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[[caption-width-right:345:The Silent Age star ensemble. [[note]] In order: Creator/OttoMessmer's WesternAnimation/FelixTheCat, [[Creator/WinsorMcCay Winsor [=McCay=]]]'s WesternAnimation/GertieTheDinosaur, Bobby Bumps and Colonel Heeza Liar of the [[Creator/BrayStudios J.R. Bray studio]], Farmer Alfalfa of Creator/VanBeurenStudios, [[WesternAnimation/OutOfTheInkwell Koko the Clown]] of [[Creator/MaxAndDaveFleischer Fleischer Studios]], Mutt and Jeff of J.R. Bray, WesternAnimation/OswaldTheLuckyRabbit of Creator/{{Universal}}, and Creator/WalterLantz's WesternAnimation/DinkyDoodle.[[/note]]]]

->''"I hope and dream the time will come when serious artists will make marvelous pictures that will love and live in life-like manner and be far more interesting and wonderful than pictures you now see on canvas. I think if Michelangelo was alive today he would immediately see the wonders...The artist can make his scenes and characters live instead of stand still on canvas in art museums."''
-->-- '''[[Creator/WinsorMcCay Winsor [=McCay=]]]''', talking during a WNAC Radio Broadcast, New York, September 1927

The earliest age of mainstream animation known to man, lasting from the early 1900s to the late 1920s with the rise of sound technology.

Now, animation has existed for [[EarlyAnimation a very, very long time in some form of another]] before this era came about, but this era is obviously when large amounts of people actually started taking notice of the medium and what it could do. This is owed in part to the rise of the motion picture to begin with during this time period. The earliest known/existing cartoon as we know it is the 1908 French short film ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEAObel8yIE Phantasmagorie]]'' by Emile Cohl (while there were many experiments with stop motion and pictures earlier, this was apparently the first one to rely entirely on genuine hand drawn animation).

But here in the west, thanks to men like [[Creator/WinsorMcCay Winsor [=McCay=]]] (who made ''WesternAnimation/GertieTheDinosaur'', the very first cartoon character to have any distinct personality traits, and not to mention the man practically pioneered the use of animation as we know it in general. He experimented with animation as an "extension" of the comics he was working on during that time period) and not to mention Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer, who both created iconic cartoon star WesternAnimation/FelixTheCat, the cartoon industry quickly sky-rocketed, with many new cartoon companies with their own cartoon stars and imitators quickly popping up to cash in on the new cartoon craze.

Winsor [=McCay=] was not happy with the idea of "Assembly Line" cartoons and regarded their work as inferior to his own. This was justified, in that he spent ''years'' working on his cartoons like ''ComicStrip/LittleNemo'' (he was also the same man who made the original comics), ''Gertie the Dinosaur'', ''The Sinking of the Lusitania'' (considered by many hardcore animation fans to be his MagnumOpus), and ''How a Mosquito Operates'', which are some of the most spectacularly animated works ever seen and were masterpieces compared to the quickly, cheaply produced toons that were being rushed out at the time. Not long after cartoons rose in popularity, he left the very animation industry that he helped get off the ground in the first place.

Cartoons at the time were both seen as and presented as moving comic strips, sometimes even incorporating SpeechBubbles for their dialog. Fantasy was in full vogue during this period, but it tended to have a dull, heavy handed and literal minded feeling to it, not helped by the primitive, stiff animation, glacial pacing and floaty motion. And because animation was so experimental at the time in its early stages, this resulted in quite a few instances of DerangedAnimation, as animators experimented with the medium. MaxAndDaveFleischer actually got their start off in this era, with their ''Out of the Inkwell'' series, starring Koko the Clown. During this time, the most prominent animation house was the studio of [[Creator/BrayStudios J.R. Bray]], who produced many hit series such as "Colonel Heeza Liar" and "Bobby Bumps".

WaltDisney got off to a brief start in this era with his doomed ''Laff-O-Grams'' studios and Live Action/Animation shorts collectively called ''[[AliceComedies The Alice Comedies]]'', but he finally found success later at {{Universal}} Studios with his character OswaldTheLuckyRabbit. However, after losing Oswald and most of his animation staff over a contractual dispute, Disney quickly left Universal and formed his own studio. He and his friend UbIwerks ended up creating their own CaptainErsatz for Oswald: MickeyMouse. However, the first two shorts, ''PlaneCrazy'' and ''Gallopin' Gaucho'', were not particularly well received...and then came along Steamboat Willie, the first ''Mickey Mouse'' cartoon to have sound. Also, contrary to what is generally believed, ''SteamboatWillie'' was ''not'' the first sound cartoon-the Flieschers had pioneered sound cartoons as early as the mid 1920s, with their film ''Mother Mother Pin A Rose on me''[[note]]commonly misattributed to "My Old Kentucky Home"[[/note]], and not long before Steamboat Willie came out, [[Creator/{{Terrytoons}} Paul Terry]], then an employee of Creator/VanBeurenStudios, made a synchronized sound cartoon called ''Dinnertime''. However, Steamboat Willie ''was'' the first sound cartoon that actually took genuine advantage of what could be done with sound in a cartoon (and reportedly, Creator/WaltDisney saw ''Dinnertime'' himself and proclaimed it "terrible.").

Naturally, the silent age came to a screeching halt with the rise of sound technology in the late 1920s. Disney and many other studios quickly worked to take advantage of the new technology, while former stars like Felix the Cat attempted to make the jump to sound film and failed miserably, quickly fading off into obscurity until many years later, with an ill-fated Golden Age revival during the 1930s and the iconic TV series which debuted in the late 1950s.

This era was succeeded by the far better-known [[TheGoldenAgeOfAnimation Golden Age of Animation]], which would last even longer and become even more influential and recognized than this era ever was.

