The Origins of Anime and How it Became a Popular

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This essay will explore the origins of both Anime and Animation, how the two differing styles and origins of artform have converged in recent years by looking at the history of Anime through the similarities and/or differences between Eastern and Western styles. Also to seek out the path of Anime’s increasing exposure in Western media due to the success and popularity of streaming, on-demand and new media, why this access to what was once considered a niche form of entertainment has changed Anime and in what ways the same can or cannot be said for the Western counterpart of animation. To understand the changes in both types of animation this dissertation will focus on examining the main production houses of each side such as Disney and Pixar for the Western, Studio Ghibli and Toei Animation for the Eastern. By looking at how live action has progressed and helped animation and vice versa. With looking at Eastern and Western cinema it will show the styles and processes of each helped animation to become more realistic with its fluid movements and mannerisms in which can be seen in people and animal personalities.

Chapter One.

This chapter will cover Animation and its history, while looking at Disney and Pixar as large Western animation companies.

Animation in its basic form is the illusion of movement through consecutive images in rapid succession. There are many ways in which animation is created from CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) to stop motion which is done by taking a photo and ever so slightly moving your object and taking another photo, this method will have thousands if not more photos to create a smooth animation. A Rotoscope device that was created by Max Fleischer allowed for pre-filmed movement to be traced. The projector allowed you to move frame by frame, this allowed for a more natural human movement. This method was used in David Fleischer’s animation Gulliver’s Travel.

Animation allows artists to express themselves more than before, it allows those ideas of flamboyant characters and journeyful stories to be born, living, breathing pieces of art.

‘Conveying a certain feeling is the essence of communication in any art form. The response of the viewer is an emotional one, because art speaks to the heart. This gives animation an almost magical ability to reach inside any audience and communicate with all people everywhere, regardless of language barriers. It is one of animations greatest strengths.’

There viewers imagination makes the characters and story become real, creating a strong connection that lasts a lifetime.

Animation is not just about storytelling, it is about character building. The similarities between live action and animation are not that different. They both have actors, a script, music, a director, and a story, the only differences are the techniques and the steps to said techniques. There are more challenges to animation when it comes to expressing emotions, making something overly complicated will cause the viewers confusion, something more simplistic is more effective as book 9 said ‘“Don’t confuse them, keep it simple” “Too much action spoils the acting”’ This can also be said for live action.


The Walt Disney Company, also known as just Disney is an American media and entertainment company with many subsidiaries such as The Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studio, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, and many more. Co-founded by Walt and Roy O. Disney in 1923 originally named the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio.The company was originally the leader of the American animation industry before branching off into other areas such as live-action films and theme parks. One of the main reasons Disney was top of its industry was for the fact that Walt Disney always pushed to be the first, the first for sound being in sync with the animation and not just a generic song that was played in the cinema. Disney’s first animation with sound was Steamboat Willie, starring Disney’s first and most famous character Mickey Mouse in 1928, but it was not until 1937 that Disney would release their first feature length animation Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with original songs, such as ‘Whistle While You Work’ and ‘Heigh-ho’. This was not the only first for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney also used real actors to capture real human movement to help give a more realistic feel to it. Today they are well known songs but it was not as well received at the time it came out. Chris Pallant said “Although the original soundtrack had a faltering start, existing largely as a child-oriented product for several years, Disney played a key role in establishing it as it exists today”

“First, Disney, with the films identified by Rushe, did not create a new genre of movie as such; rather, the studio helped establish and popularise a new mode of animation” (book 6, page 14) Disney has inspired many Eastern artists through the years which hints of said inspiration peeking through by way of the artwork such as Hiroshi Okawa’s Magic Boy 1 which is almost identical to Disney’s Peter Pan.

Disney’s multiplane camera allowed for depth within a scene, a multiplane camera consists of a camera fixed at the top pointing down with multiple layers of glass which would have the furthest part of the scene painted in oil on the bottom layer of glass and as you come to the foreground the closest part of the scene would be on the top piece of glass. By having each component separated this would give the animators freedom to move each part independently which also allowed them to make characters walk behind background objects giving the scene more depth.

Disney's use of colour and texture gives the viewer dreamlike, whimsical feel in which children can easily associate with easily made Disney films ideal for families, which makes it difficult for people to assume that everyone and anyone can watch them. The use of fairytale stories of a princess in danger and the prince and her sidekicks must save the day, evidently it was down to the prince, which also added to formula predictable by adult viewers. As Paul Wells said in his 1998 book Understanding Animation, It was not until the 1970s that the audience was properly theorised in a conceptual way. Following the discourse theory of Althusser and Barthes, theorists essentially determined the audience as a subject, and not as a set of undifferentiated individuals. In the 1960s Disney started to other territory the prince and princesses, there were stories of talking jungle animals and domestic cats.

Disney is still at the top of the animation empire by knowing where to go next to be the first whether that is by new technology or styles just as Walt Disney had always done.

