When Blackton was 19 years old, he and two othe Englishmen (Albert Smith and Ronald Reader) joined forces at an attempt to break into the mainstream scene. Known as the "Komikal Kartoonist" , Blackton created an act where he would draw rapid images upon an easel and would quickly modify the images as an attempts to show motion, however this failed and it forced Blackton back into the common work force. At this time he became a reporter and artist for a New York newspaper and had the life altering chance to meet Thomas Edison.
Edison introduced and wowed Blackton with the vitascope, at which time he and Smith purchased one from Edison. This became the time where American Vitagraph Company was, in theory, founded.
It is true that animation had roots years before Blackon; however it was no until the release of his first film in 1907 that animation was even considered by the public eye. 
The Haunted Hotel (originally released in February 1907) was a Black and White animation that was created by Blackton and produced by the American Vitagraph company.  The silent film uses stop-motion animation to depict a meal being prepared by a set of invisible hands.
The film was such a great success that multiple prodcues (specifically in France) would attempt to find out what is was the would make the objects on the screen move on their own. Like many other early animation films, The Haunted Hotel was not interested so much in narrative function as it was to show movement for its own sake. 
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