristiani created the first animated feature film with El Apóstol, which was sadly destroyed in a fire.

From there, the essay touches on the likes of innovators like Winsor McKay, who pioneered the process of keyframing, as well as Max and Dave Fleischer, who introduced rotoscoping, for better or worse, into animation. Evolutions like these helped set the stage for Walt Disney, who here lays out Disney Studios’ multiplane camera technique, which proved massively influential as the medium progressed.

Also explored is the notion that early animations were more inspired by vaudeville than traditional storytelling. Tricks and illusions eclipsed narrative in these early presentations, with the act of animating often serving as its own kind of entertainment for the viewer.

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If only we could summon their ghosts for a peek into the uncanny valley that is The Mummy Returns’ Scorpion King.

[via Boing Boing]

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.