Early abstract and commercial animation in america
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Early abstract and commercial animation in America. John Randolf Bray Winsor McCay Max Fleischer Mary Ellen Bute Douglass Crockwell Dwinell Grant. John Randolph "J.R." Bray (1879 – 1978) . 1879 born in Addison, Michigan, began drawing as a youngster

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Early abstract and commercial animation in america l.jpg

Early abstractand commercial animation in America

John Randolf Bray

Winsor McCay

Max Fleischer

Mary Ellen Bute

Douglass Crockwell

Dwinell Grant


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John Randolph "J.R." Bray (1879 – 1978) 

  • 1879 born in Addison, Michigan, began drawing as a youngster

  • 1901 artist for the Detroit Evening News

  • He then moved to New York where he free-lanced for a year and then took a job with The Brooklyn Eagle.

  • 1910   The Daschund and the Sausageor The Artist's Dream

  • 1913 Col. Heeza Liar in Africa


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John Randolph "J.R." Bray (1879 – 1978) 

  • 1913-1916   "experimental period" was granted several patents for the technical processes involved in making animated cartoons. One of the first, granted January 14, 1914, describes a method of registration using crosses printed in the upper corners of each sheet of drawing paper through which pins are inserted.

  • 1915   Earl Hurd was granted a patent for his use of a transparent (glassine paper) for his action drawings which were then placed over the background.

  • 1917, Bray and Hurd combined their patents and formed the Bray-Hurd Process Company. For about 17 years they issued licenses to anyone who wanted to make animated cartoons using the "cell" method they developed.


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John Randolph "J.R." Bray (1879 – 1978) 

1917   J.R. Bray produced the first commercial animated film in color: The Debut of Thomas Cat, a hand-colored film.

  • J.R. Bray sought out and hired several young artists who first learned the rudiments of the art of animation in Bray's studio and subsequently went on to major careers of their own in theatrical, television, and educational animated films: Max Fleischer, Paul Terry, David Hand, Shamus Culhane, and Walter Lantz.


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Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

  • 1867 born in 1867 in Canada. McCay had an interest in drawing from the moment he could hold a pen. Left the school at the age of 21, and went to work at the National Printing Company of Chicago. Here he illustrated posters for Circuses and other promotions.


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Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

  • 1990 moved to Cincinati, creating advertising posters for the Kohl and Middleton Dime Museum and working as a cartoonist/reporter for the Cinncinati Commercial Tribune.

  • 1903 invited to New York Herald. It was this period of time when the newspaper comic strip was becoming very popular. McCay began experimenting with his own original strips.

  • 1904 "Little Sammy Sneeze"

  • 1904 "Dream of a Rarebit Fiend"







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Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

AD 502 - Seminar in Contemporary Theory| Fall 2006


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Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

AD 502 - Seminar in Contemporary Theory| Fall 2006


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Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

AD 502 - Seminar in Contemporary Theory| Fall 2006






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Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

  • 1905 "Little Nemo in Slumberland", an extremely popular strip that was made into a Broadway musical. McCay's popularity increased, and he began performing on Vaudeville. After Eight years, hundreds of editorial cartons, and seven strips, McCay left the Tribune and went to work for William Randolph Hearst at the New York American.

    While working for Hearst, MCay began to experiment with the idea of using animated pictures as part of his vaudeville act. His first attempt was made using the popular characters from the "Little Nemo" strip. It was a huge success and captivated audiences everywhere he went. He followed this experiment up with "How a Mosquito Operates", again a success.








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Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

1914 "Gertie The Dinosaur“

Rather then just showing the film as he had with his previous attempts, McCay actually interacted with Gertie, giving her life and charm. Gertie was an instant success and is the first original character developed solely for the animated cartoon and not based on a pre-existing comic strip.


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Winsor McCay (1867-1934)

  • 1918 animated film "The Sinking Of The Lusitania", one of the first films to use cells. Even when Hearst opened his own animation studio, McCay continued to work on his own, producing six more films through 1921. 1943 McCay continued

    to draw editorial

    cartoons until his deathby stroke on July 26th.


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)

  • 1883 born into Vienna, Austria, the second oldest of six children.

  • 1887 his family immigrated to the USA in 1887 and settled in New York.

  • 1915 Max and Dave Fleischer made their first cartoon using rotoscope device.


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)

  • 1917 patent for the rotoscope the idea of using frames of a live action film as the basis for drawing animation.

