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Experiments in photographing movement had been made in both the United States and Europe during the latter half of the 19th cent. with, at first, no exploitation of its technical and commercial possibilities. Serial photographs of racehorses, intended to prove that all four hooves do leave the ground simultaneously, were obtained (c.1867) in California by Eadweard Muybridge and J. D. Isaacs by setting up a row of cameras with shutters tripped by wires. The first motion pictures made with a single camera were by E. J. Marey, a French physician, in the 1880s, in the course of his study of motion.
In 1889 Thomas Edison and his staff developed the kinetograph, a camera using rolls of coated celluloid film, and the Kinetoscope, a device for peep-show viewing using photographs that flipped in sequence. Marketed in 1893, the Kinetoscope gained popularity in penny arcades, and experimentation turned to ways in which moving images might be shown to more than one person at a time. In France the Lumière brothers created the first projection device, the Cinématographe (1895). In the United States, similar machines, notably the Pantopticon and the Vitascope, were developed and first used in New York City in 1896.
At first the screenings formed part of vaudeville shows and arcades, but in 1902 a Los Angeles shop that showed only moving pictures had great success; soon “movie houses” (converted shoprooms) sprang up all over the country. The first movie theater, complete with luxurious accessories and a piano, was built in Pittsburgh in 1905. A nickel was charged for admission, and the theater was called the nickelodeon. An industry developed to produce new material and the medium's potential for expressive ends began to assert itself.
The earliest films were used primarily to chronicle contemporary attitudes, fashions, and events, and ran no longer than 10 minutes. At first, simple actions were filmed, then everyday scenes and, pivotally, gag films, in which a practical joke is staged as a simple tableau. The camera was first used in a fixed position, though soon it was pivoted, or panned, on its tripod or moved toward or away from a subject.
The medium's potential as a storytelling mechanism was realized very early in its history. The Frenchman George Méliès created the earliest special effects and built elaborate sets specifically to tell stories of a fantastic nature, usually as a series of tableaux. His Cinderella (1900) and A Trip to the Moon (1902) were major innovative accomplishments. The American Edwin S. Porter demonstrated that action need not be staged for cinema screen as for theater and early realized that scenes photographed in widely separate locales could be cut, or edited, together yet still not be confusing to the audience. His subject matter tended toward depictions of modern life; his Life of an American Fireman (1902) and The Great Train Robbery (1903) are among the first works to use editing as well as acting and stagecraft to tell their stories.
As business increased, the demand for product was met by many new companies incorporated to create the supply. Cooperation among the early filmmakers yielded to the demands of the marketplace, and each company tried to secure continued success through innovations meant to distinguish its product. Out of these efforts developed the star system, the establishment of physical plants (studios) where the films would be made, and the organization of the filmmaking process into interlocking crafts. The crafts people include actors, producers, cinematographers, writers, editors, and film laboratory technicians who work interdependently in a production effort overseen and coordinated by the director.
The Early Years
The first American studios were centered in the New York City area. Edison had claimed the patents for many of the technical elements involved in filmmaking and, in 1909, formed the Motion Picture Patents Company, an attempt at monopoly that worked to keep unlicensed companies out of production and distribution. To put distance between themselves and the Patents Company's sometimes violent tactics, many independents moved their operations to a suburb of Los Angeles; the location's proximity to Mexico allowed these producers to flee possible legal injunctions. After 1913 Hollywood, Calif., became the American movie capital. At first, films were sold outright to exhibitors; later they were distributed on a rental basis through film exchanges.
Early on, actors were not known by name, but in 1910, the “star system” came into being via promotion of Vitagraph Co. actress Florence Lawrence, first known as The Vitagraph Girl. Other companies, noting that this approach improved business, responded by attaching names to popular faces and “fan magazines” quickly followed, providing plentiful, and free, publicity. Films had slowly been edging past the 20 minute mark, but the drive to feature-length works began with the Italian “spectacle” film, of which Quo Vadis (1913), running nine reels or about two hours, was the most influential.
