In 1898, George A. Smith was filming a live circus performance. To his surprise, he noticed one of the puppets was moving on its own. He filmed the puppet and discovered that the result was very lifelike. Smith used this technique to create the first stop-motion animation film in history: Humpty Dumpty Circus. Stop-motion animation requires animators to work with different objects and puppets, and move them one frame at a time in front of a camera. This process creates an illusion that the objects are moving on their own.
The process of making these movies is complex and takes skillful hands. The animators must be able to draw, sculpt, cast, and mold puppets from scratch. They also need to know how to use special effects like smoke, water, and other special effects to create realistic images.
This historic film was created with a black and white camera and required each frame to be laboriously hand-tinted by a team of artists. The facial expressions of all of the animated characters are also markedly different from how they look today.
While this may sound like it would be hard to watch to 21st-century eyes, the concept behind this achievement has been used in countless animated films over the past century and is still used by animators today.
Animation has come a long way in the last few decades, with digital animation being widespread now. However, some animators still prefer the stop-motion technique, and others have been attracted to it entirely due to its unique aesthetic.
As digital technology continues to advance and expand its reach, there's no doubt that more animators will continue to adopt these techniques—and that's a wonderful thing.
Even if you're not an animator yourself, there's much to be learned from the history of stop-motion animation, especially since new techniques continue to see development even today.