    Extensive use of this technique was made

    in Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell series,

    one of the highlights being a boxing match

    between the cartoon Koko the Clown

    and a live kitten.


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)

  • 1919 established Fleischer Studios for producing animated cartoons and short subjects. At one point, all of his siblings worked there. Out of Inkwell.


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)

  • 1923 a 50-minute animation film about Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

  • 1924 the first sound animated cartoons using the Lee DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. This series was known as “Ko-ko Song Car-Tunes" and featured the follow the bouncing ball gimmick, so the audience could sing along.

  • 1925 a feature-length film about Charles Darwin's theory of evolution combining animation and live action.


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)

  • 1930 Betty Boop made her first appearance in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes, the sixth installment in Fleischer's Talkartoon series. The Fleisher Studio top artist Grim Natwick came up with a new female character: a seductive, nameless side-character who was modeled after Helen Kane, a waning Hollywood star at the time, known for her high-pitched "Boop-Oop-a-doop". This character, who was initially the nameless girlfriend of 'Bimbo the Dog', would develop into the popular and world famous character, Betty Boop.


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)

  • 1938 Fleischer Studios moved from New York City to Miami, Florida to avoid pending unionization of the New York studios.

  • 1941, Paramount Pictures, taking advantage of a significant debt owed to them by Fleischer Studios, took over the studio and renamed it Famous Studios. Fleischer and his brother ran the company for another year before resigning. He later tried unsuccessfully to sue Paramount and get money back from the company for selling his cartoons to television, often cutting them heavily to fit particular time-slot requirements.


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)

  • 1941 'Superman' series


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Max Fleischer(1883-1972)

He later took a job of producing and directing the Handy Corporation's rare cartoon shorts, one of which was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

  • 1954 -1916 went to Bray Studios

  • 1972 lived at the Motion Picture Country House, where he died from congestive heart failure. Ironically, he died eleven days after signing a contract with King Features to reintroduce Betty Boop to the world, a deal which would have made him millions.


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Mary Ellen Bute (1906-1983)

  • 1906 born in Texas

  • Started as a Rosa Bonheur-style painter in Texas

  • 1921 - study painting in Philadelphia Pennsylvania Academy (where she first saw Kandinsky's work); later she studied stage lighting at Yale (in the first class to which women were admitted); made a round-the-world dance and drama tour as a teacher-lecturer; worked with Joseph Schillinger on his mathematical projections and with Leon Theremin on his electronic musical invention.

  • Together they experimented with using optical color projection devices synchronized to music. She then became fascinated with utilizing mathematical formulas to order sequences.



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Mary Ellen Bute (1906-1983)

1932 first attempt with abstract film was in collaboration with Joseph Schillinger and Lewis Jacobs on the unfinished Synchronization.

  • Bute's introduction to Ted Nemeth (who became her husband in 1940) led to a partnership that produced 12 short musical "seeing-sound" abstract films, several commercial TV ventures.


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Mary Ellen Bute (1906-1983)

  • 1934 Rhythm in Light

  • 1936 Dada 1938 Escape

  • 1939 Spook Sport - began working with color.

  • 1940 Tarantella Ted Nemeth & Norman McLaren 1940 Spook Sport Ted Nemeth & Norman McLaren1947 Polka Graph

  • 1948 Color Rhapsodie

  • 1952 Abstronic

  • 1950s using an electronically controlled light beam to choreograph images. In the late 1950s, she began directing live action films adapted from modern literature.




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Douglas Crockwell (1904-1980?)

  • 1904 born in Columbus, Ohio

  • Work as a highly competent and conscientious commercial illustrator

  • 1907-1932 The family lived in St. Louis1929-33 Developed award winning "Men At Work" series1931 start making films1932 moved to Glenn Falls, New York1946 Glen Falls Sequence

  • 1949 Motion Painting No 1

  • 1947 Long Bodies






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Dwinell Grant (1912-1991)

  • 1924 studied landscape painting

  • 1931 Dayton Art Institute

  • 1933 National Academy of Design in New York

  • 1935 ban instructor in art and director of dramatics at Wittenberg College in Ohio.

  • 1938 moved to New York and began working at the Guggenheim with the support of Hilla Rebay

  • made several experimental films, including Contrathemis, an eight-minute, animated production, for which he did some four thousand drawings.

  • 1940 Composition 1

  • 1941 Composition 2

  • 1943 Color Sequence

  • 1945 Composition 4 (Three Themes In Variation)






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