How Animation Won Over the Lightning Sketch: Re-Evaluating Humorous Phases of Funny Faces
The short film Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, released in 1906 and directed by J Stuart Blackton (1875–1941), is considered to be one of the earliest examples of cinematic animation. This article aims at examining the film’s influence from another perspective, beyond its pioneering use of film camera: the author argues that Blackton’s film has also laid the foundation for common design principles in subsequent animated productions, particularly in the design of animated characters. The analysis of Blackton’s film aimed at supporting this argument is based on Scott McCloud’s seminal book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993) and this article offers a modified method of McCloud’s ‘Vocabulary of Comics’ to demonstrate how Blackton has introduced the basic building-blocks of animated characters’ design that are common to this day: designs that rely on an emotional, universal core upon which culture-specific items are overlaid. Moreover, through appearance and performance of his animated characters, Blackton broke the design process of animated characters into such building blocks, emphasizing their importance.