Directors of the day, including D. W. Griffith, Thomas Ince, Maurice Tourneur, J. Stuart Blackton, and Mack Sennett, became known to audiences as purveyors of certain kinds, or “genres,” of subject matter. The first generation of star actors included Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Marie Dressler, Lillian Gish, William S. Hart, Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Claudette Colbert, Rudolph Valentino, Janet Gaynor, Ronald Colman, Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Lon Chaney, and Will Rogers. During World War I the United States became dominant in the industry and the moving picture expanded into the realm of education and propaganda.
The Hollywood Studio Era
In the post–World War I period the production genius of such men as Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Adolph Zukor, and Jesse L. Lasky, and the innovative talents of Cecil B. De Mille, Erich Von Stroheim, and Ernst Lubitsch were dominant. The year 1926 brought experiments in sound effects and music, and in 1927 spoken dialogue was successfully introduced in The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson. A year later the first all-talking picture, Lights of New York, was shown. With the talkies new directors achieved prominence—King Vidor, Joseph Von Sternberg, Rouben Mamoulian, Frank Capra, and John Ford. Sound films gave a tremendous boost to the careers of some silent actors but destroyed many whose voices were not suited to recording. Among the most celebrated stars of the new era were Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, W. C. Fields, and the Marx Brothers.
Also in 1927 The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences was formed and began an annual awards ceremony. The prize, a figurine of a man grasping a star, was later dubbed Oscar. These awards did much to confer status upon the medium in that they asserted a definable quality of excellence analogous to literature and theater, other media in which awards are given for excellence. The Academy Awards also offered the bonus of gathering many stars in one place and thus attracted immediate and widespread attention. The star system blossomed: actors were recruited from the stage as well as trained in the Hollywood studios.
From the 1930s until the early 1950s, the studios sponsored a host of talented actors, foremost among whom were Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Charles Laughton, Barbara Stanwyck, William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Leslie Howard, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Edward G. Robinson, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, James Cagney, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, James Mason, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly. Producers and directors such as David O. Selznick, Darryl F. Zanuck, Mervyn LeRoy, William Wyler, George Stevens, and Billy Wilder made significant contributions to cinematic art.
The medium had, after nickelodeon days, converted many legitimate theaters into movie houses. Later, during Hollywood's “golden age,” thousands of sumptuous movie palaces were erected all over the United States, and drive-in movie theaters became popular outside urban centers. Since their inception the movies have always been termed an industry, with good reason. In 1938 there were more than 80 million single admissions per week (65% of the population). To meet the huge box-office demand, more than 500 films were produced that year.
The industry in its heyday (1930–49) was managed by a number of omnipotent studios, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Brothers, RKO, Paramount, Twentieth Century-Fox, and Universal. They produced endless cycles of films in imitation of a few successful original types. The range of themes included the criminal underworld, behind-the-scenes newspaper dramas, westerns, musicals, costume romances, character series such as the Charlie Chan films, prison stories, mysteries, comedies, and Broadway shows. Because of their enormous investments and gargantuan rewards (the film industry's gross income for 1946, its best year, was nearly $2 billion), the studios were encouraged to repeat conventionalized formula pictures.
The Post-Studio Era
In the 1950s, two developments ended the studios' grip on the entertainment business: the overwhelming popularity of television began to eat into studio profits and the studios were forced by the federal courts to yield the control of distribution and exhibition that they had maintained by means of massive conglomerate corporations. In 1962 box-office receipts were only $900 million; by 1968 only 20 million people per week were going to a movie (10% of the population). Independent distributors and theaters took a huge cut of the industry's income after World War II, and the studios cut wages and laid off employees in a struggle to survive.
In order to compete with television the studio heads strongly urged technological innovation. In the 1950s experiments abounded with wide-screen processes, such as CinemaScope and Cinerama and stereophonic sound systems. The movies of the 1950s and 60s traded a bit of glamour for an increased sense of realism, providing vehicles for new directors, including Elia Kazan, John Frankenheimer, Stanley Kubrick, and Sidney Lumet, and for a great number of popular film stars, including Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Judy Holliday, James Dean, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlton Heston, Doris Day, George C. Scott, Audrey Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier.
Eventually, c.1956 many studios began to produce material especially for television, including commercials, and to sell their old films for television reruns. Independent production became the norm, with the studios acting as distributors only, and new kinds of films emerged: horror, science fiction, and rock 'n' roll stories aimed at teen-agers proliferated. Concurrently, larger studio-backed films eschewed romanticism and sentimentality, fighting the long-imposed bans on depictions of a harsher reality and a more explicit sexuality.
The trend away from the glamorous celebrity image that began in the 1960s gained momentum in the 70s. The principal stars of these years include Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Steve McQueen, and Woody Allen. Important American directors of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s include Peter Bogdanovich, Roman Polanski, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, and Martin Scorsese.
A change came with the release of Jaws (1975), an unassuming suspense picture that unexpectedly grossed over $100 million by appealing to all ages and both sexes. Filmmakers were now encouraged to speak to the widest possible audience. The result was a series of films given over to spectacle. Star Wars (1977) cracked the $200 million barrier, and E.T. (1982) earned over $300 million. While many of these films aroused criticism for representing the triumph of special effects over any kind of human values, the net effect was to draw the audience back into movie theaters, and many movies, including those without spectacular elements, succeeded during this period. This trend has continued into the 21st cent. The leading directors are Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, the latter more active as a producer.
Two developments that greatly enhanced profitability in the 1980s were the development of low-cost videocassette recorders (VCRs), which allow films to be shown at home, and the government's relaxation of the decrees separating production from distribution. The studios first felt that videocassettes would weaken the theatrical market; the reverse was true, as viewers became more interested in movie entertainment in general. Of the latter, studio co-ownership of various theater circuits assured wider distribution of films. In time, DVDs (see digital versatile disc) replaced VCRs as the preferred media for viewing films.
Beginning in the 1960s, many of the old movie palaces began to be divided into two or more auditoriums due to weakening attendance. When audiences returned in the 1980s, multiplexes, or theaters with multiple auditoriums, became the norm and mushroomed in suburban shopping malls and urban centers. In the early 1990s, however, the recession was reflected in movie attendance. By the turn of the decade, two major studios, MGM and Orion, suffered financial difficulties, and two others, Columbia and Universal, were bought by Japanese electronics companies, although Universal later became part of a French conglomerate.
One of the few positive motion-picture trends during the late 20th and early 21st cent. was the development and proliferation of IMAX. The format, which debuted in Japan in 1970, utilizes special film and projectors, features a gigantic screen and huge sound system, and has been used to take viewers on ultrarealistic trips to earthly (e.g., Everest, 1998) and outer-space (e.g., Destiny in Space, 1994) destinations. The province of museums for roughly two decades, the system was later extended to theaters and a number of films were reformatted to fit IMAX screens. By 2002, 180 IMAX films had been made, some in 3-D, and 225 large-screen IMAX theaters were in operation, 110 of them in the United States.
The development of high-definition digital and its associated production techniques altered the motion-picture industry in many ways in the early 21st cent. At the same time, cable and satellite television began to deliver channels that were largely devoted to films, and the subsequent development of streaming channels or services, available either through a cable or satellite service provider or through an independent service that often used the Internet connection offered by such a service provider, offered films and television programs that could be watched when the viewer wanted, supplanting DVDs as a means of accessing a library of films. These services benefited from the wide range of content produced in digital form, but they also began to compete with theaters (and traditional television channels) for new films (and programs) and an audience in a manner reminiscent of television's impact on motion-picture theaters decades before.
After several scandals led to the fear that the immorality perceived to be rampant in Hollywood might appear on screen, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, headed by Will H. Hays, was established in 1922 as a film review board. The Production Code, popularly known as the “Hays Code,” a highly restrictive set of guidelines for movie content, was promulgated in 1934 and complied with by virtually every Hollywood producer. In the late 1960s, the determination of what constituted pornography was turned over to the states for enforcement at the same time that filmmakers were attempting to break away from the Production Code's bans on sexuality and violence.
