A Brief History of Animation

Many of us have seen the little mannequins that artists pose as they sketch the human figure. These blank-sheet Pinocchios, jointed to mirror the limitations of the human body, were and still are a boon to all cartoonists, but little has been written of how this figure drawing tool was modified by the great animators of the 1930s. The best of them fitted their models with pneumatic bladders, heads and bellies that could balloon absurdly: elastic arms and legs, and replacement parts that ranged from a lit match to a swarm of fleas. With such modifications, these underappreciated geniuses could take, in a thousand penciled frames, the anthropomorphized animal body to ecstatic Hells and Heavens previously unimagined and back again, back again to their triple x whiskey jugs and wacky Acme devices.

Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He also edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters.