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  • Jennifer Ramon

Early Animation in Cinema: Gertie the Dinosaur and Steamboat Willie

by Jennifer Ramon

Watching Gertie the Dinosaur didn't really excite me or keep me very well engaged. However, I did enjoy the idea that I was watching one of the first animated films, and the fact that I learned about the amount of effort and time that was put into drawing every movement. The amount of dedication to a laborious art form makes me appreciate it more.


I believe I enjoyed watching Steamboat Willie much more. Both because it had sound, and because the characters were familiar to me. Comparing how Minnie and Mickey were first illustrated to now really brings into perspective the amount of progression that the animation industry has made. The timeline of animation is very eye opening as well.


I had always assumed that Walt Disney had created the first animated film, and that was the reason for him being so well known. Now I know that is not the case. The animation and mechanics behind Walt Disney's work is very fascinating to me. I've discovered various facts were made known that I hadn't realized before now. For example, how complex the system was at first, and the amount of talented people it took to make a 10 minute animation. It's hard to imagine that one short animated film had to go through so many approvals and artists to get to the point of it being suitable for release.


The progression of the required equipment to make animated films is very useful to see. However it still seems very complicated. An interesting and previously unknown fact to me is regarding the advancement of using oil paint on glass backgrounds to give a 3D effect to 2D drwings. It's fascinating to learn how dedicated animators must have been to make films that are both entertaining and multidimensional.


Now, being able to connect old film and new animation, I can see a resemblance in style and craftmenship. It seems that, both animation films and real live action films, have taken very similar paths and approaches to becoming what they are today through continued experimentation.


I love watching animations and the various storylines that they take. And now that I know the amount of effort going into older films I can be more appreciative of when I watch them - which I intend to do so more often.