In 1966, the Production Code was abandoned completely and succeeded by the Motion Picture Code and Rating Program. Adopted to avoid a threatened state-controlled system, the program has characterized itself as providing guidance for parents, not for filmmakers. The program initially assigned each film one of four ratings: G (general audiences, without restrictions), M (mature audiences, parental guidance advised), R (restricted audiences, no one younger than 18 admitted without a parent or guardian), and X (no one younger than 18 admitted). The age limit may be adjusted by individual state rulings. M was eventually supplanted by PG (parental guidance suggested), PG-13, was introduced for films that might contain material inappropriate for pre-teenagers, and NC-17 replaced X, which had become associated with pornographic films.
See G. Battcock, The New American Cinema (1967); K. Brownlow, The Parade's Gone By (1968); R. Manvell, New Cinema in the USA (1968); R. Adler, A Year in the Dark (1970); D. Shipman, The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years (1970); P. Trent, The Image Makers: Sixty Years of Hollywood Glamour (1972); P. Gilliatt, Unholy Fools (1973); C. Higham, The Art of the American Film, 1900–1971 (1973); P. Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968), Going Steady (1970), Deeper into Movies (1974), and For Keeps (1994); E. Mordden, The Hollywood Musical (1981) and The Hollywood Studios (1988); J. Harvey, Romantic Comedy in Hollywood (1987), Movie Love in the Fifties (2001), and Watching Them Be (2014); A. Brower and T. L. Wright, Working in Hollywood (1990); R. Barrios, A Song in the Dark (1995); K. M. Cameron, America on Film (1997); W. K. Everson, American Silent Film (1998); J. Basinger, Silent Stars (1999); T. Doherty, Pre-Code Hollywood (1999); M. A. Vieira, Sin in Soft Focus (1999); D. Bardwell and K. Thompson, Minding Movies (2011); S. Griffin, ed., What Dreams Were Made Of (2011); D. Thomson, The Big Screen (2012).
Britain has produced some of the most illustrious talents in the history of film. Early efforts (c.1929) by the producer J. Arthur Rank to achieve a world market for British films were realized with the work of such postwar directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, David Lean, and the Hungarian-born Alexander Korda. Their films were literate and often suspenseful and brought international fame to such actors as Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Mills, Paul Scofield, Merle Oberon, and Michael Redgrave. Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov, Peter Sellers, and Terry Thomas created comedies that are sophisticated and singularly British in their sense of humor.
Major British directors of the 1960s include the American-born Joseph Losey, Tony Richardson, Sidney Furie, and John Schlesinger. Among the great number of notable British actors of recent years are Dirk Bogarde, Peter Finch, Michael Caine, Vanessa Redgrave, Stanley Baker, Glenda Jackson, Richard Burton, Julie Christie, Peter O'Toole, Maggie Smith, Alan Bates, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Albert Finney, Kenneth More, Michael York, Tom Courtenay, and Robert Shaw.
After a long dry spell in the 1970s, the British film industry returned to life with the formation of several new production companies such as Enigma, Working Title, Handmade Films, and Palace. A new television outlet, Channel 4, also produced many movies for theatrical release. Directors whose careers were stalled by the doldrums of the previous period now produced mature works: Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette), Mike Leigh (High Hopes, Life Is Sweet), and Mike Newell (Dance with a Stranger, The Good Father) among them. A new crop of actors came to the public's attention, including Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Natasha Richardson, Rupert Everett, Helen Mirren, Ben Kingsley, Jeremy Irons, Bob Hoskins, Kenneth Branagh, and Emma Thompson.
See R. Low, The History of the British Film (4 vol., 1973); C. Barr, ed., All Our Yesterdays (1990); J. Caughie and K. Rocket, ed., The Companion to British and Irish Cinema (1996).; S. Street, British National Cinema (1997); A. Aldgate and J. Richards, Best of British (new ed. 1999).
