Tribute to the ‘dean of the screen’: man who invented motion picture animation

A look back at how J Stuart Blackton invented film animation  

amongst the father’s of early cinema are the well known group comprising the Lumiere Brothers, W D Griffith, Erich Von Stroheim, Charlie Chaplin. Yet one who is not so well known yet had as great an influence on the development of cinema is Blackton, creator of the hugely successful Humourous phases of funny faces:

This is one of the first animated films after Charles Emile Reynaud’s.  In the film, Blackton draws two comic characters on a blackboard using chalk, they appear to move and engage in playful antics. Although the film uses mostly live action instead of animation it had a great influence on later animated films.

Next was “The Haunted Hotel” (1907), another Vitagraph short directed by Blackton. The “Haunted Hotel” was mostly live-action, about a tourist spending the night in an inn run by invisible spirits. Most of the effects are also live-action (wires and such), but one scene of a dinner making itself was done using stop-motion, and was presented in a tight close-up that allowed budding animators to study it for technique.

As well as these early efforts Blackton produced countless films of early cinema, including the first adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Of the 167 films listed on the imdb website, these are the most worthy of attention are: 

Raffles, The Life of Moses, The Battle Cry of Peace, Womanhood, The Glorious Adventure (in Prizmacolour), On the banks of the Wabash, The Clean Heart, The Beloved Brute, Gypsy Cavalier, Tides of Passion, Bride of the Storm and The Happy Warrior.


J Stuart Blackton: 1875 – 1941  

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