History of Animation

22 October, 2008


How it all began:

Even before Disney came into the animation scene there were other pioneers who contributed to the development of animation by bringing the concept of characterization into animation. In 1914 Winsor McCay animated a dinosaur. The concept of animating a dinosaur, either the scary t-rex in Jurassic park, or the friendly Dino in Disney’s dinosaur, has become the most popular theme till date. Disney started his journey of animation in 1921, along with his expert friend UB lwerks, the man behind Mickey Mouse. Eventually Disney succeeded in bringing a wide variety of talent to one platform. By 1940 Disney evolved as the master of animation features. The great depression in the 1930’s affected all animation studios in the United States, followed by the Second World War. Disney cashed that opportunity also. He produced patriotic animation shows using some of his well-established characters. Other players emerged with different animation styles in different segments. Animators at Warner Brothers created Looney Toons, the most popular animated television series in animation history. Under the guidance of veterans like Chunk Jones and Tex Avery, animators at WB gained a significant control over television animation.


The birth of Bugs Bunny at Warner bros studios changed the pace of television animation. Other players like MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) and UA (United Artists) created the popular concepts like Popeye, the sailor. Eventually, Disney became a prominent player in the full- length feature animation segments, whereas others concentrated more on television. Under the direction of nine old men, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Bill Tytla, Milt Kahl, Woifgang Reitherman, Fred Moore and others Disney made history in creating lifetime characters for their features. In the 80′s a new breed of Disney animators started opposing the old style of animating characters. Ironically Black cauldron, the full-length feature from Disney in the 80s bombed at the box office. The attempt to change the style did not attract any audience. Disney’s legendary idea of making features on classics and fairytales proved to be non-effective in the box office.

In 1989under the new technical management Disney returned to the box office with a sensational hit – little Mermaid. Little Mermaid was the last movie produced on conventional oxybery camera technology after which DISNEY produced all the features using digital software for rendering.

Veteran animator John Musker and Ron clement the men behind movies like Aladdin, Hercules, treasure Planet directed Little Mermaid also. The magic of Ron and John didn’t last for long. Their last movie, treasure Planet didn’t do too well at the box office.

On the other end there is one segment of animation that evolved – Visual Effects for movies, ads…etc basically for live action. In the 80′s George Lucas founded ILM (Industrial light & Magic) for special effects generation for his Star wars trilogy. Under expert’s guidance from John Dextra, ILM was able to invent cutting edge machinery for visual effects & optical printers. One of the most popular inventories of ILM, Dextraflex (a dual optical printer) was named after John Dextra who ultimately won the Oscar for his achievements at ILM.

Slowly new generation of ILM wizards developed their own production styles. Stan Winston is famous for his amazing animatronics equipment and VFX. Veteran Dennis muren is famous for CGI (Computer generated Imaginary). For example, close up of T-REX in Jurassic Park is noting but close ups of animatronics dinosaurs designed at Stan Winston Studios, while the running dinosaurs were generated and animated in Dennis Muren Studio. Slowly 3D evolved as the new way of making visual effects by replacing conventional optical printer technology.

Initially 3D evolved as a scientific art form developed from entrepreneurial programming. Experts at Pixar, a total 3D studio founded by Steve Jobs, also a co-founder of APPLE COMPUTERS brought a revolution through concepts’ development. Since 1984 they worked on a lot of short films that won Oscars. In 1995 Pixar became the first studio to produce a complete 3D movie generated hundred percent digitally in collaboration with DISNEY. Later other independent studios like Blue Sky – a high-end 3D studio with extreme programming skills and PDI (Pacific Data Images) came up with their own features. All of them associated with top production houses in Hollywood.

DreamWorks associated with PDI (Pacific Data Images) and so did 20th century Fox, the movie division of SKY group (STAR in India) with blue Sky, and Pixar with DISNEY and square films with Sony. Columbia Tri-Star, Sony’s movie arm has emerged as the prime promoter of Japanese Anime content.

Meanwhile in Japan a revolutionary animation art form evolved, which is totally different form American style. Japanese developed two styles of animation – Anime and Manga. They worked on concepts beginning from 19th century meigi restoration to sci-fi futuristic sagas. Studios like Gibli came up with entertaining and Oscar winning movies like Spirited Away (won an Oscar for the best animated feature despite the tough competition from 3D features) and Princess Mononoke.

Brief Prehistory:

1824:   Peter Roget presented his paper ‘The persistence of vision with regard to moving objects’ to the British Royal Society.


1831:   Dr. Joseph Antoine Plateau (a Belgian scientist) and Dr. Simon Rittrer constructed a machine called a phenakitstoscope. This machine produced an illusion of movement by allowing a viewer to gaze at a rotating disk containing small windows; behind the windows was another disk containing a sequence of images. When the disks were rotated at the correct speed, the synchronization of the windows with the images created an animated effect.


1872:   Eadweard Muybridge started his photographic gathering of animals in motion.


1887:   Thomas Edison started his research work into motion pictures. H.W. Goodwin invents nitrate celluloid film, which is a chemical combination of gun cotton and gum camphor.


1889:   Thomas Edison announced his creation of the kinetoscope, which projected a 50ft length of film in approximately 13 seconds. George Eastman began the manufacture of photographic filmstrips using a nitro-cellulose base.


1892:   Emile Renynaud, combining his earlier invention of the praxinoscope with a projector, opens the Theatre Optique in the Musee Grevin. It displays an animation of images painted on long strips of celluloid.


Emile Renynaud (1844-1918), France, opened his Theatre Optique in Paris with an archetype of animation created by his invention the Praxinoscope. The Praxinoscope was a theatrical Zoetrope with mirrors placed on an inside column that reflected out the sequential drawings that were on the inside of the drum. He was able to project 80 frames without changing reels and could project 10 to 15 minute “films”. But the advent of film drove him out of business and in 1910 he threw all his equipment into a river and died destitute in a sanatorium in 1918.


1893:   Thomas Edison invents the Kinetsocope. He had already projected quite useful films onto a wall in his factory, but rather than producing a viewing system for the general public he came up with a machine in which reels of celluloid were not unrolled but stretched over a set of wheels that passed in front of a viewing window. Only one viewer at a time could watch. The Kinetsocope did not have an intermittent movement.


