Who Created the First Cartoon? Going Back to Its Roots

Cartoons today may seem like a modern art form, but they’ve been around for centuries. The ancient Egyptians created models of people and animals to be placed in the tombs of royalty, each figure used to help transport the deceased to their final resting place. Ancient Greeks were known for their vases with illustrated scenes such as the Judgement of Paris. And, even before that, cave paintings from around 30,000 BC depict animals in naturalistic ways.

So who created the first cartoon as we know it? 

French caricature artist Émile Cohl created the first animated cartoon in 1908 after a bit of inspiration from Winsor McCay’s comic strip Little Nemo. 

The idea to animate the character came to him while reading the strip and he developed his own style that restricted black outlines and flat shading, allowing him to focus more on movement than depth. He created an animation titled Fantasmagorie, which was about a character going on a wild journey through different worlds. 

Cohl’s work was quickly recognized and he went on to make more than 700 cartoons during his career. He also served as an important influence for other animators, such as Walt Disney. Cartoons have come a long way since Cohl’s first creation, but it’s interesting to look back at their roots and see how they’ve evolved. 

The film premiered in Paris in 1908 and was an instant success, paving the way for other animators like Walt Disney to create their own masterpieces. Cohl’s work is still celebrated to this day as one of the earliest and most influential examples of animation. So the next time you watch a cartoon, take a moment to appreciate the artistry that goes into making them – and the long history they have behind them. 

Who is Émile Cohl? 

Émile Cohl was a French artist and cartoonist who pioneered the art of comic strips and animation. He is known as the “Father of the Comic Strip” and the “Father of Animated Movies”.

Cohl was born in Lyon, France where his father was a carpet merchant. At the age of fourteen, he moved to Paris to join his brother who studied art at Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris. He started as a caricaturist and became known as “the Court Jester” for his sharp wit and cynical humor. Cohl is credited as the creator of the first animated cartoon, or “phantom ride”, in 1908. The film, titled Fantasmagorie, was about a man going on a dreamlike journey through different elements and beings. In addition to animation, Cohl also worked as an actor and director in France until his death from heart disease.

Through his work, Cohl helped to establish animation as a respected art form and inspired other animators like Walt Disney. His legacy is celebrated to this day as one of the earliest and most influential contributors to the world of animation. 

Cohl died on August 9, 1938 in Paris, France when he was 59 years old.

It’s interesting to see how cartoons have evolved over the centuries. Cartoons became a huge part of everyone’s lives by the 1930s, and continue to be popular today. While the first cartoon may not have been what we expect, it started a legacy that is still going strong. So the next time you watch your favorite cartoon characters on the big screen, remember the man who started it all – Émile Cohl.