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Pixar is an American computer animation studio, which became part of Walt Disney Studios. Originally called Graphics Group which was a computer division of LucasFilms. They produce high quality CGI animated feature length films, with over Twenty films under their belt. The first film they made was Toy Story about a group of lovable toys that end up meeting their owners new toy, throughout the film it deals with complex emotions such as jealousy and feeling abandoned, children may not comprehend the deeper root to the story which makes this more than just for children. As Pixar got its footing and grew from strength to strength going deeper with conveying emotion as Chris Pallant said

“With pixar consistently pushing the envelope in its features (engaging, for example, with eco-politics in WALL-E and tackling themes such as miscarriage, bereavement and ageism in a heavy-hitting opening ten minutes in Up”.

It is clear to see that Pixar are not slowing down, they have found a formula, one that Anime have always used, and are sticking to it. Not only do they address emotions, they also like to reminisce their older films by putting little easter eggs into their films, something they have done from the very beginning with Toy Story. They put the Luxo ball in all of the Toy Story films, which belonged to Luxo Jr. who is a lamp and their mascot just like Disney with Mickey Mouse. They do not stop at just reminiscing their films but also classic films such as Jurassic Park, when Rex chased the car in Toy Story 2 3, these little easter eggs and nods to classic films made them more appealing to older viewers, it showed them that animation is not just for children.

Chapter Two

This chapter will cover Anime and its history, while also looking at studio Ghibli and Toei Animation as large Eastern animation based companies.

Anime is the Japanese abbreviation of animation, but in many ways Anime is so much more than just an animation. The imagination of anime artist far past that of Western artists, this is proven in all of Studio Ghibli’s movies from parents turning into pigs in Spirited Away to a wizard that turns into a giant bird form while in battle in Howl's Moving Castle, the list is endless. as Richard Corliss wrote for the Times Magazine

“So what is anime? Easier to ask: What isn't it? An American cartoon is simple to define. It's Disney--the Disney style of romantic realism, questing kids and cute critters. Anime is all kinds of different. 'There isn't a single artistic style in anime,' says Helen McCarthy, British author of four books on the subject, including Hayao Miyazaki: Films, Themes, Artistry. 'The major difference from Disney-style animation is the limitless possibilities existing in anime.' If you can dream it, anime-tors can draw it.”

The first Japanese TV animation series was in 1951 called “Tetsuwan Aton” (Iron-Armed Atom), in the west it’s known by Astro Boy. Which started as a comic book created by Osuma Tezuka which was turned into a TV animation series from 1951-1958. Nobuyuki Tsugata explains that Tezuka was dissatisfied by the shortness of episodes, averaging around five to ten minutes, which lacked character emotions and complex stories in american TV series he decided to create his own anime aiming for around thirty minutes per episode. For many people Anime was just more cartoons for children but what started to make anime so popular especially to adults in the west was the fact that Anime touched on many emotions, with its deeper storytelling, such as Hayao Miyazaki’s howl’s moving castle which touched on the delicacies of beauty and wanting to be someone more, more loved, more popular, more of anything, which was mainly seen in live-action films.

Akiko Sano said The contemporary Japanese view of cartoon animation was formed in such a way that American cartoon animation became the “standard”. It is clear that the era when Japanese cartoon animation was inferior to foreign ones has passed

Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli was founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki with the help from Isoa Takahata and Toshio Suzuki. Who Miyazaki had worked with multiple times throughout his career. Miyazaki wanted to create animated film the way he wanted to make them which Takahata and Suzuki felt the same way. They had a rocky start for the first few years and it was not until 1989 with the release of Kiki’s Delivery Service that they start to be recognized. It was also Kiki’s Delivery Service that got Ghibli noticed in the West after winning an oscar.

“Miyazaki has a very hands-on approach to the creative process and prefers traditional animation techniques, storyboarding his tales using pencil and paper. He doesn’t use a script; the narrative develops with the storyboards and he often doesn’t know how the plot will evolve.” This is maybe why anime or even just Studio Ghibli has become so well known over the years. The way Miyazaki doesn’t compromise on his style are process to meet the new norm, by sticking to his ways has helped Ghibli become so distinct that even work he and Takahata created before studio Ghibli was born is classed as Ghibli’s work.

Toei Animation

Toei Animation Studio was created in 1956 in response to Japan's exposure to Disney specifically the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in which japan did not see until thirteen years after its release. The first feature length animation White Snake Enchantress but even with its high influences from Disney, Disney was still more popular in Japan.

Chapter Three

Where and how Western Animation came into contact/crossed over with Anime

Ghibli’s films frequently topped Japan's box-office charts, its popularity also soaring in western countries following an Oscar win for Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

Eastern and Western animation have influenced each other over the last hundred years, whether this is by the style in which they are drawn or the colour pallete to the way they are edited and the storyline. By going back to as early as the early 1900s it is clear to see that both Eastern and Western are on par with the resources available. Westerns 1907 Humorous Phases of Funny Faces by J Stuart Blackton made by two styles of animation cutouts and stop motion which makes the short animation flat especially in black and white. While eastern 1917 short animation Namakura Gatana by Kenzo Masaoka, which is hand drawn, which with the lack of detail in the background gives it a flat look but has more depth than Humorous Phases of Funny Faces. In the 1930s the advancement in the West far passed that of the East, Disney’s first feature length animation Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released creating depth unlike anyone had seen in an animated movie by using the Multiplane camera. While in the East not as advanced in technolocal ways but are still creating work in more detail animations has can be seen in Masaoka’s Sparrow Lodge.

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