History of
Computer Graphics and Animation



Use of technology in animation production

Is there any future for 2D animation?


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* History of early animation
* History of computer animation


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History of early animation
* Pioneers

* Keyframe animation

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Pioneers of animation


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J. Stuart Blackton (1875-1941)

Father of animation

In 1896 Blackton interviewed Thomas Edison and became a "rapid-drawing cartoonist" for a series of Edison shorts.

"Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" (1906) is a frame-by-frame animation drawn on a chalkboard.

"The Enchanted Drawing" (1900)

Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

Father of character animation

Well known for his newspaper cartoons "Little Nemo" (1905-1914)

McCay appeared on stage with his animated dinosaur, Gertie.

"The Sinking of the Lusitania" (1918) was the first propaganda animation.

"Gertie the Dinosaur" (1914)

John Bray (1874-1978)

Founder of the first animation studio/factory

1914 Earl Hurd patented the use of clear cels over background. Hurd and Bray formed the Hurd and Bray Processing Company 1914.

With additional patent obtained by Bray, the company monopolized the animation process. The patents expired in 1932. Much of what Bray claimed to have invented have been credited to McCay and others.

"Colonel Heeza Liar's" (1913)

Fleischer brothers

Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope technique.

Fleischer Studios, headed by Dave and Max Fleischer, were resonsible for Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman.

Betty was the first featured female character in American animation. In 1934, the Hays Code (censorship for film) was enacted in Hollywood and Betty lost most of her charm.

"Koko the Clown"

Walt Disney (1901-1966)

Producer, director, screenwriter, voice-actor, and animator

"Steamboat Willie" was not the first Mickey cartoon made or released but considered as Mickey Mouse's true debut. It is often described as the first sound cartoon, although the Fleischer Studios had already released some sound cartoons in the mid-1920s. Steamboat Willie was, however, the first sound cartoon that achieved wide commercial success.

"Steamboat Willie" (1928)

Keyframe animation

Keyframes and inbetweens

Clean up
Multi-layer camera stand

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History of computer animation
* Early computers
* Pioneers of computer graphics
* Moore's law
* Perfecting photorealism
* Seeking non-photorealism

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Early computers

In 1946 the first computer ENIAC was completed

Start of project: 1943
Completed: 1946
Programmed: plug board and switches
Speed: 5,000 operations per second
Input/output: cards, lights, switches, plugs
Floor space: 1,000 square feet

In 1950s the Whirlwind computer at MIT was fitted with a keyboard and a cathode ray tube display specifically for plotting pictures, which could then be photographed to produce images on paper.


Early computer monitors were calligraph and could draw only lines...

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Pioneers of computer graphics

John Whitney, Sr.

A filmmaker, composer, and technical innovator

The Stargate (Into the Monolith) sequence of "2001 a Space Odyssey" (1968)

Brought computer graphics into the film industry.

Arabesqu (1975)

Charles Csuri (1922-)

Founder of Cranston/Csuri Production (1981-1987), which produced animations for over 400 clients including ABC, CBS, NBC, and ESPN networks.

"Hummingbird" (1967) is in the collection of
New York's Museum of Modern Art.

"Aging Process" (1968)


"Horse Play"

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Moore's Law

In 1965 Gordon Moore observed an exponential growth in the number of transistors per integrated circuit and predicted that this trend would continue. Computing power doubled every year until the late 70's and the doubling period slowed to 18 months.

Moravec (1997)

Parkinson's Law

"Data expands to fill the space available for storage." Since the mid-1980s the amount of memory per dollar has been doubling every 18 months and buying more memory encourages the use of more memory-intensive techniques.

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Perfecting photorealism

In the short history of computer graphics, a number of techniques have been developed to create photo-realistic images of computer generated 3D objects.

Scan-line algorithm
1967 ~
1968 ~

1984 ~

1989 ~

"Monsters Inc" Pixar (2002)

"Ice Age" Blue Sky (2002)

Digital stuntmen

"Spider Man" Columbia (2002)

Digital actors

"Final Fantasy" Square (2001)

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Seeking non-photorealism

Techniques to generate non-photorealistic images started showing up in the 90s, giving artists a wider range of styles to select.

Water color style

Curtis et al (1997)

Oil painting style

Hertzman (1998)

Illustration style

Gooch et al (1998)

Dr. Seuss Style

Kawalski et al (1999)

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Use of technology in animation production
* Digital pen and ink
* 3D environments for 2D animation
* 3D special effects for 2D animation
* 3D behavioral animation used in 2D animation
* Matching the styles of 3D and 2D animation


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Digital pen and ink

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3D environments for 2D animation

Why 3D?
* Easier to change perspective
* Easier to change lighting condition

"Prince of Egypt" Dream Works (1998)

"Spirited Away" Ghibli (2002)

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3D special effects for 2D animation

Water, smoke, steam, clouds, rain, snow, fire, lightening, etc.




surface model


"Prince of Egypt" Dream Works (1998)


"Spirited Away" Ghibli (2002)

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3D behavioral animation used in 2D animation

In behavioral animation an autonomous character determines its own actions, based on the rules given by the animator. This gives the character some ability to improvise, and frees the animator from the need to specify each detail of every character's motion.

Herd of animals

"Lion King" Disney (1994)


"Hunchback of Notre Dame" Disney (1996)


"Mulan" Disney (1998)


"Hunchback of Notre Dame" Disney (1996)


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Matching the styles of 3D and 2D animation

Typical 3D rendering
Three tones were used instead of gradations
Outlines were added

"Iron Giant" Warner Bros (1999)

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Is there any future for 2D animation?

Why not forget about 2D and use 3D for everything?


Strengths of 3D animation vs. strengths of 2D animation



Strengths of 3D animation
* Easier to make changes
* Wider variety of visual styles
* Less manual labor


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Strengths of 2D animation
* Broader exaggeration
* Richer facial expressions

"Hick Chick" MGM (1946)

Preston Blair (1994)

"Toy Story" Pixar (1999)

"Finding Nemo" Pixar (2003)

"Red Hot Riding Hood" MGM (1943)



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What does the future hold?