From Bugs Bunny to Spike Spiegel to Miles Morales, the history of an art form that continues to draw us in.
The arc of this history begins in 1892, the year Charles-Émile Reynaud first used his Théâtre Optique system to screen his moving pictures — to our mind, the first animated cartoons ever produced — for the public (and long after the invention of the magic lantern). From there, we address sequences in every decade well into our own era, touching on a range of formats, innovations, and historical moments, from the patenting of rotoscoping to the invention of the multiplane camera to the rise of anime and everything in between and after.
Inevitably, a list like this can only scratch the surface of an art form unparalleled in its elasticity and capacity for wonder. And yet the sequences included here, listed chronologically, speak as much for the evolution of animation as a medium as they do for themselves. The creators of the early, tastelessly minstrelsy-laden shorts on this list could not have imagined how our entries would make vast audiences vibrate with joy — and the basic compact of the craft still holds, firm as ever: Animators continue to fool us into believing still images can move and breathe, and we in turn remain delighted to live between the frames.
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