In the 1920s there was enormous creative film activity in France led by Louis Delluc and a group of directors around him—Abel Gance, Jean Epstein, and Germaine Dulac. Along with such directors as René Clair, Jean Renoir, and Carl Dreyer, they created films with an impressionistic and literary flavor. Later French films reflected first the optimism and then the despair of international events, as in Renoir's Grand Illusion (1937) and Marcel Carné's Port of Shadows (1938). In the postwar era H.-G. Clouzot, René Clément, and Robert Bresson directed important films.
In the late 1950s the New Wave of young directors, including Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard, made innovations in cinematography and dramatic approach. Their efforts achieved a new cinematic intimacy and a relaxed mood. French film stars who attained international acclaim during this period include Jean Gabin, Arletty, Gérard Philipe, Brigitte Bardot, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Among the foremost directors of this period were Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, and the Greek-born Costa-Gavras.
From the 1970s to the 1990s, the filmmakers of the New Wave became curiously like the directors they had sought to replace, working on literary adaptations and stories of the occupation. A new group emerged, much more amorphous, concerned with reflecting their vision of present-day France. Among these more recent directors are Jean-Jacques Beneix (Diva, Betty Blue), Luc Besson (Subway, La Femme Nikita), and Leos Carax (Boy Meets Girl, Bad Blood).
The stars introduced by these films are notable for affectlessness: Beatrice Dalle, Christopher Lambert, Thierry Lhermitte, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Tcheky Karyo, and Anne Parrilaud, though some have found more range in subsequent works. The most successful star of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s has been Gérard Depardieu, who can make as many of five films in a year and is often credited for keeping the French cinema viable on the world market despite strong competition from the American film industry.
See R. Armes, The French Cinema since 1946 (2 vol., rev. ed. 1970) and French Cinema (1985); G. Sadoul, French Film (1953, repr. 1972); E. Ehrlich, Cinema of Paradox (1985); C. Crisp, The Classic French Cinema, 1930–1960 (1993) J. D. Andrew, Mists of Regret (1995); G. Vincendeau, ed., The Companion to French Cinema (1996).
The great era of German cinema began in 1919 with Robert Wiene's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It was written by Carl Mayer, who was among the most influential artists working in the German film industry in the 1920s. The films of this era were expressionist in style, paralleling developments in the other arts. Other notable directors, such as G. W. Pabst, F. W. Murnau, Max Ophuls, and Fritz Lang, brought the medium to new heights of imaginative production. A decline set in c.1925 when Hollywood attracted many German directors, technicians, and actors to the United States.
The advent of Hitler drove any remaining top talent abroad, and the industry did not recover its position after the war. Beginning in the early 1970s a group of young filmmakers revitalized the industry, attaining a world audience for their films: Wim Wenders (Kings of the Road and Wings of Desire), Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo) and R. W. Fassbinder (over 40 films, including The Marriage of Maria Braun and Querelle) led the renaissance.
See R. Manvell and H. Fraenkel, The German Cinema (1971); H. H. Wollenberg, Fifty Years of German Film (1948, repr. 1972); T. Elsaesser, New German Cinema (1989); T. Ginsberg, ed., Perspectives on German Film (1996); S. Allan and J. Sandford, ed., Defa: East German Cinema, 1946–1992 (1999); T. Elsaesser and M. Wedel, ed., The BFI Companion to German Cinema (1999).
The films of Roberto Rossellini in the 1940s gave new impetus to the Italian cinema. Thereafter followed a cycle of exciting, compassionate, grimly realistic films from such directors as Vittorio De Sica, Luigi Zampa, Giuseppe de Santis, and Luchino Visconti. These films, usually concerned with social themes, were successful in Italy only after they had won a foreign market. In the 1950s, in order to win box-office appeal, a tendency to produce marketable and sensational movies diminished the reputation of Italian filmmakers.
