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I am reading a book about film history which says that Fantasmagorie (1908) was the first animated cartoon. Coincidentally, I stumbled upon Pauvre Pierrot which is an animated cartoon from 1882. Not only that this movie appeared 16 years earlier, it is also longer (originally fifteen minutes vs. less than two minutes) and seems more sophisticated to me (coloured paintings vs. b/w stick figures).

So the question is: is there some reason why Pauvre Pierrot doesn't count as the first animated cartoon?

Sidenotes:

  • The book I read is in German but looking for the first animated cartoon on the web also led me to Fantasmagorie (see here, for example).
  • There is a similar question, but firstly this focuses on Hollywood productions only and secondly the single answer refers to a cartoon from 1937 which is quite far away.
  • On a quite detailed site with a timeline of animated cartoons Pauvre Pierrot is not even mentioned. I don't get why.
  • Meanwhile I found more animated cartoons that were released before 1908: Le Clown et ses chiens (1892) and Un bon bock (1892). They don't appear in first animated cartoons either.
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    Your sources are an India Today article and some fairly amateurish website. In what way are these reliable sources, let alone authoritative ones? If you look up Pauvre Pierrot on Wikipedia, it reads "It is one of the first animated films ever made, and alongside Un bon bock (directed in 1888) and Le Clown et ses chiens was exhibited on 28 October 1892"
    – BCdotWEB
    May 31 at 6:13
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    @BCdotWEB The German source is the book Handbuch Filmgeschichte (Handbook of film history). Maybe the author simply made a mistake which lead me to other mistaken sources by looking for Fantasmagorie on the web. Sounds like a plausible explanation. May 31 at 6:16
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    I can't answer this, but take a look at the Wiki on Animation at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animation#History. Although, after reading it I still don't fully understand the difference between Stroboscopic and hand-drawn animation, you might have better luck comprehending the difference. May 31 at 14:22
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    This one might also shed some light: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%A9%C3%A2tre_Optique. It also states that Le Clown and Un Bon Bloc are part of a series which also included Pauvre Pierrot. May 31 at 14:32
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    @JohnnyBones The link provides interesting info like "The films have often been ignored in summaries of the history of film (...). After the introduction of the cinématographe, it took over 10 years before animated films returned to the theatres (with Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906).". Seems like the mentioned titles from 1892 are (one of) the first animated cartoons (neglecting the difference between stroboscopic and hand-drawn animation which I don't get either). May 31 at 14:58

2 Answers 2

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After thoroughly reading the Wikis I posted above, as well as a few offshoot Wikis, I've come to the conclusion that Pauvre Pierrot and other creations of Charles-Émile Reynaud were produced by affixing images painted on glass to a wheel (more complex than that, but that's the basics), and projecting light through it onto a screen. A second "projector" was used for the background images, which mostly stayed static and only changed when the scene changed. This is what a praxinoscope was designed to do. If you watch the surviving clip, you'll notice that the background bleeds through and the images aren't so much "on top of" the background, but "inside" of it.

Fantasmagorie, on the other hand, involved photographing individual drawings and stringing them together using film. This is what is known as Hand-Drawn Animation.

So, in short, the main difference is that one requires a "projectionist" to manually turn the projection, while the other is automated by a film projector.

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    I think a more fundamental distinction would be that the design of the praxinoscope would limit the number of discrete images in a sequence to at most a few dozen, while approaches using strips of film would be usable to show many thousands of images.
    – supercat
    Jun 2 at 22:31
  • What "Wikis I posted above"? Note that comments can be deleted at any time. And do you mean "Wikipedia articles", or are you reading multiple other wikis?
    – OrangeDog
    Jun 3 at 10:23
  • @OrangeDog - Under the question, before posting answers, there are 2 comments I posted that referenced wiki links. Since only Admins can delete them, and usually only for specific reasons, ,I have no fear these links will ever be removed. Jun 3 at 12:42
  • @JohnnyBones your answer should still be self-contained, and not rely on any others or any comments
    – OrangeDog
    Jun 3 at 12:47
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Pauvre Pierrot were painted images displayed through Praxinoscope. While Fantasmagorie, uses the modern techniques known today, that later were used by Disney.

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    +1 For this possible explanation. In the end it appears to be a matter of definition what we call the first animated cartoon. May 31 at 10:02
  • Having since watched it, it certainly fits the bill IMHO. The animation style is very reminiscent of the animation from early point and click adventure games--choppy frame rate (for obvious reasons), cheesy low quality music, and goofy slapstick humor. Ironic that two things that are so different are so similar. This is really cool, thanks for sharing.
    – bob
    May 31 at 21:04
  • @IgorstandswithUkraine In media and technology, defining the "first" of something can be very difficult, especially if modern categories are difficult to apply. See, for instance, the early history of video games - there are any number of possible definitions for the first video game, because all sorts of software with game-like features was being written in the early '50s as programmers explored the possibilities. Jun 1 at 14:17
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    "modern techniques known today" What about these techniques (as used by Fantasmagorie) make them different in kind from the the Pauvre Pierrot technique? Aren't current hand-drawn animation techniques effectively "painted images displayed through a [projector]"?
    – R.M.
    Jun 1 at 14:17
  • @R.M. - As I stated in my answer, the main difference is automation. One required someone to manually flash the images, the other used film and an automated projector. Evolution is often subtle, so yes they're very similar, but the line was drawn between what required intervention and what did not. Jun 2 at 13:42

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