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How Ancient Animation was Produced?

Aliens - Toy Story

Ancient Animation

When we think of “animated films” we think of one of our old favorites, How Ancient Animation was produced? Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Toy Story or Lion King. But animation has been evolving for thousands of years to bring us these gems. Man has been fascinated with the art of depicting motion long before it was called “animation”, which is defined as “the recording of any image that goes through changes over time to portray the illusion of motion.” Before film was invented, there were many interesting ways people have tried to portray figures in motion.

In the Paleolithic era (40,000-10,000 BC), we can find an interest in ancient or early forms of animation through cave drawings. Some images of humans or animals are drawn with multiple legs, as if trying to create the act of running or walking. On an ancient Egyptian mural in a tomb, there has been found a sequence of images in succession, conveying motion. Another example is a 5200-year-old bowl found in Iran with five images painted on the sides, showing the phases of a goat jumping up to a tree. Leonardo da Vinci created seven drawings in Windsor Collection, Anatomical Studies of the Muscles of the Neck, Shoulder, Chest, and Arm, where he shows a sequence of multiple angles of a human figure as it rotates and the arm extends.

Though these images are similar to a modern set of animated drawings, a lack of equipment to show these drawings in motion keeps them from being called true animation. Passing time or depicting motion through a series of drawings in a chronological order is one of the most important first steps in creating animation, so these early attempts began the evolution of what we call animation today.


Fast forwarding to 180 AD, the Chinese invented the “Zoetrope” which means “Wheel of Life” in Greek. It is a cylindrical device with vertical slits; below the slits inside the cylinder is a series of drawings. As you turn the cylinder and look through the slits, the perception of motion is created clearly. This was also a huge leap forward in creating animation as we enjoy today.

We at Austin Visuals have an enormous amount of respect for the creativity and ingenuity of those in the past who have been fascinated enough with the depiction of motion as we are. Studying the history and evolution of such inventions is what helps us stand out in our industry. We may even be up to the challenge of creating our own version of a “Zoetrope”!


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