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This is a list of notable highlights from the history of animation. Although the list is by no means inclusive it does include most of the important animated short subjects and feature length films. It also notes major technical innovations and achievements in animation and mentions the works of many of animation's most significant creators.


1906 J. Stuart Blackton's "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" This first animation was crude by today's standards, however, it set the standard for early animators.
1908 Emil Cohl's "Fantasmagoric" began exploring effects such as metamorphosis.
1911 Winsor McCay animates "Little Nemo", concentrating on rendering space, physical properties of characters, and timing. Many animators got their start as "Lightning Sketch Artists." These speedy artists were famous for quick, sequential sketches at sideshows and carnivals. Known for their accuracy and storytelling abilities, they were a creative and quick-witted bunch. McKay got his start as a Lightning Sketch Artist, and brought artistic style to animation.
1912 McCay's second film, "How a Mosquito Operates" is released
  • The first animated comic strips appear as supplements in newsreels (Mutt and Jeff, The Newlyweds)
  • J.R. Bray's earliest films released
  • McCay introduces;"Gertie the Dinosaur";, setting the precedent for the next 10-15 years
  • J.R. Bray and Earl Hurd apply for patents to simplify cartoon production through the use of the technique that will come to be known as cel animation
  • "The Katzenjamer Kids " series debuts
  • The "Farmer Al Falfa" cartoons by J.R. Bray and Paul Terry debuts
  • The "Krazy Kat" series makes its first appearance as a part of the Hearst Videograph News Pictorial"
  • Max Fleischer releases the first in the series of the "Out of the Inkwell" cartons which star KoKo the Clown. In this series of "Inkwell" cartoons, the characters would appear out of an inkwell, go on an adventure, get in trouble, and then return to the inkwell.
  • Felix the Cat makes his debut in "Feline Follies"
1921 "Aesop's Film Fables make their first appearance in theaters - John Foster and Paul Terry serve as directors
1923 Walt Disney releases the first of the "Alice" comedies
  • Max Fleischer releases a series of experimental sound "Song Cartoons" A record played simultaneously with the projector brought sound to the otherwise silent animations.
  • Fleischer begins a series of Bouncing Ball cartoons
1926 The German animator Lotte Reiniger releases his first film, "Adventures of Prince Achmed"
1927 Disney's "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series makes its debut

"Koko's Earth Control" released by the Fleischers.

"Lost World" is released bringing forth a new brand of animation. Brought to life by Willis O'Brien and his ingenious method of "stop-motion animation", dinosaurs, and other creatures roamed the earth once again.

1928 Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks join forces to create the first three Mickey Mouse cartoons:"The Gallopin Gaucho," and "Steamboat Willie" - a star is born! "Steamboat Willie" was the first animated film with the soundtrack on the actual film, rather than on a separate record.
1929 Disney premiers the first Silly Symphony cartoon, "The Skeleton Dance"
  • Leon Schlesinger produces the first Looney Tune, "Sinkin' in the Bathtub"
  • Betty Boop makes her first appearance in "Dizzy Dishes" and "Barnacle Bill"
  • Walter Lantz introduces the first Technicolor cartoon the "King of Jazz"
  • Ub Iwerks introduces Flip the Frog
  • Van Beuren's "Tom and Jerry" cartoons make their debut
  • The first Merrie Melodies cartoon, "Lady Play your Mandolin," makes its debut
1932 The first three-strip cartoon "Flowers and Trees" wins the Academy Award for best animation

"Boop Boop a Doop" released by Fleischer, starring (of course) Betty Boop.

  • Max Fleischer introduces Popeye the Sailor, who goes on to become a smash hit with spinach farmers everywhere.
  • Disney releases "The Three Little Pigs" ,a political statement during the depression. The statement-"Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" Or perhaps it was, "Don't eat pork?"
  • The first color Merrie Melodies cartoon, "The Honeymoon Hotel" is released
  • Max Fleischer utilizes three-dimensional sets for his "Color Classics" cartoons
  • Donald Duck makes an auspicious debut in Disney's "The Wise Little Hen"
  • Porky Pig makes his big screen debut in Merrie Melodies, "I haven't got a Hat"
  • Warner Brothers hires Tex Avery who starts the Termite Terrace Unit
  • Carl Stalling is hired as music supervisor at Warner brothers
  • Max Fleisher releases his first extra length short cartoon, "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor."
  • Disney releases "Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs"
  • Disney introduces the multiplane camera in "The Old Mill"
  • "Porky's Duck Hunt" introduces us to Daffy Duck.
  • Daffy Duck introduces us to the vocal talents of Mel Blanc.
  • Bob Clampett directs his first cartoon "Porky's Badtime Story"
  • Legendary animator, Chuck Jones releases his first cartoon, "The Night Watchman
  • "Porky's Hare Hunt" introduces us to Bugs Bunny. Once again, we witness the talents of Mel Blanc. (voice of Bugs)
1939 Elmer Fudd makes his debut. Apparently, Porky got tired of hunting.

Max Fleischer releases his first feature film, "Gulliver's Travels"

Disney builds on the success of "Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs" and releases "Pinocchio". I wouldn't lie.

