Saturday, October 18, 2008

Who Invented the Three-Fingered Hand?

"Why do your characters have only three fingers and a thumb?" I get asked that question a lot. It's quite common, actually, if you take a look at most cartoon characters. I guess it got started in animation, but quickly became standard practice in newspaper comics as well. To me, it is one of the changes from realism to a "cartoony" look that announces to the viewer a tone or mood -- the goofy intentions of the artist.

The Beat reports on one of the great ineffable questions, “Who invented the three-fingered hand?” An essay by animation legend Grim Natwick explains:

Someone way back in the dark ages of animation got tired of drawing hands with four fingers and simply left one off, and cartoon hands have been much easier to animate ever since. It was a stroke of genius. The four fingered hand disappeared from animation until “Snow White” (1937). Somehow a pretty girl didn’t look right with only three fingers. But the Seven Dwarfs still had three fingered hands.

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