When most people think of cartoons, most likely they think of the short ten minute skits you're used to seeing on your Saturday morning kids shows like Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, Mighty Mouse and a host of others that so many of us have grown up with. But the truth is, cartoons have been just as big and popular on the big screen in full length motion pictures for just as long.


Probably the person most responsible for the big screen success of animated movies was Walt Disney who began in the 1920s by creating such memorable characters as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. One of his first full feature length films was "Steamboat Willie" which starred Mickey Mouse. Disney went on to produce such memorable films as "Cinderella", "Snow White" "Peter Pan" and the half animated half real person masterpiece "Mary Poppins", which was unique for the times.



     



However, Disney studios wasn't the only production company to make full feature length animated movies, though they are probably the biggest even to this day. Other companies have joined in on what has become an incredibly huge market for children's animated films. Many of these companies and producers took animation to a new level. Cartoons were no longer the drawn figures that we were used to seeing for the first 50 years of their existence. New forms of animation began to take off with the advances in computer technology.


The most popular of these new forms is what is known as Pixar 3D technology. Pixar, the company, is actually a subsidiary of Disney. The process uses Pixar's animation software to create the cartoon images. The actual steps involved are quite complex, from the initial drawing of the characters, the layout of each scene, the actual movement of the characters through the scene and finally transporting all of this through the software itself. All this information is then stored in huge data files. These files can then be manipulated in a variety of different ways. Human motion itself has never been so easy to imitate, which is what makes these animated movies so realistic. Some of the most popular of these over the years have been "Toy Story", "Shrek", and "Monsters Inc.", just to name a few.


Another type of animation, which has become very popular of late, is the painstaking stop motion animation. This is done by placing actual figures in place on the set and snapping a picture of them. The figures are then moved, sometimes just a fraction of an inch at a time to work their way to the next action in the scene. These are probably the most difficult animated movies to make and require the patience of a saint. Fortunately, Nick Park has that kind of patience. He has created what is arguably the most popular stop motion animated movies ever made, the Wallace and Gromit series, the most famous of these is probably "The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit".


Animated movies, today, are big box office and even winners at the Oscars. Just recently, Shrek became the biggest box office smash for an animated movie ever.

As long as there are kids, both young and old, there will always be a market for big budget animated films. And they just keep getting bigger and better.


Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Cartoons

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