The literal translation of the Japanese word 'Animé' to English is 'Animation', which means it has nothing to do with the animation techniques used in e.g. Pokemon. It is simply animation from Japan. Japanese film-makers started experimenting with animation techniques roughly around the start of the 20th century. The animation, 'Namakura-gatana'- translated: 'An Obtuse Sword' 1917, “is believed to be the oldest Japanese animation film still in existence. A comedy, the film relates the story of a samurai warrior who is tricked into buying a dull-edged sword. He tries to attack passers-by so as to examine the sword, but lower-class townspeople fight back and knock him down.”
This animation was created by Jun'ichi Kouchi. Fellow notable animé pioneers of this silent era include Seitaro Kitayama who “released "Urashima Tarō," an adaptation of a folk tale about a fisherman travelling to an underwater world on a turtle, in 1918.”
Also Ōten Shimokawa, who experimented with several animation techniques that were new and unique at the time. E.g. Chalk drawings and using ink directly onto film. This is now known as celluloid animation or traditional animation. His animation short is 'Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki' and is considered the first professional Japanese animation ever made. The type of animation is smooth and realistic, unlike the modern Animé which is considered to be more like moving Manga (Japanese comics).
These early film makers were searching for inspiration in France, U.S, Russia and Germany. Shimokawa was influenced by Émile Cohl, a French caricaturist and later, animator. His short, Fantasmagorie created in 1908, contains drawings on an illuminated glass plate, upon which he then drew the next cell. “The characters in the film look as though they've been drawn on a chalkboard, but it's an illusion. By filming black lines on paper and then printing in negative Cohl makes his animations appear to be chalk drawings”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEAObel8yIE (quote from video description)
These early techniques of animation show that Japanese film makers did originally begin animating using various techniques to show expressive illusions. And that before the cultural take over by Manga comics, there were Japanese animators who drew cartoons using similar techniques to 'Gertie the dinosaur' 1914.
Animation's Limitation on Television
Towards the end of the 1980s, the Golden Age of animation on the big screen had dried up. Old studios gave up and made way for new animators to bring their work to the small screen.
Cartoons were not originally made for children but shorts such as 'Red Hot Riding Hood' by Tex Avery. Many exhibitors claimed these were simply suggestive cartoons. And so roughly around the 1920s, cartoons began to air on television.
As audiences warmed towards television from theatres. The TV schedules included a mix of children's shows and theatrical cartoons, and this introduced a new generation of children to the cartoons of the 1920s and 1930s. A lot of the early television cartoons were experiments in limited animation. These cartoons usually were about five minutes long and created to a fixed budget. A series of these cartoons allowed stations to air them flexibly. One of the first cartoons produced expressly for television was Crusader Rabbit, a creation of Alexander Anderson and Jay Ward. The experimental animation can clearly be seen by the low quality in animation. The majority of the time the camera is simply panning across the screen. This technique is one clearly adopted by Japanese Animé artists and made famous world wide.
Hanna-Barbera Productions was the first major animation studio to produce cartoons exclusively for television. They began producing cartoons directly for television in 1957 when MGM closed down and found an audience in the evening "family hour" time. This was the typical time in a TV schedule that the channel would air their most popular family show. The first animated series from Hanna-Barbera were NBC's The Ruff & Reddy Show and later the studio hit its stride in with The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Top Cat, Jonny Quest, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and in 1981 The Smurfs. The later shows of Hanna-Barbera were created as animated sitcoms, this would separate them from being called children's shorts but still employ the cheep animated technique. Other than the difference in colour the animation technique is noticeably similar, to the previous Crusader Rabbit with the panning and repeated action.