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Sketches alive - Slogan explores how animation transformed from flat drawings to digital art.

Viewers of all ages have always been enthralled by animated movies that open a world of fantasy packed with talking animals, sorcerers, heroes and fascinating creatures. The history of animation dates back to 1917 when an Argentinean animator produced El Apostol. Full-length animated feature films, however, were made popular by Walt Disney and his array of characters, storytelling and visualizing techniques and also because Disney's movies were instant hits in the English-speaking world.

Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is considered to be the first animated feature. It premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937. The same movie was released in Technicolor in 1938, the first American feature in the genre and, earning $8 million, it became the most successful movie in that year.

Disney's animated movies were produced from hand-drawn sketches on paper, which when moved in quick succession, gave the illusion of a moving picture. In 1928, Disney first sketched Mickey Mouse - a character that even today is looked upon with reverence in animation. In the 1930s, opinion polls showed that Popeye the Sailor, produced by Max Fleischer, was more popular than Mickey Mouse. Nevertheless, Disney was able to put Mickey back on top by partially redesigning the character to become what was considered his most appealing design to date. In 1932, Disney received a special Academy Award for the creation of "Mickey Mouse", a series which switched to colour in 1935 and later launched spin-offs for supporting characters such as Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto.

The era between 1937 and 1941 is referred to as the Golden Age of Animation. During this time, animators were experimenting with new animation ideas and were coming up with compelling stories. Famous animated movies of the era included Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and Dumbo (1941).

With the advent of new technology, animators were able to create 3D animation, which is more life-like and appealing to the viewer. Pixar, led by Steve Jobs along with Edwin Catmull, Alvy Ray Smith and John Lasseter, became the trendsetter in 3D animation for producing Toy Story (1995) followed by Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004) and Cars (2006).

Talking about animation in the Pakistani context, considerable work has been done given that animation is still in its early stage. One may recall the animated ad of Dentonic toothpaste that aired on Pakistani Television in the early 90s. Although animation in Pakistan has been slow in gaining momentum, nevertheless, good animation has been rendered in one form or the other. Of late, private news channels have gauged the importance of animation in disseminating political satire, which is not so effective otherwise. "Ool Jalool" produced by GEO TV is a good example. Rendered in simple 2D animation, the two characters discuss current political situations and news of national importance in a witty style. Express News created "Bankay Mian", a TV spot rendered in 3D, where a qawwal belts out satirical poetry in his full-throated voice on politics, sports and other issues.

On the global stage, Pakistani animators have made their mark in Hollywood. One such example is of that of visual effects specialist, Mir Zafar Ali, who was a member of the team that won the 2007 Oscar for Best Visual Effects in the movie The Golden Compass. He is the first Pakistani to have been connected with an Oscar award-winning venture. Ali has worked on visual effects and graphics in many Hollywood movies including The Day After Tomorrow, X-Men (in which he was primarily in-charge of the character Banshee as effects technical director), Stealth, Monster House, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy and Aliens in the Attic. He is well regarded for his ability to create water waves.

In the last seventy years animation has witnessed the transition from 2D to 3D, where the growth of the animators' technical and practical knowledge and skills has fuelled the thirst for producing superior quality animation movies that keep audiences glued to the screen and make the characters a part of the global cultural lore. F
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Date:Apr 30, 2012
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