“Art Nouveau” appears in Europe.


1894:   Lois Lumiere invents the cinematograph, a combination camera/projector/printer, it was the first machine to show movies successfully on a screen. This system used a claw movement and perforated film that was synced to an intermittent shutter movement.


Thomas Edison copyrights the first motion picture, “THE RECORD OF A SNEEZE.”

Thomas Edison opens his Kinetoscope Parlor in New York,

Thomas Edison invents the Kinetsocope.


1895:   Louis and Augustine Lumiere issued a patent for a device called a cinematograph capable of projecting moving pictures.

Auguste and Louis Lumiere project their film, “Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory in Lyon-Montplaisir”, at the Hotel Scribe in Paris, on December 28th. This, the first public screening of a motion picture, is regarded as the “birth of film.”


Max Skaldanowsky presented films in Berlin using a two-projector system called a Bioscope


The first American comic strip, “Hogan’s Alley” is published.


1896:   Thomas Armat designed the vita scope that projected the films of Thomas Edison. This machine had a major influence on all sub-sequent projectors.


1899:   First magnetic recording of sound is achieved.


1900:   James Stuart Blackton (1875 -1941) England/US makes “THE ENCHANTED DRAWING.” The smile and frown of his drawn characters is achieved by the replacement technique used by Melies in his live action films. It is not considered animation but a prototype of animation, as it is not continuous frame-by-frame filming.


The live action film “Cinderella” by George Melies is released.


1906:   James Stuart Blackton made the first animated film that he called “Humorous phases of funny faces.” His method was to draw comical faces on a blackboard and film them. He would stop the film, erase one face to draw another, and then film the newly drawn face. The stop-motion provided a starting effect as the facial expressions changed are for the viewer’s eyes. This film is usually considered the first known example of animation as some of the drawn sequences are shot frame by frame. Blackton used a combination of blackboard and chalk drawing and cutouts to achieve animation. The film’s motif was based on the lightning or quick sketch routine from vaudeville where a drawing is done in front of an audience. 



1907:   “THE HAUNTED HOTEL” is another animated film by James Stuart Blackton. In this film the animation was created by stop motion and effects animation of 3D objects – wine poured into a glass, bread cut, and a table set without a human present. The film was a success and introduced 3D animation to the world.


 Later that year, Segundo de Chomons (1871-1929), Spain, releases his film “HOTEL ELECTRICO.” It used a technique reminiscent of The Haunted Hotel.


Walter Booth, in England makes and releases a film similar to “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces.”


The Start of Animation


1908:   In France Emile Cohl (1857-1938) produced a film, “FANTASMAGORIE” which was the first depicting white figures on a black background.


            This film is considered by many to be the first animated film. Cohl was well known for his comic strips before he went into animation. He made 250 animated films from 1908 -1921. Cohl was strongly influenced by the philosophy of the Incoherent, whom he joined in 1884. The Incoherent were an aggressively anti-rational group who believed insanity, hallucinations, dreams, and nightmares were sources of aesthetic inspiration. Cohl died in 1938 in poverty. He had been living in a flat in Paris with no electricity and died of the complications resulting from burns suffered when a candle set fire to his long beard while he was getting ready to see the Paris premiere of “SNOW WHITE.” Georges Melies died the day after; he had been making a living by selling chocolates at a stand in a Paris subway.


 Matisse coins the term “Cubism”.


 Tex Avery (1908-1980) is born.


1909:   Emil Cohl combines live action and drawn animation together in his film, “CLAIR DE LUNE ESPANOLA” (SPANISH MOONLIGHT).


 The first manufacture of “Bakelite” marks the beginning of the plastic age.


1910:   Emile Cohl makes En Route the first paper cutout animation. This technique saves time by not having to redraw each new cell, only reposition the paper.


1911:   Winsor McCay (1867- Spring Lake, Ohio -1934) produced an animation sequence using his comic strip character “Little Nemo”. McCay, who was already famous for his comic strips, used this film in his vaudeville act. His advice on animation was:” Any idiot that wants to make a couple of thousand drawings for a hundred feet of film is welcome to join the club.”


Chinese revolution, Manchu Dynasty falls, Sun Yat Sen elected president. Who’s Great great grandson “Eddie Pong” would attend the UCLA Animation Workshop     in the 1980s. 


1912:   Winsor McCay’s second film “THE STORY OF A MOSQUITO” (“HOW A MOSQUITO OPERATES”) is released.


Wladyslaw Starewicz (1882 -1965) Russia/France a 3D animator makes “THE CAMERAMAN’S REVENGE.” The 3D characters he animated for this stop motion film were embalmed beetles. He continued to make 3D animated films after he moved to France in 1920. In France he changed his name to Ladislas Starevitch.


Chuck Jones is born in Spokane Wash.


Approximately 5 million people daily attend the cinema in the US.


London has 400 cinemas!


1913:   Pat Sullivan created an American cartoon series called “Felix the Cat.” J.R. Bray devised “Colonel Heeza Liar,” and Sidney Smith created “Old Doc Yak”.


            John Bray’s (1879-1978) US, first film, “THE ARTISTS DREAM” is released.


1914:   John R Bray applies for a patent on numerous techniques for animation. One of the most revolutionary is being the process of printing the backgrounds of the animation.


            Winsor McCay produced a cartoon called “Gertie, The Trained Dinosaur” which amazingly consisted of 10,000 drawings. It was shown as a film in the theaters and also as a multi media event on stage with McCay interacting with the animated Gertie.


            Earl Hurd (1880-1940) born in Kansas City, Missouri had patented the cell technique. Bray convinced Earl to combine their patents and he formed the Bray-Hurd Process Company. He applies for a patent for the technique of drawing the animated portion of an animation on a clear celluloid sheet and later photographing it with its matching background. [Cell animation]


            John Bray opens his studio and patented a great deal of the animation process but not the use of cells. Bray started producing the COLONEL HEEZA LIAR series that was a take off on Teddy Roosevelt. In his studio Bray introduced the management principles of the assembly line to the production of the animated films. The use of these management principles has continued in most United States studios to this day.


