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stop motion History

A modern Replica Zoetrope







A drawing of Horners 1834 device based on Plateau’s Phenakistoscope - The Zoetrope

Stop Motion Central More History

History of Stop Motion Animation

Stop motion animation has been around for a long time, almost as long as traditional film-making. Originally stop motion involved animating objects which included the animated movement of any non-drawn objects such as toys, blocks or any rigid inanimate object you care to mention. This was quickly followed by cel animation. And then animators experimented with clay animation ( claymation ) and puppet animation which is what you may be familiar with in Wallace and Gromit and so forth. Some early examples of stop motion films and techniques can be seen in the The Humpty Dumpty Circus (1898) and in Fun in a Bakery Shop (1902). In 1907 The Haunted Hotel was a very successful movie with the cinema audience of the time. In 1912 one of the first claymation movies using stop motion was released to great critical acclaim. It was called Modeling Extraordinary. In 1916, the first woman animator, Helena Smith Dayton, began experimenting with clay stop motion. She released her first film in 1917, Romeo and Juliet. December of 1916, brought the first of Willie Hopkin's 54 episodes of "Miracles in Mud" to the big screen.

Edwin Porter directed "The Teddy Bears," one of the earliest stop-motion animation films. A short sequence of playing teddy bears, just over a minute in length, takes over 50 hours to animate.

Willis O'Brien's "The Lost World" included 49 prehistoric animals in stop-motion, which took a huge step in stop-motion history.

The Lost World 

Willis O'Brien directed another film called "Mighty Joe Young", a well-known film in 1945, with the help of Ray Harryhausen, and stop-motion animator. Ray Harryhausen received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his technological contributions in 1991.

Stop-motion has changed dramatically since the early 20th century. In fact, stop-motion is rarely used anymore, only in children's TV shows do you see such effects, such as Gumby.

With the development of digital 3D animation, animating a 3D character in a film has become much easier and faster, which is favored by the industry. 3D animation allows unreal characters to seem to be alive.


Some Further Notable Events in stop motion Animation Early history


A picture of a Zoetrope  at the History of Photography Collection, Smithsonian Institution

Zoetrope  at the History of Photography Collection, Smithsonian Institution


The zoetrope was invented in 1834 by William Horner who called it a "daedalum" or "daedatelum".

However it is believed that Horner may have  based his invention on that of a basic zoetrope created by a Chinese inventor  by Ting Huan in 180 AD. Huan created a hanging lantern (something like a lamp shade) made of decorated transparent paper over a lamp which moved due to the convection of heat from the lamp. At certain rotational speed objects on the lantern would appear to move.


Horner also based his device on the Phenakistiscope built in 1831 by Joseph Plateau. A device similar to Horners' was described by John Bate in The Mysteries of Nature and Art in 1634.

      The Thaumatrope

 The Thaumatrope The 'Thaumatrope' - a small disc held by pieces of string.

The invention of this device may be attributed to astronomer Sir John Herschel. However it was a  London Physicist Dr. Paris who made it popular as a toy.


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