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While technically-enhanced modern anime surges in today’s world (see article on page 10), the history of anime can be traced back to the early 1900s in Japan. Even before the advent of film, Japanese artists were moving colorful images across a projection screen. Many film historians believe that the first animated film made in Japan was Kasudo Shashin (Activity Photo), produced around 1905-1907. The film shows a boy in a sailor suit drawing characters on a board. It consisted of 50 frames stenciled onto a strip of celluloid. From there, new generations of Japanese animators advanced the art. World War II saw animated Japanese propaganda films. In 1963, the first anime TV series, Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy), starring a robot boy who lived with humans, reached the U.S.
Anime had never been tried on TV in a half-hour time slot before due to cost and deadline concerns. To streamline the time-intensive creative process, Tezuka used what is called “limited animation” techniques, such as reducing the number of frames per second, re-using cels, and putting different parts of a character, like the head or arms, on different layers of cels so that only the part of the body in motion needed to be animated in each scene. He also saved time by using his original manga panels as storyboards, eliminating much of the need to write and lay out individual episodes. Astro Boy was a big success, proving anime could be made for TV.
In the 1970s, Japanese animators were inspired by Disney’s expanding animated work and developed their own characters such as Mecha (a giant robot genre) and robot offspring. It was during this time that animated film legend Hayao Miyazaki rose to fame. Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli and is regarded as one the foremost filmmakers in the history of animation. A retrospective of Miyazaki’s work was featured during the inaugural series of exhibitions at the recently opened Motion Picture Academy Museum in Los Angeles. In 2003, Miyazaki won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film with Spirited Away.