The World’s First Animated Cartoon, 1908’s Trippy, Funny Fantasmagorie
Émile Cohl: Fantasmagorie (1908)
The history of animation is longer than the history of film. In 1888 before Film was born, Emil Reino of France invented the Fluoroscope which is a device that projects fairy tales and made it a hit in Paris under the name of "The Theatre of Light."
Fantasmagorie is a 1908 French animated film by Émile Cohl. It is one of the earliest examples of traditional (hand-drawn) animation, and considered by film historians to be the first animated cartoon.
Trying to describe the plot of Fantasmagorie, the world’s first animated cartoon, is a folly akin to putting last night’s dream into words:
I was dressed as a clown and then I was in a theater, except I was also hiding under this lady’s hat, and the guy behind us was plucking out the feathers, and I was maybe also a jack in the box? And I had a fishing pole that turned into a plant that ripped my head off, but only for a few seconds. And then there was a giant champagne bottle and an elephant, and then, suddenly I was on an operating table, and you know how sometimes in a dream, it’s like you’re being crushed to death? Except I escaped by blowing myself up like a balloon and then I hopped onto the back of this horse and then I woke up.
It is interesting to note that the brainchild of animation pioneer Émile Cohl (1857 – 1938), the trippy silent short from 1908 is composed of 700 drawings, photographed onto negative film and double-exposed. The film, in all of its wild transformations, is a direct tribute to the by-then forgotten Incoherent movement. The title is a reference to the fantasmograph, a mid-Nineteenth Century variant of the magic lantern that projected ghostly images that floated across the walls.