  • Walter Lantz introduces "Woody Woodpecker"
  • Hanna-Barbera introduces Tom and Jerry
  • Tex Avery releases "A Wild Hare" in which Bugs Bunny utters "What's up, Dock?" for the first time
1941 Disney releases "Dumbo"

Max Fleischer releases the first in a series of Superman cartoons

  • Disney releases "Bambi"
  • Bob Clampett introduces Tweety and Beaky Buzzard
  • Mighty Mouse makes his debut in Terrytoons "Mouse of Tomorrow"
  • Fired by Paramount Pictures, the Fleischer brothers establish Famous Studios
  • Droopy makes his debut courtesy of Tex Avery
  • Tex Avery releases " Riding Hood" for MGM
  • The U.S. Army gets into the act and hires Leon Schlesinger to produce a series of Pvt. Snafu cartoons
1944 Leon Schlesinger sells his cartoon studio to Warner Brothers

Loony Tunes and Merrie melodies begin color production

Live Action and animation are married together in "Anchors Aweigh" when Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse dance together on screen

  • Casper the Friendly Ghost makes his debut for Famous Studios
  • Pepe LePew makes his debut courtesy of Chuck Jones
  • Fritz Freleng introduces Sylvester the Cat and Yosemite Sam for Warner Brothers
  • Foghorn Leghorn makes his debut at Warner Brothers
  • Heckle and Jeckle make their first appearance at Terrytoons
1947 "Tweetie Pie" wins Warner Brothers its first Academy Award
1948 The German film studio UPA begins releasing cartoons through Columbia Pictures
  • The first TV cartoon, Crusader Rabbit is produced
  • The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote make their debut in "Fast and Furry-ous" This is the start of a great onscreen relationship in which the Road Runner always eludes capture, and Wile E. Coyote encounters numerous rocks and long drops.
1951 UPA's new graphic style is honored with an Academy Award for "Gerald McBoing Boing"
  • Disney releases "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" in Cinemascope
  • The 3-D process moves in to the cartoon world as Donald Duck and Woody Woodpecker appear in 3-D cartoons
  • Buggs Bunny makes a 3-D appearance in "Lumber Jack Rabbit"
  • Casper makes a 3-D appearance
  • Warner Brothers Studios introduces the Tasmanian Devil
  • Disney closes its cartoon shorts unit
1955 CBS purchases Terrytoons from Paul Terry
1956 MGM closes its cartoon unit
1957 Hanna-Barbera begins a TV animation dynasty when it launches "Ruff and Reddy"

"7th Voyage of Sinbad" released by Ray Harryhausen

1958 Bugs Bunny wins his first and only Oscar for "Knighty Knight Bugs"
  • UPA releases the full length feature, "1001 Arabian Nights"
  • Jay Ward's "Rocky and his Friends" makes its television debut
  • Disney first uses the Xerox process in "Goliath II"
  • ABC premiers "The Bugs Bunny TV Show" and "The Flintstones" in prime-time
1961 Zagreb Studios becomes the first foreign studio to win an Academy Award for best animation for "Ersatz"
1962 Bob Clampett's cartoon "Beany and Cecil" makes its debut on TV
1963 Japan gets its first animated TV series in "Astro Boy"

Warner Brothers closes its animation studio

1964 "Jonny Quest" makes its TV debut

DePatie Freleng begins releasing its series of Pink Panther theatrical cartoons, the first of these, "The Pink Phink" wins an Academy Award. Not a bad first appearance if you ask me.

1965 The prime-time special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" debuts
1966 Chuck Jones combines with Dr. Seus to create "How The Grinch Stole Christmas"

Filmation's first series "Superman" debuts

Walt Disney dies December 15, 1966

1967 Paramount and Terrytoons shut down their animation studios
1968 The Beatles' Ralph Bakshi's "Fritz the Cat" is released
1977 Ralph Bakshi's "Wizards" is released
1979 "The Bugs Bunny / Road Runner Movie" debuts at the New York Film Festival
1980 Fritz Freleng rejoins Warner Brothers and begins a series of TV specials and features
1982 Don Bluth's first feature "The Secret of NIMH" is released
1983 DIC enters the U.S. animation market "Inspector Gadget"
1985 Bugs Bunny becomes the first cartoon to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
1987 Ralph Bakshi's "Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures" is released

Steven Spielberg presents "An American Tale"

1988 "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", the most sophisticated blending of live action and animation to date makes its debut
1989 Warner Brothers and Amblin Entertainment launch "Tiny Toon Adventures"
  • A resurgence in animation is launched with the weekly airing of "The Simpsons"
  • "The Rescuers Down Under" becomes the first Disney film completed with computerized ink and paint
  • "Beauty and the Beast" becomes the first animated film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture
  • "The Ren and Stimpy Show" premiers on Nickelodeon
  • "Batman: The Animated Series" makes its debut
  • Movie mogul Ted Turner internationally launches The Turner Carton Network
1993 Steven Spielberg presents "Animaniacs"

On another Spielberg note, "Jurassic Park" is released. This movie marks one of the first attempts at creating visual effects in live action movies using computer animation. Good dinosaurs. Yes.

1995 "Toy Story" is released by Pixar Animation Studios. This is the first feature length, fully computer animated film.


1999 Debbie Twyman. All rights reserved. TERMS OF USE