Quality and international acclaim were restored by Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Italian film stars who have won popularity abroad include Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Giulietta Masina, Monica Vitti, Raf Vallone, and Anna Magnani. The Italian industry suffered periodic crises from the 1970s to the 1990s, but produced new films by various masters and introduced an intriguing series of comic-centered films inspired by cartoons and clowning. Cinema Paradiso (1989) became the most successful Italian film released in the United States until Roberto Benigni's Oscar-winning Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella, 1997), a bittersweet comedy about the Holocaust in Italy.
See V. Jarratt, The Italian Cinema (1951, repr. 1972); P. Leprohon, The Italian Cinema (tr. 1972); P. Bondanella, Italian Cinema (1993); J. Hay et al., The Companion to Italian Cinema (1996).
See D. Richie, The Japanese Movie: An Illustrated History (1982) and Japanese Cinema: An Introduction (1990); S. Galbraith, The Japanese Filmography (1996).
Dziga Vertov launched a weekly newsreel in 1922 urging new experiments in film technique, and Lev Kuleshov opened a cinema workshop to explore the psychological effects of film images. The result was the emergence of the Soviet epic films of the period 1925 to 1930. Encouraged by Lenin's belief that the film was of primary importance in the development of Soviet society, V. I. Pudovkin, Aleksandr Dovzhenko, and especially Sergei Eisenstein made films based on Russian history. Their superbly photographed, intensely dramatic films are classics of cinematic art.
The Soviet film industry was prolific but aesthetics were usurped by ideological heavy-handedness. Various thaws, however, produced intriguing works, including those by Sergei Paradjanov (The Color of Pomegranites) and Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev). The breakdown of the Communist system has left the industry (now scattered among several newly independent nations) in an uncertain state.
See S. M. Eisenstein, Film Form and Film Sense (tr. 1949, repr. separately 1969) and Notes of a Film Director (rev. ed. tr. 1970); J. Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film (1960, repr. 1983); T. J. Slater, ed., Handbook of Soviet and East European Films and Filmmakers (1992).
See J. Donner, The Personal Vision of Ingmar Bergman (1964); P. Cowie, Swedish Cinema (1966); A. Kwiatowski, Swedish Film Classics (1983); P. O. Qvist and P. Von Bagh, Guide to the Cinema of Sweden and Finland (1999).
Special types of films include the documentary, the newsreel, and the animated cartoon. The documentary, broadly defined, includes the newsreel, the travelogue, the educational film, and all other fact or nonfiction films, as well as some sorts of advertising. The term also includes artistic, interpretive films of the type that developed out of the work of Robert Flaherty (1920s and 30s) and Pare Lorentz (1930s) in the United States and John Grierson (1930s and 40s) in England. The documentary proved its value in the schoolroom and in training programs during World War II and has been widely used as a medium for propaganda since its inception. Documentary films on a vast range of subjects and exploiting every imaginable film technique are a primary staple of television entertainment.
The newsreel, introduced by Charles Pathé, was a series of short, generally unrelated films of current events, shown primarily as adjuncts to feature-film programs. The scope of the newsreel was broadened by the historical concept of the March of Time series (begun 1934); the newsreel was superseded by television news coverage in the early 1950s.
The animated cartoon is traditionally defined as a series of static drawings or scenes arranged and photographed and then synchronized with sound. In France in 1905, Émile Cohl produced several films with animated puppets, and in 1907, he made the first films to use animated drawings. American pioneers include Winsor McCay, who made Gertie the Dinosaur (1909); Bud Fisher, who began his “Mutt and Jeff” cartoons c.1918; Pat Sullivan, who produced “Felix the Cat” cartoons (1924); Chuck Jones, who in collaboration with Isador (Friz) Freleng, Tex Avery, and others, oversaw and animated (1930s–1960s) the Loony Tunes and Merry Melodies series (Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, et al.) at Warner Brothers (Jones also created (1949) the Road Runner series and later worked with on Dr. Seuss film cartoons; Freleng subsequently created the Pink Panther); and, of course, the celebrated Walt Disney.