Raoul Barre (1874-1932) Canadian), starts his own animation studio. He developed a slash and tear technique for doing levels in animation and he also devised the peg system for registration.


Bill Littlejohn was born in New Jersey USA.

            The US animation industry was centered in New York until the late 1920′s and early 1930′s.



1915:   Bray hired Paul Terry (1887-1971).


Max Fleischer (1883-1972) Austria/USA, Dave Fleischer (1894-1979) USA patented the rotoscope process. For the source of the rotoscoped live action footage to be traced, Dave was filmed in a clown costume on top of a building in New York.


International Film Service (IFS) was backed by the Hearst newspaper and used their comics, Katzenjammer Kids, etc., as the basis of their animated films. The studio closed in 1918.


Pat Sullivan, (1887- 1933) Australia/USA hires Otto Messmer to work in his studio.


WWI reduced European animation production to a trickle, but animation production continued unabated in the United States so when the war ended the United States had the strongest animation industry and a large inventory of animated films ready for international distribution. This same scenario was repeated at the end of WW II. These might be two excellent reasons why United States animation was able to dominate globally for so long.


D.W. Griffith’s live action film “Birth of a Nation” is released.



1916:   Bray acquires more patents and establishes a patent monopoly for the animation process. He tried to enforce the patent by requiring all animation studios using his patented animation process to buy a license and pay a fee. Some studios paid it, some ignored it, some found a way around it, and some took it to court. This issue caused concern in the animation business until the early 1930′s. Bray began to produce Army training films, which became very profitable. His interest shifted from entertainment films to educational films. Bray adds the Fleischer brothers to the staff in his studio.


Earl Hurd does the BOBBY BUMPS series.


Paul Terry leaves Bray and sets up his own studio.


Charles Bowers (1889-1945) USA starts the MUTT AND JEFF series based on the Fisher comic strip. Around 500 will be produced by the time the series ended in 1928.


Barre joined with Bowers to form a new studio.


Walter Lantz (1900-1995) starts his long career in animation at IFS.


Victor Bergdahl (1887-1939) Sweden started the KAPTEN GROGG series.


CRAZY CAT, an extremely popular comic strip by George Herriman, was released as animation.

1917:   The International Feature Syndicate released many titles including “Silk Hat Harry”, “Bringing up Father”, and “Crazy Kat”.


            Willis O’Brien (1886-1962) who would later do the big ape in KING KONG released 6 puppet animated films.


1918:   Winsor McCay finishes THE SINKING OF THE LUSITANIA, an amazing moving pen picture. It is animated with cells, washes, and paintings in a very striking and realistic style. This was the first propaganda film done in animation. Unfortunately the Lusitanian sank in 1915 and WWI ended in 1918 so its use as a propaganda tool was doubtful and points up the problem of doing topical events in animation.


1919:   Max Fleischer produced the first OUT OF THE INKWELL shorts featuring a clown based on the rotoscoped footage of Dave Fleischer in a clown costume interacting with Max. The clown character was named Koko the Clown in 1923. His name was changed to Ko-Ko in 1928 for copyright reasons. The interaction of a live action animator with the animation was a commonly used technique during this period.


Walter Lantz starts work at the Bray Studio.


Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981) Germany makes the first of her many 2D shadow puppet animated films THE ORNAMENT OF THE ENAMOURED HEART


1920:   19 year old Walter Elias Disney (1901-1966) started working in animation at the Kansas City Slide Company, with his friend Ubbe Iwerks (1901-1971) who later changed his first name to Ub. They both used the book Animated Cartoons: How they are Made, their origin and Development by Edwin G. Lutz, New York, Scribner, 1920 to help them learn animation.


Goldwyn-Bray first color animation THE DEBUT OF THOMAS CAT, Done in Brewster Color, a 2 emulsion color process, it was judged too expensive for commercial use.


FELIX THE CAT, the most popular character and series of this period, started as the Feline Follies from Sullivan’s studio. 0tto Messmer not only created Felix, but also he did the stories and directing on a schedule that produced one film every two weeks. The merchandising of Felix’s image for dolls, watches, etc was very successful and paved the way for the later merchandising of animated characters.


1921:   Winsor McCay assisted by his son Robert makes and releases three films in a series called DREAM OF THE RAREBIT FIEND. The films are: THE PET, THE FLYING HOUSE, and BUG VAUDEVILLE. This ends his major involvement with animation.


Paul Terry engages in six years of litigation with Bray over patent infringement.


Walter Ruttmann (1887-1941) Germany, did OPUS I, an abstract animation film.


            Hans Richter (1888-1976) Germany did RHYTHM 21, an abstract animation film.


Max Fleischer set up own studio. KoKo was the star character.


1922:   Disney’s first animation studio is located in Kansas City and is called Laugh-O-Gram Films.


Oscar Fischinger (1900-1067) (wife Elfriede) Germany resigns his engineering job, and moves to Munich to become full time filmmaker. He becomes a master in abstract animation, which he calls “absolute animation”, 


1923:   Walt and Roy Disney found Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. Walt Disney extended Max Fleischer’s technique of combining live action with cartoon characters in the film “Alice’s Wonderland”.


            Starevitch makes FROGLAND, a 3D stop motion film in France.


1924:   The Felix and KoKo series were the most popular and well made shorts of this period. Aesop’s Fables and Colonel Heeza Liar were not well received and reflected the lack of quality common in most animation of the period. In fact, some people had written animation off, claiming audience booed when the animation came on the screen.


Disney’s Alice series goes into distribution. The animators who did this series were originally from Kansas City. They included, Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman (1903-1982) USA, Rudolf Ising (1904-1992) USA, and Friz Freleng (1906-1995) USA.


The First Song Car-Tune (the sing a-long format, sometimes with a bouncing ball) MOTHER PIN A ROSE ON ME is released.

1925:   THE LOST WORLD, a live action film with Willis O’Brien’s 3D stop motion animated prehistoric dinosaurs and other creature was released.


DIAGONAL SYMPHONIE, Viking Eggeling (Swedish 1880-1925), perhaps the first public showing of an abstract film. Eggeling died six days after premier of depravation.


