The Development of Animation

Animation is the art of creating movement through a series of fixed images. Although along the History many different manifestations (such as paintings, sculptures, machines, toys and gadgets) already foresaw the possibilities for an illusion of movement, the first to achieve a universally convincing result was the Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau (1801-1883) who invented the phenakistoscope ("spindle viewer") in 1832. This simple machine used a sequences of 10 drawings disposed on a rotating circle with slots (an adaptation of the stroboscopic effects of the Michael Faraday's Wheel). With it, Plateau was able to prove his theory of the "persistence of vision", that until recently was considered the basic explanation for the whole cinematic phenomenon (including film and television). Plateau then stated that, if a sequence of fixed images, one slightly different from the other, are substituted in front of our eyes at a rate of 10 or more per second, we will perceive then as one single moving image. Besides the great curiosity and popularity provoked by the phenakistoscope. it has led to further inventions based on its concepts, such as George Horner's "Zoetrope" (1834), Emile Reynaud's "Praxinoscope" (1877) and the Lumière Brothers' "Cinematographe" (1895), this last one integrating the use of realistic photographic images, taken in a constant rate of more than 10 images per second.

So, even if the Cinema history has started with the use of drawn images in Plateau's first animated "cartoons", that facet was soon forgotten with the advent of "real" live action scenes being projected on a big screen. But, as soon as some artists discovered they could turn the crank of the camera just enough to impress one frame at a time, they realized they could do magical tricks with it, recreating or subverting the possible "real" movements of the objects in front of the camera. That's how animation was reborn in the cinema medium. One emblematic pioneer is American James Stuart Blackton, who did his first experiences using stop-motion. In "The Haunted Hotel" (1907) he was able to make dishes, knifes and forks perform as living actors in a hotel kitchen. After that, Blackton, who was a talented draftsman, soon discovered also that he could use the stop-motion technique applied to drawings instead of objects, and started producing some of the first movie cartoons in the history of animation. Due to its popularity (often linked to characters of the comic strips, another newborn art form), the drawn cartoons have become, along the 20th Century, the most popular technique for what is generally known as "animation".

Stop Motion Techniques

Stop Motion Animation is the same basic principle used to create a cartoon (drawn or cell animation). The very term that names it comes from the fact that every image composing an animation must be a still, fixed image. Still images (stop) turn to movement (motion).

An animation movie camera, therefore, must act more like a still camera that shoots, in sequence, one picture for each animation frame (be it 2D drawings or real 3D objects or living beings). The animator positions all objects or characters in a scene, takes a picture, moves an object a little bit and then takes another picture, and redo these steps until he finalizes the desired movement. These pictures are called frames of the animation movie and when we play all frames in order, we have the illusion that objects or characters are moving on their own.

Animation applied to Education

The MUAN system was originally designed to fit the particular needs of a methodology of teaching animation as an educational language. This methodology has been developed by Anima Escola, the educational project put on by Anima Mundi, the International Animation Festival of Brazil. Anima Escola and Anima Mundi are detailed in Section Conclusion}.

The animation workshops of Anima Escola aim to make the animation language accessible and easy to use in the classroom. Intuitive and expressive materials and tools such as plasticine, paper cut-outs and body expressions are applied to stop-motion techniques to create animation scenes, in the fastest and easiest way possible. In this way, the student learns to use animation as a natural and familiar language, and not as an intricate and expensive technology as the common sense used to classify it.

The technological solution brought by the MUAN system makes all the process very simple and fast, making it usable also by professional animators who want a fast result for a test or video-assisting tool in the production of stop-motion animation.