!!Characters/Series associated with this era:

* AliceComedies: early [[RogerRabbitEffect live-action/animation hybrid]] from Disney, also co-starring FelixTheCat {{Expy}} Julius, whom was [[ExecutiveMeddling forced into the cartoons]] by Disney's then distributor Charles Mintz, who distributed the Felix cartoons alongside the Alice shorts.
* Aesop's Film Fables (1921-1929): A pioneering series of FunnyAnimal cartoons, largely produced by Paul Terry prior to starting his own studio. The series was a prominent influence on Creator/WaltDisney, who claimed to have seen almost every one that was released. This series would continue into the early 1930s, only upgraded with sound and produced by Creator/VanBeurenStudios. The silent incarnation of the series lasted an impressive 347 shorts.
* Bobby Bumps: The [[WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons Bart Simpson]] of his day (1910s), created by Earl Hurd. Running in and out of trouble with his dour dog Fido and cynical BlackBestFriend Choc'late, Bobby was always in bad with parents and teachers.
* Bonzo Dog: mischievous pooch from the first famous British cartoon series. Decades later, lent his name to the famous Doo-Dah Band.
* Colonel [[PunnyName Heeza Liar]]: Possibly, if not the very first recurring cartoon character ever created.
* WesternAnimation/DinkyDoodle: A hit series of cartoons made by Creator/WalterLantz in his early years.
* Farmer Alfalfa: The first star character from future Creator/{{Terrytoons}} creator Paul Terry (whom would later go on to make WesternAnimation/MightyMouse during the [[TheGoldenAgeOfAnimation Golden Age]]). A grumpy, pipe-smoking, alcoholic old hick, Farmer Al was perpetually at war with city slickers and his own livestock. Amazingly, Terrytoons would continue to produce the occasional Farmer Al Falfa cartoon into the 1950s.
* WesternAnimation/FelixTheCat: One of the first recurring cartoon stars of this era, let alone the first one to recieve universal recognition and popularity.
* WesternAnimation/GertieTheDinosaur: One of, if not the first genuine cartoon character ever made.
* The Katzenjammer Kids: A series of cartoons based on the popular comic strip by Rudolph Dirks.
* [[OutOfTheInkwell Koko the Clown]]: Resident cartoon star at FleischerStudios; ''OutOfTheInkwell'' episodes showed him springing to life on the drawing board and playing tricks on his (live action) creators. He lived on well into the sound era as a co-star to BettyBoop.
* KrazyKat: The ''extremely'' [[LimitedAnimation low budget]] shorts based on the newspaper comics. Many episodes featured Ignatz Mouse trying to hit Krazy with bricks—or simply trying to ruin whatever pastime Krazy might be engaging in at the moment.
* MickeyMouse: Initially he was a silent star in his first two films, "PlaneCrazy" and "The Gallopin' Gaucho", both of which had sound retroactively added.
* Mutt And Jeff: Bud Fisher's comics duo starred in hundreds of cartoons, surviving various hard-luck jobs and engaging in numerous get-rich-quick schemes.
* The Newlyweds: An animated series produced by pioneer Emile Cohl, and the very first comic strip cartoon adaptation. Tragically, the series only lasted one year, and all but one of the films in the series was destroyed in a lab fire at their studio, with the only existing film being a dupe print.
* WesternAnimation/OswaldTheLuckyRabbit: Mickey Mouse's precursor and Walt Disney's first genuine cartoon star (the Alice Comedies notwithstanding, as Alice was a live action girl in a cartoon world). The series was eventually taken over by Charles Mintz's studio, and afterwards Creator/WalterLantz and his animation unit took over the series from [[TheGoldenAgeOfAnimation 1929 and onward]].

!!Tropes associated with this era:
* AnimateInanimateObject
* CirclingBirdies
* DerangedAnimation
* DisneySchoolOfActingAndMime
* EverybodyDoTheEndlessLoop: Seen quite a lot in the early days of animation.
* ForgottenTrope: There were plenty. One of which would be the series of little dotted lines which would go from the eye of a character to whatever object they're looking at, to let the audience in on what the character is looking at.
* GenreThrowback: [[/index]] ''WesternAnimation/TwoStupidDogs'' did an entire episode ("Hobo Hounds") that was made to look like a silent cartoon, complete with [[DeadHorseTrope outdated tropes]] such as DistressedDamsel and ChainedToARailway.[[index]]
** [[/index]] ''ThePowerpuffGirls'' episode "Silent Treatment" involved the girls getting trapped in a silent cartoon, with an ArtShift that made it look something akin to an old FelixTheCat short.[[index]]
* IdeaBulb
* MimeAndMusicOnlyCartoon: Music was provided by piano players in the theater.
* PieEyed
* RedBoxingGloves
* RogerRabbitEffect: More than one might initially think. Emile Cohl and Winsor [=McCay=] helped pioneer this concept in their animated films. Fleischer's "OutOfTheInkwell" and Disney's "AliceComedies" would also make use of this trope.
* SpeechBubbles: They were used from time to time as an alternative to the usual word cards used in live action silent movies.
* TheSpeechless
* WalkingInRhythm: Characters would often walk and move to the BGM (and yes, most cartoons and films in the silent era had BGM, it just wasn't part of the actual film. The film would come with sheet music which would be played by a piano player in the movie theater).
* WhatDoYouMeanItsNotForKids: In ''SPADES'' during this era, which predates the AnimationAgeGhetto by about forty years.
* WrittenSoundEffect: Along with SpeechBubbles, written sound effects were another carry-over from the comics which showed up in a lot of silent cartoons, [[CaptainObvious which made sense since they were silent]].