Live action films released include “Battleship Potemkin by Eisenstein and “The Gold Rush” by Chaplin, which was the first feature comedy.


1926:   The first feature-length animated film called “El Apostol” is created in Argentina.


 Lotte Reiniger, Germany, ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED, a one hour shadow puppet film is released. This film is claimed by some to be 1st animated feature, (but a feature is usually considered 75 minutes or longer).


Kodak produces the first 16mm film


1927:   Warner Brothers released “The Jazz Singer” which introduced combined sound and images.


            Disney started the popular OSWALD THE RABBIT series. Margaret Winkler was his distributor. Fleischer studio begins distribution through Paramount that continued until 1942.


1928:   Walt Disney created the first cartoon with synchronized sound called “Steam Boat Willy”.


            Disney was making each of the “OSWALD THE RABBIT” shorts for $2500.00 and when the series was up for renewal he wanted a raise to $2,750.00. Charles Mintz, Margaret Winkler’s husband, meeting with Disney in New York, offered him $1800. Mintz owned the character and when Disney said no, Mintz set up his own studio by raiding Disney and hiring away some staff. But Disney in the interim had created Mickey Mouse while returning to California on a train. Disney did two Mickey’s PLANE CRAZY and GALLOPING GAUCHO without a distributor. He was working on the third Mickey, STEAMBOAT WILLY, when motion picture sound arrived. Recognizing the breakthrough he added sound to the third Mickey and it opened in New York on Nov. 18, 1928, with the Powers sound system. It was not the first sound film: Terry’s DINNER TIME was released on Sept. 1st (Disney saw it and said it was terrible). But STEAMBOAT WILLIE was the first successful sound animated film; it made Mickey an international star, and launched the Disney studio of today. It also ushered in the new age of sound for animation. (Special Note: In 2006 The Walt Disney Company would finally require the rights to the “Oswald the Rabbit” character in a trade with Universal for a Sportscaster.)


Carl Stalling (1888-1972) leaves his job as a movie music accompanist in Kansas City and joins Disney (he knew Disney in Kansas City and was an original investor in the studio). He would compose the music for nineteen of Disney’s first twenty sound cartoons.


Lantz signed with Universal and later took over Disney’s OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT series.


Paul Terry left in 1929 and started own studio, Terrytoons. Georgia O’Keefe paints “Night wave” an abstract painting. And so the “Silent Era” ended and the “Sound Era” began. How did this effect animation? Did Live Action and Animation take different directions when sound came in? How did sound affect the nature of comedy? How did the great depression, which started a year later, effect animation.


1929:   Walt Disney’s, SKELETON DANCE, first Silly Symphony, Carl Stalling music, Ub Iwerks animator, where the use of prerecorded music in animation leads to a very tight synchronization of sound and picture which sets the standard in animation for the use of prerecorded sound. Columbia becomes Disney distributor until 1932.


1930:   The King of Jazz is produced by Universal. In it is a short animated sequence done by Walter Lantz. It is the first animation done with the two strip Technicolor process.


            The Warner Bros. Cartoons are born. The First Warner Bros. short was SINKING IN THE BATHTUB with the character BOSKO who was a take off on Mickey Mouse. Harman, Ising, and Friz Freleng, who were old Disney people, started the studio with Leon Schlesinger as the producer. He was a cousin of the Warner Brothers and had helped back the “Jazz Singer”. As a condition for the studio each short must contain a Warners song. So Looney Tunes series, a take off on the Silly Symphonies, began. “Our policy has always been laughs, the more the better”, was the Warner’s philosophy (Schlesinger).


Disney Ub Iwerks and Carl Stalling left the studio. Roy signed contract-starting Disney merchandising. David Hand joins as Disney’s fourth animator. Norm Ferguson’s Pluto character born in THE PICNIC.


Fleischer: introduced the character of in Betty Boop “DIZZY DISHES.” Grim Natwick developed and animated Betty, he also animated Snow White. Betty started as part human part dog character that later changed to completely human. Bimbo, her boyfriend remained a dog. Mae Questel did Betty’s first voice.


First Terrytoons, “CAVIAR.” is released. Distribute by 20th Century Fox.


The plant Pluto is discovered. Dashiell Hammett writes the “Maltese Falcon”.


1931:   Ub Iwerks opens his own studio to produce “Flip the Frog” cartoons. His studio would close in 1936.


Warner Bros. introduces “Merrie Melodies” as one shot shorts. Webb Smith, at Disney, starts the use of storyboards. (Some would claim that the storyboard was developed first at the Fleischer studios in 1930)


Disney starts a studio school under direction of Don Graham. Jack Kinney joins Disney for 27 years.


Hamilton Luske begins 37-year tenure with Disney. He became a co-director on many features until his death in 1968.


1932:   Walt Disney wins his first Academy Award for “FLOWERS AND TREES.” This film was the first to use 3 strips Technicolor (color) in animation.


In Walt Disney’s “MICKEY’S REVUE” Goofy is born. Disney changes distributor to United Artists, which lasts until 1937.


Oscar Fischinger completes his studies #5-12, done in an abstract style. He called his style “absolute animation”


Czech animator Berthold Bartosch creates “THE IDEA” a 30-minute film using woodcuts. He also worked on “PRINCE ACHMED.”


Chuck Jones lands his first job in the animation industry as a cell washer for Ub Iwerks. Norman McLaren, while a 16-year-old art student in England, turns to animation after seeing an Oscar Fischinger film.


1933:   Walt Disney wins his second Academy Award for “THE THREE LITTLE PIGS.”


At Warner Bros., Harman and Ising leave over money issues taking Books with them to MGM. Meanwhile back at Warner’s Friz Freleng becomes a head director. Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones, earning $18.50 for a six-day week, start working at the studio and Ben Hardaway arrives from Kansas City. Friz Freleng directs “BOSKO IN DUTCH” and a cartoon Hitler chases Jimmy Durant with an ax in “BOSKO’S PICTURE SHOW”.


Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker release animated film “NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN”, made with pin screen animation in Paris.


Max Fleischer animates “Popeye” from Elzie Segar’s comic strip, “POPEYE THE SAILOR.” Jack Mercer’s muttering voice was used later. “Betty Boop” first appears in a Fleischer “Popeye” cartoon as a dog.



