In today’s world, when someone speaks of animation, people are most apt to think about grand CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) films such as Avatar, Toy Story, Shrek, and Cars. But, as many of us older folks remember, computers weren’t always used to make animated films and cartoons.
The first animated cartoons were created with pen and ink. It required skilled artists, a meticulous attention to detail, and a great deal of time. It took more than 1,400 pages of drawings for one minute of film in black and white.
It should come as no surprise that the leader in animated films during the golden years of Hollywood was none other than Walt Disney. Steamboat Willie, a black-and-white cartoon animated by Ub Iwerks, was released in 1928 by Walt Disney. It was most notable for being the first cartoon with fully synchronized sound, including character sounds and a musical score. It was also the first cartoon with a post-production soundtrack. The cartoon was well received and became the beginning of the Mickey Mouse character.
Ub Iwerks, due to a series of disagreements with Walt Disney, started his own animation studio and released the first color cartoon, Fiddlesticks, featuring Flip the Frog, in 1932.
Walt Disney took another step in the history of animation in 1934 when he announced plans to produce a feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But the film came close to not being completed. Disney’s commitment to detail and quality took a heavy toll on the original budget of $500,000. Ultimately, Walt reluctantly did a private screening for Joseph Rosenberg, VP of Bank of America, of the work they had done so far. The final cost was $1.7 million, exceedingly high for those days.
It took the work of 750 artists, 32 animators, 25 background artists, and 102 assistants, plus 1500 shades of paint, to complete the film in three years. [Watch the video on the making of the film here.] Though it took lots of hard work and sheer determination, the film premiered on December 21, 1937 in Los Angeles. It was a hit.
The rest, as they say, is history.