Art Movies

Overview: Animation and Feature Films

Animation as a medium precedes Cinema: the Magic Lantern shows, several optical toys (e.g. phenakistoscope, praxinoscope, zoetrope), and Charles-Émile Reynaud (1844-1918) Optical Theater are proof of that.

Nowadays, Cinema is being ‘invaded’ by the older medium, through faux live-action, special effects, and animated sequences. Animation is the act of giving life to something; in the case of Traditional Animation it is the act of giving life to drawn characters. But there are several types of animation: claymation, cutout animation, digital animation, lumage, pixilation, puppet animation, sand animation, etc.

The animated films Charles-Émile Reynaud created (before the invention of the cinematographer) drawing directly into a strip of film, were very short. With the advent of Cinema, officially born in 1895 through the hands of the Lumière brothers, many short animated films were done before the end of the century. Feature-length animated films started being produced in the second decade of the XX century. The first, titled El apóstol [The apostle], was directed by Quirino Cristiani (1896-1984), and released on 9 November 1917, in Argentina. This cutout animation is lost, as well as the second feature-length animated film, also animated by the same director and ironically named Sin dejar rastros [Without a trace] (1918). The oldest surviving feature film is The adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), animated by the German director Lotte Reiniger (1899-1963). Snow White and the seven dwarfes (1937), produced by Walt Disney, was the first sound and color animated feature film.

In the biggest Portuguese talking country in the world – Brazil – the first feature-length animation, titled Sinfonia Amazônica [Amazon symphony], was directed by Anélio Lattini Filho (1926-1986) and released in 1951. It contained seven different Amazon legends. On the other side of the ‘pond’, Portugal would have to wait until 2006: the first feature animation, produced by Cine-Club of Avanca and directed by António Costa Valente, Vítor Lopes, and Carlos Silva, was titled Até ao tecto do mundo [To the top of the world]. This fantasy about a distant kingdom and a very tall tower build by a tyrannical king was a film aimed at a younger audience. The second Portuguese animated feature film will be the first made for an adult audience: it’s titled Noyola, and José Miguel Ribeiro is directing it (scheduled to be released in 2021). Another feature-length animation is being produced as well – O meu avô dizia que via demónios [My grandfather used to say he saw demons] –, directed by Nuno Beato: it has no release date as yet.

In Portugal, we have wonderful, creative, and internationally awarded animators who, because of budget issues, use the short form to tell their stories. I hope this changes in the future and we show that we are able storytellers in the long format as well.

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