1934:   Ub Irwek creates a multi-plane camera. This camera is capable of filming several separate layers of cells giving the final frame a truly three-dimensional look.


            Disney’s “THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE” wins the Academy Award. An MGM studio begins producing “Happy Harmonies” with Ising and Harmon.


Donald Duck voice debuts on Mickey Mouse’s NBC radio program. Donald first appeared in “THE WISE LITTLE HEN.”


Warner Bros. first “Merrie Melodies” cartoon is produced in color. The Looney Tunes were animated in B&W until 1943. Much of these cartoons were re-filmed in color during the sixties by a Japanese studio. This required re-creating all of the cells as Warner Bros. had burnt all the original cells from this series to free up storage space.


Walt Disney in a four-hour staff meeting lays out his vision for SNOW WHITE. Stalin begins purge of the Communist Party. Robert Graves writes “I, Claudius”


1935:   Disney’s “THREE ORPHAN KITTENS” wins the Academy Award. Don Graham begins teaching at the Disney studios.


Hollywood Production Code comes into effect. Len Lye, (1901 – 1980) creates “COLOR BOX” the first film to be animated by painting directly on film and shown to audience, British GPO unit


Norman McLaren joined GPO unit. He strips away everything but action, feels the most important thing is what happens between frames, not what is on the frame. Tex Avery said it’s not what the character looks like, but what the character does, that matters.


“I HAVEN’T GOT A HAT” the first cartoon to feature Porky Pig is produced. Joe Dougherty, a bit part actor with a pronounced speech impediment, voices the original Porky in this short, which gave Schlesinger Studios its first success.


Ub Iwerks adapts Hans Christian Anderson’s tale for one of the first of his Comical Cartoon releases “THE BRAVE TIN SOLDIER.”


1936:   Disney’s “COUNTRY COUSIN” wins the Academy Award.


Warner Bros produces “GOLD DIGGERS OF ’49″ Tex Avery’s first film for them. He was an animator working at Walter Lantz’s studio from1930 to 1935. Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, and Bo Cannon also work at Warner Bros. They dub the animation unit “Termite Terrace.” Frank Tashlin (1913-1972) directs “PORKY IN THE NORTH WOODS.” Carl Stalling joined the studio and set the style of “cartoon music” going on to compose music for over six hundred films. Mel Blanc joined the studio as well either in1936 or 1937.


Max Fleischer produces “POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINBAD THE SAILOR” a 20-minute film. It is shot on a horizontal rig with 3D models for background and the characters drawn on cells and placed between two sheets of glass and set in front of the models. This was way before computers.


Oscar Fischinger moves to Hollywood. His color films “MURATTI MARCHES ON” and “COMPOSITION IN BLUE” had gained so much critical and popular acclaim that Paramount Studios offers him a contract.


1937:   Walt Disney’s “THE OLD MILL” Wins the Academy Award


Walt Disney produces “SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS” his first animated feature. (General release 1938) RKO becomes Disney’s new distributor until 1956.


At Warners Bros. Robert Clampett directs “PORKYS BADTIME STORY” and Tex Avery directs “PORKYS DUCK HUNT” which introduces the character of Daffy Duck. Tex Avery based the character on a duck that lived on a pond across from his high school. Tex Avery was now developing the Looniest of Looney Tunes that set the tone for the entire studio.


Animators go on strike at the Fleischer Studios in New York.


1938:   Walt Disney’s “FERDINAND THE BULL” wins the Academy Award. Disney’s mother dies.


Chuck (Charles) Jones directs “THE NIGHT WATCHMAN” for Warner Bros.


1939:   Walt Disney’s “THE UGLY DUCKLING” wins the Academy Award. It was also the last Silly Symphony produced at Disney. The Disney studios begin their move to Burbank from Hyperion Ave. in Los Angeles.


MGM’s “PEACE ON EARTH” a strong pacifist film, is nominated for an Academy Award.


Mary Ellen Bute and McLaren create “SPOOK SPORT” an abstract film.


Fleischer Studios produce “GULLIVERS TRAVELS” their first feature. Fleischer Animators go on strike in Florida.


The Film Act is passed in Canada by Parliament. This creates The National Film Board of Canada to “interpret Canada to Canadians through the medium of film.”


1940:   MGM’s “MILKY WAY” wins the Academy Award.


Disney Produces “PINOCCHIO” and “FANTASIA”.


Harry Smith, Experimental animator, creates “NO.1, alchemist”


Tex Avery directs “A WILD HARE” for Warner Bros. where he defines the character of Bugs Bunny. There were three previous Bugs, but this was the film where the real Bugs were born. This was the start of Warners’ supremacy in animated humor.


Walter Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker is introduced in “KNOCK: KNOCK”


1941:   Walt Disney’s “LEND A PAW” wins the Academy Award.


Walt Disney releases “DUMBO.”


Disney animators Strike.


Fleischer Studios produce the “SUPERMAN” series and their second feature film “MR. BUG” is retitled “HOPPITY GOES TO TOWN” then released.


1942:   Walt Disney’s “DER FUEHRERS FACE” wins the Academy Award.


Disney releases “BAMBI.”


Fleischer studios close.


Paramount/Famous studios open with the old Fleischer artists.


Tex Avery left Warner Bros.and directed the pilot “SPEAKING OF ANIMALS” (with its Hoary Toad sequence) for Paramount. However the series was quickly taken away from him. He then moved to MGM where he stayed until 1955.


Terrytoons introduces the prototype of “Mighty Mouse.”


Norman McLaren joins the NFB of Canada as the head of animation.


1943:   John and James Whitney produced their first film “Five Abstract Film Exercises.”


            MGM’s “YANKEE DOODLE MOUSE” wins the Academy Award.


Walt Disney produces “SALUDOS AMIGOS” a collection of shorts, the studio did several of these. Bill Tytla resigns, Bill Shull was his assistant.


Tex Avery directs “DUMB HOUNDED” the first Droopy cartoon for MGM.


1945:   Harry Smith produced animation by drawing directly onto film.


            MGM’s “QUIET PLEASE” wins the Academy Award.


