Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Famous Felines of Animation


Last Friday, my Animation Principles class ended for the Fall semester at Woodbury University. 15 weeks has gone by really fast since the students first made a flipbook, later animated a bouncing ball and other exercises. Each assignment builds on the next, helping them understand how the animation process works.

All 12 students had 5 weeks to complete their final animation projects based on one of three scenerios.
1) A surprise gift, 2) A stuck door or 3) A heavy weight

Most created a storyboard, an animatic and the final project with either 1 or 2, no one choose #3 this semester. In the coming weeks, I will feature a few of theses student films for your viewing pleasure. 

As we enter the holidays, I thought I would explore something I like to call...

Famous Felines in History

To find out what was the first animated cat character, we have to go back 2,220 years ago, to ancient Egypt where cats were first bred and some were domesticated. They have found millions of cat mummies buried throughout Egypt and its believed that cats were kept to keep down vermin population. The Egyptians also had great respect and admiration for them and the export of cats was forbidden, and the penalty for killing a cat was death. However many were sacrificed to their two goddesses. Mafdet, the deification of justice and execution and Bastet represented protection, fertility, and motherhood.
In future episodes of WatchCat, we plan to go back in time to this period and explore some of our character's pre-history.

Mice were a big problem to humans after they settled and stored their food like rice or grain. The cats were used to keep down the rodent population. And so, many Egypt cats were smuggled or traded with the Romans, who also respected the cat for their mouse keeping abilities and were kept as mascots by the Roman legions often  travelling with them as they conquered foreign lands. 

The shorthaired domestic cat were introduced to other countries like India, China and Japan. Later, longhair cat breeds came from Turkey and Iran same reasons the Egytians  and made their way to the Far East. In 600 ad, a cat was presented to China. England got them around and many cats were taken on ships to America, always to keep the mice at bay. In many countries, cats were respected and if anyone harmed or killed a cat could be executed or jailed.

Being the pioneer of <b>Chinese</b> fine art since the foundation of <b>China</b> ...

Then around the Middle Ages, the Black Plague came along, caused by rats, religious leaders blamed it on cats as being in league with Satan. European folk lore evolved and the black cat became associated with the devil and witches.


Cats have a long and interesting history and we've barely, scratched the surface. We'll pick this up again in future WatchCat blogs. As for the first animated cat character, most people would say Felix the Cat by Otto Messmer from 1920. But actually, back around 1916, there was a New York newspaper columnist and humorist named Don Marquet.

Don Marquet
Marquet became well known for his stories of Archy the cockroach and Mehitabe, a cat in her ninth life. In his newspaper column, Archy could only type his free verse poetry in lower case, because he wasn't strong enough to make capital letters on his typewriter.

While Marquet was creating his prose, the cartoon illustrations were done by cartoonist George Herriman. Herriman was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to mulatto Creole parents, and grew up in Los Angeles. Apparently, he always wore a hat to conceal his hair which he thought people would have a problem with his race. Luckily, no one ever knew.

George Herriman, Creator of Krazy Kat


He created a comic strip called "the Dingbat Family" which introduced two incidental characters, a cat and mouse. Years later, after he did the cartoon drawings for Marquet, Herriman introduced Krazy Cat and a brick throwing mouse named Ignatz. 

Herriman's cartoons were in William Randolf Hurst's newspapers and a series of Krazy Kat cartoons were created. Here's one from 1916 called Krazy Kat goes a wooing. Enjoy.


Do you have a favorite cartoon Cat character? Please let me know and I'll add it to my list. Next week; we will give you an update on WatchCat 2 production, find out a little more about Felix the Cat and more.

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