Animated and interactive maps are (still) growing in popularity. Maps like those offered up by Google, Bing and others are just the tip of the iceberg of interactivity. Panning and zooming is becoming more a part of the interface and less a part of the interaction. When looking at hip new animated maps online, whether on the NYT, Flowing Data, or even on SNL it might be worth checking out where this all got started.
A common example of what is (perhaps) the earliest animated map is from the Disney Studios production of the invasion of Poland in 1939. For more information on this and to watch the original animation, check out this article: Active Legends For Interactive Cartographic Animation (Michael P. Peterson).
I was recently perusing the Prelinger Archive, watching all kinds of interesting and now-dated-and-therefore-goofy stuff. I watched some fellas wrap submarine cables with tar-soaked jute, I watched some lady learn how to use a telephone . . . back when a telephone was a new technology and I watched a video on how to bowl from the 50′s. “The ball is not thrown. The hand just simply lets it slip away.” etc.
After wading through all of these and other hilariously out-dated clips, it suddenly dawned on me, “Hey, I bet this Prelinger Archive might well have some animated maps in it.” And it does. Below are just a few examples of what I’ve managed to scrounge up.
1. 1936: This video, from the National Tuberculosis Association, has a dark map of the US which becomes animated with the association’s logo while the narrator talks about the great network that the association has.
2. 1936: Here’s a video about Alaskan Salmon. It has a few quasi-animated maps, but my favorite shows the mysterious migration of salmon from Alaska to . . . “somewhere in the Pacific. No one knows where.”
3. 1947: This video is all about trade. It starts out by asking the viewer if they’ve ever noticed that no two cities are alike. Well . . . have you? The animation shows all kinds of things: trade routes, river valleys, forest extent, agricultural extents, etc.
4. 1957: Here’s a nice little map showing how anyone can sell and trade stocks to make mega dollars . . . no matter where they are!
5. 1959: Here’s a video all about urban sprawl and responsible urban planning and design. Some of it sounds like it could be from today. Other parts . . . er, not so much. This one is loaded with some pretty nice (read: hilarious) animation. Floating “Chinese walls of restrictive regulation to halt the incoming tide of new housing”. Goodness sakes.
There are loads more. Defintely check out the Prelinger Archive if you want to find some other interesting examples of early animated maps.
Bonus image (yep, that’s the “Chinese wall of restrictive regulation”):