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Birth of An Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Performance, Page 41

Film animation in the United States emerged around the turn of the twentieth century, often in conjunction with lectures and stage performances, such as vaudeville lightning-sketch acts. Animation developed in the midst of keen experimentation with the new medium of film, and in that way also traces from the "trick films" that explored the potentials of quick splices, cross-fades, matte painting, split screen, and stop-motion photography.

This experimentation happened wherever film was developing as a medium. For example, it wouldn't be wrong to describe George Méliès as the French version of Winsor McCay, and as his predecessor. A popular stage magician, Méliès joined the performativity of his craft to its penchant for illusion.  Living Playing Cards (1904) is an early example of his work, and trick films such as this contributed to an international conversation that led to works such as James Stuart Blackton's The Haunted Hotel (1907). As with magic acts, part of the pleasure of these films was the obvious trace of the hand of their makers, another trait that would become key to animation.
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