How a horse helped animation

Before today’s lecture I must admit I under-valued the history of Animation – taking modern technology for granted. Growing up with classics such as Toy Story (pixel) and the lion king (Disney), even as a child, often asked my father – How do they make cartoons? How do they make them move? As I have grown older and studied Art and Design for several years, I have gained a certain level of understanding, yet still not explored the beginnings and what advances where made from as early as 2000 bc.

What really grabbed my attention was the groundbreaking experiment carried out by Photographer Edweard Muybridge. He was commissioned $25,000 by ex governor Leland Stanley to use his skills in photography to prove whether or not, a horse lifts all four feet from the ground at anytime when running? This may sound like a waste of money to settle an age old debate, however the outcome proved to be the foundation to animation and stop motion as we see it today.

In order for this to be achieved Muybridge created a device which consisted of 24 separate cameras, which captured each motion seconds apart. This was never performed before, the results where astonishing! People still did not believe Muybridge and his claims, so he used huge projection for the gathering sceptics to prove it. In order to project a moving image, he invented a piece of equipment called a Zoopraxiscope. This projected images from rotating glass discs rapidly, creating a impression motion. It was only then people believed. After this triumph, Muybridge advanced in his studies towards human motion. Laying further foundations for today’s amazing cinematography and animation.

Edweard Muybridge
Galloping Horse 1878


Of course his experimentations were vital, but just as important, if not more so was his inventions and advancements in technology. Muybridge’ work has not only been responsible for cinema as we see it today, but also other medium such as CGI and computer gaming. The invaluable knowledge of human and animal movement and form provided by Muybridge has helped create an exciting world of entertainment.


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About ryanmcginley

Currently studying Graphic Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.

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