Beginning with the Disney studios' Tron (1982), animation has become increasingly computer generated, largely due to the work of two California-based animation studiosa—DreamWorks and Pixar. Their early computer-made feature films include Pixar's Toy Story movies (1995, 1999) and A Bug's Life (1998) and DreamWorks' Antz (1998). By 2000, traditional cartoons were in decline and most U.S. film animation (with the exception of nearly all the features produced by Disney) was digital, seemingly three-dimensional, and computer-generated. In DreamWorks' Shrek (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004) and Pixar's Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), and The Incredibles (2004), computer animation reached new heights of technological sophistication and complexity. Their seemingly real characters, voiced by actors but otherwise completely electronic in origin, interact in an apparently organic environment.
The Polar Express (2004) combined live action and animation, digitizing and transforming the body and face movements of actors into the actions of computerized characters that inhabit a three-dimensional, computer-generated world. The boundaries of traditional animation continued to expand as animation and live action were increasingly merged and the technology employed to combine the two became increasingly sophisticated. These advances are evident, for example, in the processed live action of Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly (2006) and in the motion-capture techniques used to change human dancers into dancing penguins in George Miller's Happy Feet (2006). Pixar's robot love story, WALL-E (2008, Academy Award), is told mainly in compelling digital images.
Although animation has been generally treated as a children's medium, some animators, such as Ralph Bakshi, have aimed their works at adults, and the Disney organization, after several moribund years, began a series of features aimed equally at kids and at their parents, such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), and The Lion King (1994), which have proved to be extremely successful at the box office. Another notable talent is Don Bluth, who produced An American Tail and The Land before Time, combining old-fashioned full-animation with up-to-date wit.
Late 20th-century Japanese animation, much of it computer-generated, has been extremely influential. By the early 21st cent. some 60 percent of Japanese films and many television programs were in the style known as anime (äˈnēmā) [Jap.,=animation], which usually represents a fusion of Japanese pictorial tradition, particularly wood-block prints, with characters and stories in the American idiom. The style began in the 1950s with the work of Osamu Tezuka, creator of the Astro Boy comic book (1951) and television series (1963). Characterized by somewhat jerky movements and big-headed characters (as in the well-known Pokémon series), these films do not stress realism, but attempt to capture expressive gesture and mood. Anime films range from Disney-style adventures to surrealist fantasies, and many mix genres. Particularly impressive is the work of Hayao Miyazaki, e.g., the complex and brooding Princess Mononoke (1997) and the later Spirited Away (2001). Other outstanding anime films include Katusuhiro Otomo's Akira (1988), Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell (1996), Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue (1997), and Rintaro's Fritz Lang–inspired Metropolis (2000).
See K. C. Lahue, World of Laughter: The Motion Picture Comedy Short, 1910–1930 (1966); R. L. Snyder, Pare Lorentz and the Documentary Film (1968); A. Rosenthal, The New Documentary in Action (1971); J. Lenburg, The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons (1991); M. Barrier, Hollywood Cartoons (1999); S. J. Napier, Anime from “Akira” to “Princess Monoke” (2000); K. Paik, To Infinity and Beyond! The Story of Pixar Animation Studios (2007); D. A. Price, The Pixar Touch (2008); R. Mitenbuler, Wild Minds (2020).
See K. Macgowan, Behind the Screen (1965); A. Bazin, What Is Cinema? (1967); B. Crowther, The Great Films (1967); D. Shipman, The Great Movie Stars (2 vol., 1970–72); D. Robinson, The History of World Cinema (1973); J. D. Andrew, The Major Film Theories (1976) and Concepts in Film Theory (1984); K. Brownlow, Hollywood, the Pioneers (1979); D. Cook, A History of Narrative Film (1981); G. Mast, A Short History of the Movies (1986); B. F. Kawin, How Movies Work (1987); I. Konigsberg, The Complete Film Dictionary (2d ed. 1997); D. Thomson; A Biographical Dictionary of Film (rev. ed. 2004) and The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood (2004).