Pauvre Pierrot – the first animated film

Cinema was even more a sideshow attraction than recorded sound in 1892. In pre-Lumiere France, cinematic pioneer Émile Reynaud was projecting slides with moving images in front of painted backgrounds at his Théâtre Optique in Paris. In a sense this had been done for hundreds of years with magic lantern shows, but Reynaud’s innovation was that foreground figures could be pre-painted frame by frame and set on film in order to produce the illusion of movement; in magic lantern shows figures would have hand-operated puppet-like fixed movements.

Reynaud’s figures are full of life and character, and while ‘lifelike’ might be a bit of a stretch, it’s a bold leap forward, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t get more recognition.