The First Film-based Animation

Humorous Phases of Funny Faces
R: J. Stuart Blackton. D: J. Stuart Blackton. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1906
Print: Library of Congress

“The person credited with making the first film-based animation (…), is James Stuart Blackton with his film Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906). (…) The short starts with the artist’s hand drawing on a chalkboard. Soon, however, the drawing starts to move on its own. The film is as primitive as it is fun. A man in a top hat blows cigar smoke into a woman’s face. A clown dances. (…)
Blackton started his career as a journalist and a vaudeville cartoonist. In 1896, he was assigned to cover Thomas Edison’s brand new invention – the Vitascope, an early film projector. Edison proved to be such a good salesman that Blackton ended up buying one. Soon he, along with his vaudeville partner Albert Smith, founded one of the first ever movie studios — the American Vitagraph Company. The company eventually became known for creating some of the first movie adaptations of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, but before that, they made short ‘trick’ movies – flashy shorts to be shown during vaudeville shows. One of those movies, The Enchanted Drawing (1900) is essentially a filmic version of Blackton’s act with some cinematic sleight-of-hand thrown in. (…) In 1911, Blackton, along with his co-director, the spectacularly talented Winsor McCay, made Little Nemo, a movie that hints at the true potential of animation.”
Jonathan Crow