Cartoon History

Cartoon history is full of classic moments and beloved cartoon characters. While the history of cartoons may have origins in the distant past, the last century has seen the development and evolution of the animated cartoon.

Felix the Cat started it all.
The character Felix the Cat launched the animated cartoon tradition in the 1920s. A black-and-white and silent cartoon animation, Felix bears little resemblance to modern-day cartoons. However, he still remains a popular cartoon character among cartoon purists, and his face graces coffee mugs and other merchandise even today.

"My Old Kentucky Home" featured synchronized sound and picture.
The first cartoon to feature synchronized sound and picture was "My Old Kentucky Home" in 1926. Although it might seem pedestrian today, this short and simple attempt at synchronizing sound and picture was revolutionary.

"Steamboat Willie" is the first Disney cartoon.
In 1928, Disney's "Steamboat Willie" popularized animated cartoons with synchronized sound and picture. "Steamboat Willie" introduced Mickey Mouse and ultimately provided Disney's entry into the animation field.

Color cartoons began with Technicolor "Flowers and Trees."
Not resting on its laurels, Disney continued innovating by producing the first of the full- color cartoons in 1932: "Flowers and Trees," in Technicolor. Other animators had produced color cartoons, but Disney was the first to do it with Technicolor technology.

Disney's "Fantasia" introduced new cartoon technology.
Released in 1941, "Fantasia" featured stereophonic sound, multiplane cameras and other movie technology adapted to animated films. Disney's role as an innovator in animation was secured.

The Golden Age of cartoons.
The Golden Age of animation is the period between 1928 and the early 1960s, when hand-drawn animation was at its height. The Golden Age peaked in the late 30s and early 40s, and it included many popular American cartoons. Unfortunately, the Golden Age slowly faded and ended with the creation of direct-to-television cartoons in the 1960s, and the end of the classic cartoons.

The first primetime animated series.
As cartoons grew more popular, some cartoons were directed at family enjoyment and became popular family pastimes. The first primetime animated series was "The Flintstones," and it ran from 1960 to 1966. With themes based on working-class America, this primetime cartoon was clearly targeted as much at parents as kids. It paved the way for the longest-running American primetime animation, "The Simpsons."

Modern cartoons and computer animation.
Modern cartoons are rarely hand-drawn, but they rely on computer animation instead. Because the word "cartoon" implies something that is hand-drawn, critics complain that computer animation can't be properly referred to as a cartoon. With the decline of hand-drawing and the rise of Pixar's computer-animated blockbusters, Americans are seeing a long, slow decline of the American cartoon. While some hand-drawn animated television series are likely to keep the cartoon alive for the near future, cartoons may be slowly fading away.

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