To create the animations, individually-created images were painted directly onto the frames of a flexible strip of transparent gelatine (with film perforations on the edges), and run through his projection system. Depending upon one’s definition of terms, some consider Pauvre Pierrot the oldest-surviving animated film ever made and publically broadcast.
The predecessor of early film animation was the newspaper comic strips of the 1890s, in which each cartoon box was similar to a film frame. Some of the earliest animated films used very primitive stop-motion techniques (known as ‘stop-trick’ or ‘substitution splice’), when a single change was made to an object between two shots. This early technique has been termed stop-motion substitution or stop-action.
Pioneering animators, directors, and filmmakers Albert E. Smith and newspaper cartoonist James Stuart Blackton, both co-founders of the Vitagraph Company, created The Humpty Dumpty Circus (1898), a presumed lost film. This theatrical ‘cartoon’ from Vitagraph, a lost silent film, was claimed by Guinness to be “the first animated film using the stop-motion technique to give the illusion of movement to inanimate objects.” And in Arthur Melbourne Cooper’s public service announcement Matches: An Appeal (1899, UK), animation was achieved by stop-trick images of moving matchsticks. One matchstick wrote an appeal on a blackboard, requesting that Britishers send matches (which were once somewhat expensive) to soldiers fighting in the Boer War.
Newspaper cartoonist J. Stuart Blackton also produced the live-action The Enchanted Drawing (1900), a Vitagraph Studios short film that featured a drawn character and some objects. It contained one of the earliest surviving prototypes of stop-action animation (non continuous frame-by-frame filming). In one of the earliest sequences of ‘trick’ animation, it showed a chalk-talk artist (Blackton himself) using a large stand-up easel on which he drew a round cartoon face of an elderly man. He then sketched a bottle of wine and a glass goblet in the upper-right hand corner of the page – and then removed the two items from the sketch paper, holding them up as real 3-D objects and pouring himself a glass of wine. He did the same with the man’s hat and cigar. At the conclusion of the short segment, he then restored all the elements back into the picture.