UPA (United Productions of America) is formed.


UCLA Animation’s Phil Denslow is born


1946:   MGM’s “THE CAT CONCERTO” wins the Academy Award.


Warners Bros. character “Foghorn Leghorn” is introduced in “WALKY TALKY HAWK” directed by Bob McKimson (1911-1977).


Walt Disney produces “SONG OF THE SOUTH” combining live action and animation.


1947:   Warner Bros’ “TWEETIE PIE” wins the Academy Award. This is the first short featuring Tweetie and Sylvester together and the first animated short to win the Academy Award for Warner Bros. It was directed by Friz Freleng.


Bill Shull, a former Disney animator founded the UCLA Animation Workshop.


1948:   MGM’s “THE LITTLE ORPHAN” wins the Academy Award.


UPA makes their first theatrical release (they did educational films before) “ROBIN HOODLUM.”


“Fox and Crow” is animated by John Hubley.


Supreme Court makes ruling on “Sherman anti trust act” declaring motion picture companies monopolies and forcing them to break up. Ends block booking.


1949:   Warner Bros.’ “FOR SCENT-IMENTAL REASONS” wins the Academy Award.


“CRUSADER RABBIT” first cartoon series made for TV is introduced on NBC. Done by Alex Anderson, nephew of Paul Terry. They were paid $250.00 per five-minute episode. Looking like an illustrated radio show they were TV’s first example of limited animation.


Frostbit Follies genesis for “Rocky and Friends” 1959 (storyboard only).


MGM produces “BAD LUCK BLACKIE” directed by Tex Avery.


UPA introduces “Mr. Magoo” in “THE RAGTIME BEAR” directed by John Hubley.


1950:   UPA’s “GERALD MCBOING MCBOING” wins the Academy Award.


The first computer animation is created (that we know of) it was an animated “Bouncing Ball” done at MIT by Saxenian.


Disney produces “CINDERELLA” (return to feature animation), first live action feature “TREASURE ISLAND” and their first TV special.


TV Arts Productions, they did the original “CRUSADER RABBIT,” goes out of business.

Animation for TV commercial becomes an important segment of the animation industry.

1951:   MGM’s “TWO MOUSEKETEERS” wins the Academy Award.

Ion Popesco-Gopo (Rumania) creates “THE NAUGHTY DUCK, THE BEE AND THE DOVE.”

1952:   MGM’s “JOHANN MOUSE” wins the Academy Award.

1953:   Disney: Walt Disney’s “TOOT, WHISTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM’ wins the Academy Award. It is a return to Silly Symphonies done in a UPA style.

“THE SIMPLE THINGS” Disney’s last Mickey Mouse short is released.

 Walt Disney’s “PETER PAN” is released.

1954:   UPA’s “WHEN MAGOO FLEW” wins the Academy Award.

In this year as well as 1955 and 1956 the major studios started selling their animated shorts to TV for syndication.

Warners Bros. introduce “The Tasmanian Devil” in “DEVIL MAY HARE” directed by Bob McKimson.

1955:   Warner Bros.’ “SPEEDY GONZALES” directed by Friz Freleng, wins the Academy award.

 Disney starts phasing out shorts as the cost rises to $75,000 each.

Tex Avery moves to the Walter Lantz Studio.

1956:   UPA’s “MR. MAGO0′S PUDDLE JUMPER’ wins the Academy Award.

John Hubley and Faith Elliot start “Storyboard Productions.”

Disney Studios stop release of their last shorts on a regular basis.

Annecy, the first major international animation festival begins within the framework of the Cannes Festival. In 1960 becomes an independent festival at Annecy under the auspices of the Association Francaise pour la Diffusion du Cinema.

Tom Sito is born. Currently he is a Director, animator, and teaches a course at the UCLA Animation Workshop.

1957:   John Whitney used 17 Bodine motors, 8 Selsyns, 9 different gear units and 5 ball integrators to create analog computer graphics.

            Warner Bros’ “BIRDS ANONYMOUS” wins the academy award.

Association International de Film D’ Animation (ASIFA) is founded in France.

Jack Kinney leaves Disney and goes on to produce and direct over a hundred “POPEYE” cartoons.

UCLA Animation Workshop’s Dug Ward is born.

1958:   Warner Bros’ “KNIGHTY KNIGHTY BUGS” wins the Academy Award.

1959:   “MOONBIRD” created by Storyboard Inc. (Hubley Studio) wins the Academy Award.

Jiri Trnka, (Czechoslovakia 1912-1970), Creates “MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM” and animated puppet feature.

1960:   “MUNRO” by Rembrandt Films wins the Academy Award.

1961:   John Whitney used differential gear mechanisms to create film and television title sequences.

            “ERSATZ” by Zagreb Film (Dusan Vukotic 1927- ) wins the Academy Award.

Bob Godfrey (Australia/England), creates “DO IT YOURSELF CARTOON KIT.”

TETSUWAN ATOMU (ASTRO BOY) Japan’s first television animation series begins. Create by Osamu Tezuka.

Start of the “Nine Old Men” era at Disney

Walt Disney releases “ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS” the first Disney feature to use Xeroxed cells.

1962:   “THE HOLE” by Storyboard Films (Hubley Studio) wins the Academy Award.

Warner Bros. Animation closes. (Will re-open in the 90s)

1963:   In computer animation Ivan Sutherland’s doctoral dissertation at MIT opens the way to interactive computer animation.

“THE STORY OF A CRIME” by Feodor Khitrouk, (Russia)

“THE INSECTS” by Jimmy Murakami,

1964:   Ken Knowlton, working at Bell Laboratories, started developing computer techniques for producing animated movies.

            “THE PINK PHINK” by DePatie-Freleng wins the Academy Award.

Halas and Batchelor create first British animated feature, “ANIMAL FARM.”

The Beatles film “HARD DAYS NIGHT” is released.

1965:   MGM’s “THE DOT AND THE LINE” (Chuck Jones) wins the Academy Award.

1966:   Hubley Studio’s “HERB ALPERT AND THE TIJUANA BRASS DOUBLE FEATURE” wins the Academy Award.

James Whitney does “LAPIS” in motion control animation.

Walter Elias Disney dies, (1901-1966) USA

1967:   “THE BOX” Murakami & Wolf Films (Fred Wolf) wins the Academy Award.

John Whitney’s “PERMUTATIONS”, computer animation

John Stehura, “CIBERNETIC 5.3″, first computer-animated film at the UCLA Animation Workshop

1968:   Disney’s “WINNY THE POOH AND THE BLUSTERY DAY” wins the Academy Award.

A SPACE ODYSSEY, by Stanley Kubrick is released. This film contained the first major use of motion control animation (which John Whitney invented and first used it commercially in Hitchcock’s VERTIGO)

1969:   Disney’s “IT’S TOUGH TO BE A BIRD”, wins the Academy Award.

Internet is born at UCLA

1970:   “IS IT ALWAYS RIGHT TO BE RIGHT”, wins the Academy Award. Stephen Bosustow


(1933 -1985) US, Annecy Grand Prize Winner.

First Freak Bros. Comic book published.

1971:   “THE CRUNCH BIRD”. Wins the Academy Award. Maxwell-Petok-Petrovich Productions

Robert Abel (1937-2001) and Assoc. studio began. First by doing motion control and in a few years began doing high quality computer animation commercials.

Ub Iwerks dies, (1901-1971) USA. He was considered one of the greatest animators ever.

First computer animation used in a feature film “THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN” as a special effect. Special effect animation during this period played a major role in the amount of animation produced.

1972:   University of Utah, Ed Cat mull develops an animation scripting language and creates an animation of a smooth shaded hand. Ref: E. Cat mull, “A System for Computer Generated Movies”, Proceedings of the ACM National Conference, 1972. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

University of Utah, Fred Parke creates first computer generated facial animation. Ref: F. Parke, “Computer Generated Animation of Faces”, Proceedings of the ACM National Conference, 1972. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

Richard Williams’ “THE CHRISTMAS CAROL” wins the Academy Award.

MARCO POLO JR. VS THE RED DRAGON, Australia’s first feature animated film is released.

Carl Stalling (1888-1972) dies a music director and composer who set the standards for animation music in the “Golden Age of Animation”. Disney and Warners were two of the studios where he set the standards.

Frank Tashlin (Tish-Tash) dies (1913-1972) – director at Warners – went on to direct live action hits starring Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope.

Max Fleischer dies (1883-1972) born in Vienna, Austria

1973:   “FRANK FILM” wins the Academy Award., Frank Morris USA

1974:   National Research Council of Canada releases Hunger/La Faim directed by Peter Foldes and featuring Burtnyk and Wein interactive key framing techniques. Ref: N. Burtnyk and M. Wein, “Interactive Skeleton Techniques for Enhancing Motion Dynamics in Key Frame Animation”, Communications of the ACM, 19(10), October 1976. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

            “CLOSED MONDAYS” wins the Academy Award: Bob Gardiner – Will Vinton, USA

“HUNGER” an Academy Award nomination by Peter Foldes (1924-1977) Hungry done at the NFB was the first animated computer generated film nominated.

1975:   “GREAT” wins the Academy Award. Bob Godfrey. England

1976:   “LEISURE” wins the Academy Award., National Film Board of Canada.

1977:   “SAND CASTLE” wins the Academy Award., National Film Board of Canada, Co Hoedeman

 Single frame video tape animation systems were introduced. Used for pencil testing they were a major development in the production of animation.

 First Anime fan club started in Los Angeles.

1978:   “SPECIAL DELIVERY” wins the Academy Award., National Film Board of Canada

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston retired from Disney.

Peter Lord, Davis Sproxton establish Aardman Animation in England.

1979:   “EVERY CHILD” wins the Academy Award., National Film Board of Canada

Turnkey systems are first introduced in computer animation.

Dave Fleischer dies (1894-1979)

1980:   “THE FLY” wins the Academy Award., Pannonia Studios, Hungary, Ferenc Rofusz

Pacific Data Images (PDI) founded.

Fred “Tex” Avery dies (1908 – 1980) USA. Fred Bean Avery was related to Judge Roy Bean (who was known as the “law west of the Pecos, give you a fair trail and hang you”. Roy Bean’s real name was Roy Boone and he was descended from Daniel Boone). There is a story that Disney did not want his animators to see Tex Avery films as they were too extreme in their humor and animation.

1981:   “CRAC” wins the Academy Award., Frederic Back, and Canadian

Lotte Reiniger dies (1899-1981) Germany, developed silhouette and did many films in that form.

1982:   Tron, MAGI, movie with CG premise.

            “TANGO” wins the Academy Award., Zingier Rybczynski, and Poland. He was arrested after winning the Oscar when he went outside for a smoke and spent his Academy Award night in a Los Angeles jail – so much for animation.

“TRON”, A Disney feature has 15 minutes of computer animation (most all computer animation by now is digital except effects done on tape using the analog system) for 235 scenes at a cost of $1,200 per second.

Disney starts selling home videos.

1983:   Bill Reeves at Lucas film publishes techniques for modeling particle systems. “Demo” is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. The paper also promotes motion blur. Ref: W. Reeves, “Particle Systems — A Technique for Modeling a Class of Fuzzy Objects”, Computer Graphics, 17(3), July 1983. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

The Disney Channel begins broadcasting.

1984:   The Last Star fighter, CG is used in place of models. Porter and Duff at Lucas film publish paper on digital compositing using an alpha channel. Ref: T. Porter and T. Duff, “Compositing Digital Images”, Computer Graphics, 18(3), July 1984. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

1985:   Girard and Maciejewski at OSU publish a paper describing the use of inverse kinematics and dynamics for animation. Their techniques are used in the animation “Eurythmy.” Ref: M. Girard and A. A. Maciejewski, “Computational Modeling for the Computer Animation of Legged Figures”, Computer Graphics, July 1985. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

            Ken Perlin at NYU publishes a paper on noise functions for textures. He later applied this technique to add realism to character animations. Ref: K. Perlin, “An Image Synthesizer”, Computer Graphics, July 1985. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

            “YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES” the first live action film to feature a complete computer animated character is released.

