Database for Animation Studies


A Trick Question: Are Early Animated Drawings a Film Genre or a Special Effect?

By abandoning a linear understanding of film history, the author revisits animated film history by placing its emergence within the lineage of trick films. Analysis of discourses on the first animated cartoons — such as the critical and publicity discourses found in trade papers — reveals that these films were seen like any other trick films, not as a distinct type. How, then, can we explain the popularity of the first animated cartoons in the mid-1910s when trick films had almost disappeared? How can we account for the popularity of a variety of ‘trick films’ —animated drawings — precisely when these same trick films had almost ceased to exist? This article addresses these issues by looking at the process by which a major shift occurred in the way we look at the earliest animated drawings. More precisely, the author tries to outline the context of the transition from the perception that animated drawings were trick films to their eventual consecration as a genre within the institution.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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