Brittle: The Story of the First Animated Films* (Introduction)

What was the world’s first animated film?

It is a question that, for many, is already answered in the form of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs“, or perhaps, if you are more specific, “The Enchanted Drawing” or “Fantasmagorie” or “The French Moving Company“. The list goes on and on.

(from left to right: “Fantasmagorie”, Émile Cohl, J. Stuart Blackton, “The Enchanted Drawing”)

The history of animated film is as long and complicated as live action film, but when the film industry began with a murder in Dijon, France (more on that in a future post), the animated film industry began in several places around the world and involved several fires, backroom deals, and people that are forgotten about, or are virtually unknown to history.

We shall explore the world of animation and it’s rather blurry beginnings in this series on the first animated films.

What constitutes as film? Is it something that is shot or produced on literal celluloid film? Is it a narrative story that has a beginning, middle, and end? Is it a certain length? The answer to these questions is yes, yes, and it doesn’t matter. For our purposes, an animated film is a film produced on celluloid regardless of content that is not composed of live action characters of any length. This includes “shorts” and “features”.

Our purposes will not be to discredit any work that is known, but to set the record straight when it comes to animated film, specifically, to shed light on previously forgotten and unknown artists and their work.

The Adventures of Pinocchio (1936) Italy, unfinished/lost