1986:   “A GREEK TRAGEDY” wins the Academy Award. Nicole Van Goethem, Belgium

Iwerks Entertainment founded.

“AMERICAN TALE” is released. Steven Spielberg Production, Don Bluth director.

1987:   John Lasseter at Pixar publishes a paper describing traditional animation principles. “Demos” are Andre and Wally B and Luxo Jr. Ref: J. Lasseter, “Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation”, Computer Graphics and July 1987. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

Craig Reynolds then at Symbolic (Now at DreamWorks SKG) publishes a paper on self-organizing behavior for groups. “Demos” are Stanley and Stella and Batman Returns. Ref: C. W. Reynolds, “Flocks, Herds, and Schools: A Distributed Behavioral Model”, Computer Graphics, July 1987. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

THE SIMPSONS begins as spots on the Tracey Ullman Show. David Silverman, who had just graduated from UCLA, was one of the 2-3 original animators.

1988:   Willow uses morphing in live action film.

1989:   “TIN TOY” wins the Academy Award. John Lasseter, William Reeves, Pixar, first computer animated film to win, US.

“WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT” is released. Grossing over $300 million it proved that animation, at least when combined with live action, was not limited to a children’s audience.

1990:   “BALANCE” wins the Academy Award. Wolgang and Christopher Lauenstein, Germany

Osamu Tezuka dies (1926-1989). He was born in Osaka, Japan and is often called the Walt Disney of Japan. In his last years he turned the control of his studio over to others and began making his own personal short films. JUMPING was one of these films. Before he became a cartoonist and animator he was a certified medical doctor and had a Ph.D. in entomology.

Mel Blanc “the man of a thousand voices” dies (1908 -1989). His gravestone in the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery reads “That’s All Folks”. He was the first voice talent to receive screen credit.

Richard Williams presented with a Special Achievement Oscar for directing the animation in “WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT”. The only time this award had been previously given for animation was to Walt Disney for “SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS”.

1991:   “MANIPULATION” wins the Academy Award. Daniel Greaves,

Disney’s “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” becomes the first animated feature to be nominated for the Academy Award as Best Picture.

1992:   Beier and Neely, at SGI and PDI respectively publish an algorithm where line correspondences guide morphing between 2D images. “Demo” is Michael Jackson video Black and White. Ref: T. Beier and S. Neely, “Feature-Based Image Metamorphosis”, Computer Graphics, July 1992. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection)

“FERN GULLY” and animated feature by Bill and Sue Kroyer is released.

Sammy Timberg dies (1903- 1992) USA. Compose for Fleischer Studios (later Famous Studios) Betty Boop, Superman, Little Lulu, Casper as well as features “MR. BUGS GOES TO TOWN” and “GULLIVER’S TRAVELS”. Best known for “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day”.

1993:   Chen and Williams at Apple publish a paper on view interpolation for 3D walkthroughs. Ref: S. E. Chen and L. Williams, “View Interpolation for Image Synthesis”, Computer Graphics Proceedings, Annual Conference Series, 1993. (In the SIGGRAPH 98 Seminal Graphics collection) Jurassic Park use CG for realistic living creatures.

1994:   “LION KING” One of Disney’s highest grossing pictures to date.

Walter Lantz dies (1900-1994). A pioneer in animation he was head of the Walter Lantz Studio and creator of Woody Woodpecker.

1995:   Toy Story first full-length 3D CG feature film.

            “TOY STORY”, first computer animated feature released and it takes in more money at the box office than any other film in 1995.

“BABE” combination of live action and computer animated effects is nominated for an Academy Award.

DreamWorks Feature Animation begins.

John Whitney dies experimental animator and pioneer computer animator

Preston Blair dies an animator who wrote the book “Animation” which is the classic book on how to animate.

1996:   “QUEST” wins the Academy Award. Tyron Montgomery, Thomas Stellmach, German.

“BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD” Animated feature based on the series is released and makes over 60 million.

“MARS ATTACKS” Tim Burton. During its production the Manchester studio Bare Bones spends 9 months animating stop-motion aliens for the film, only to be told that computer generated images (CGI) would be used instead.

Virgil Ross dies at 88, a master animator at Warners and other studios.

1997:   “GERI’S GAME” wins the Academy Award.Pixar. Direct by Jan Pinkava.

1998:   “THE PRINCE OF EGYPT” DreamWorks first animated feature is released.

1999:   “TOY STORY 2″ released, Disney/Pixar

“STUART LITTLE” released, Columbia/Sony

2000:   Marc Davis dies (1913-2000), born in Bakersfield, CA, he was one of the Nine Old Men from Disney. He was well known for doing female characters.

Bill Hurtz dies at the age of 81. At a Screen Cartoonists Guild meeting in 1941, Bill made the motion to strike the Disney studio, his motion was unanimously approved. Receive an Academy Award nomination for UPA’s “Unicorn in the Garden” in 1953. He directed at the Jay Ward Studios 1959 to 1984.

2001:   William (Bill) Hanna (1911-2001) dies

Bob Abel (1937-2001) dies. Bob was a pioneer in computer animation, especially in the 1970′s commercials, through his company, Robert Abel and Associates.

Faith Hubley dies at 77, she made 25 personal films, and won the academy award 3 times with husband John Hubley, she was a great friend of the UCLA workshop. Faith was a person who lived her life fully according to her belief, that the expression of art is the most ennobling experience of the human spirit. She expressed her art and her belief through her animation.

Ray Patterson dies (1911-2001). Begin as an inker in Mintz’s studio in 1929. Work at Disney, MGM and Hanna-Barbera.

Sam Weiss dies animator at UPA, Jay Ward and others.

Lee Mishkin dies animator, director.

Jan Lenica dies at 73. Famed Polish animator.

2002:   Nine feature animated films were rules eligible for the three nominations in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science first ever Feature Length Animation category. They are: “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”, “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius”, “Marco Polo, Return to Xanadu”, “Monsters, Inc.”, “Osmosis Jones”, “Shrek”, “The Trumpet of the Swan”, “The Prince of Light”, “Waking Life”.

“Shrek” from Dreamwork Feature animation won the first ever Oscar for animated feature they beat out Pixar/Disney’s “Monsters Inc. 

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