As children we all loved watching animated movies, be it Cinderella, Sown White and the Seven Dwarfs or plain old Micky Mouse and let’s not forget Tom and Jerry. In the recent years animated movies like ‘The Toy Story’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’, ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ have captured our imagination. There is a charm to these animated movies that have managed to find a soft spot in our adult, sophisticated hearts. The start of animation is as intriguing as the year in which this fascinating art developed and evolved.
Many are familiar with Walt Disney, a wellknown name in the felid of animation, but before he came into the picture there were various names that had contributed to this art, one such individual was Émile Cohl.
Émile Cohl was a French caricaturist (a caricature is an image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way), he was also a cartoonist and animator. Emile was an important part of the long forgotten Incoherent Movement.
Émile Eugene Jean Louis Courtet was born in Paris, on January 4th, 1857. Émile’s father Elie was a rubber salesman and his mother, Emilie Laure, was a linen seamstress. His artistic talent was encouraged. Two things influenced the artist that stayed with him always. The first was Guignol, a puppet theater and the other was political caricature.
Starting as an apprentice to a jeweler, Émile led sort of Bohemian lifestyle. He worked with Andre Gill, got married, gotten drawn into the Hydropathes movement, his marriage collapsed after which he joined Pick Me Up, a humor magazine.
Then the era of motion pictures, at the age of fifty Émile entered the world of cinema. His introduction to this field is lost to the history; there are some speculations, but nothing factual. Regardless, Émile joined Gaumont Film Company as a writer, but cartoons were his specialty. He went on to make ‘Fantasmagorie’, that is considered the first fully animated film ever made. The movie was made up from 700 drawings, each of which was double-exposed, leading to a running time of almost two minutes. It was devised in a stream of consciousness style and borrowed Blackton’s style in using a ‘chalk-line effect’. Émile made the movie as a tribute to the forgotten Incoherent movement.
Émile went on making more than 200 movies in his lifetime, A Fantasy and Affairs of Hearts are just to name a few. But the great depression took its toll on him and his finical situation deteriorated, he lost his apartment to a fire and scarce attention was given to his pioneering work. But a young journalist Rene Jeanne helped organize a benefit screening on 19th January 1938, a day before his death.
Émile Cohl gave animation the push he needed to move forward and his pioneering work though have been overlooked, but the impact of his work can’t be denied.