Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906)

In 1906, animation was not new. In 1833 the phénakisticope was released, which was a device which had a circular disk with images printed onto it that would be shown sequentially when spun. By having the next frame slightly different from the previous frame it could given an illusion of movement, much like modern stop-motion animation.

By the 1890s, cinematography took the concept of sequential frames with subtle changes of movement and applied it to photographs, creating the first films. In doing so, it negated the need for hand-drawn animations. So, in 1906, when James Stuart Blackton released Humorous Phases of Funny Faces it was simultaneously both modern, being recorded on standard film, and retro, featuring a series of hand-drawn images.

What Blackton had realised was that by using film, he was able to record both real movement and drawn movement and combine them in the same picture.

Humorous Phases of Funny Faces shows an artist drawing a picture that comes to life followed by a series of similar sketches or stop-motion animations. It is generally regarded as the first animated film recorded on standard film.

Two years later films such as Émile Cohl's Fantasmagorie (1908) would greatly refine and improve the concept of hand-drawn animations, eventually leading to cel animation characters such as Felix the Cat (1919) and Mickey Mouse (1928) that would become superstars in their own right.

You can watch Humorous Phases of Funny Faces in full below.

If you're here because of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2021, please stop by the theme reveal page which has a full list of all films used in the challenge.