American animated film owes its beginnings to the performers of Vaudeville, which before the invention of radio and television was the most popular form of entertainment in North America from 1875 until 1932.
Vaudeville originated in Europe. The actual word vaudeville came from two French phrases: Val de Vire, which meant "valley of the river Vire" and voix de ville, which meant "voices of the town." The valley was a place where people would entertain one another in the evenings with songs and dance. This became so popular that in 1792 the first vaudeville theatre opened in Paris.
Although it's origins were in Europe, Vaudeville really became an art form in America specifically New York and the East Coast where immigrants of all nationalities would converge to entertain and be entertained by the various acts that would perform there. These performances would include comedy, magic, acrobatics, dancing, acting and singing.
Many of the founders of American animation came out of this period, including a British filmmaker called James Stuart Blackton (1875-1941) who is credited as creating the first animated film in America.
Then known as Komical Kartoonists, Blackton and his contemporaries would put on acts in which they would perform lightning sketches or high-speed drawings to the Vaudeville audiences.
It wasn't until 1895 when Blackton met the inventor Thomas Edison that he became interested in putting his drawings onto film. Along with Albert E Smith, Blackton formed one of the first film studios, The Vitagraph Company. There they made a series of trick films using techniques that they had developed. These included stop motion, which entailed stopping and starting the camera and making slight adjustments in the scene, dissolves, where one scene fades out as another fades in and multiple exposures, where they filmed one scene over another to create...