Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hey, cartoons hit the C-barrier!

This is from the ASIFA-Hollywood blog:

Animation Celebrates Its Centenary

"The first examples of animation fascinated and delighted audiences and that appeal has never waned in the past hundred years. Animators continue to explore and develop new technology, but the goal of entertaining an audience hasn't changed very much since the days of J. Stuart Blackton." -Leonard Maltin, Film Historian

The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is celebrating Animation's 100th Birthday on April 6th. From its humble beginnings with J. Stuart Blackton's film, "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" first released on April 6th, 1906, animation has gone on to become one of the greatest American creative contributions to the arts, second only to Jazz.

The Director of ASIFA-Hollywood's Animation Archive, Stephen Worth explains, "Although there were many early films that experimented with stop motion and other techniques related to animation, Blackton was the first to create 'drawings that live'... sequential drawings of characters acting and reacting to each other. The word 'animate' literally means 'to give life to'. Blackton gave life to a whole new artform with his pioneering efforts."

James Stuart Blackton was a "Lightning Sketch Artist" in Vaudeville billed as "The Komikal Kartoonist". Inspired by Thomas Edison's recent invention of moving pictures, Blackton teamed with Albert E. Smith to form the first movie studio, Vitagraph Films. Smith and Blackton created what were then called "trick films"... the camera was stopped for a moment while the scene was changed, making objects and people magically appear and disappear; images dissolved from one to another; and shots were double exposed to create ghostly images. In 1900, Blackton experimented with putting his lightning sketch act on film in a movie called "The Enchanted Drawing", but it was in April of 1906 when he made his most important breakthrough. With a trick film titled "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" Blackton created what is widely regarded as the first American animated film.

Now if we could get more classic animation out there on DVD for new generatiosn of fans to appreciate!

Standard disclaimer: These are my words alone.


Ray Pointer said...

Since 1999, I have been making an effort to rescue our silent animation heritage, and raise its level of respectability with the programs that I have been producing and selling around the world. To date we have the original Disney Alice Comedies, ALICE IN CARTOONLAND, MAX FLEISCHER'S FAMOUS OUT OF THE INKWELL Vols. 1-4 (2-DVD set), MAX FLEISCHER'S KO-KO SONG CAR-TUNES,

To commemorate the 100th year of American Animation, I will be releasing an upgraded version of my first release, BEFORE WALT on May 1st. We've pulled out all the stops, using original animation sequences along with documentary footage, and selections of important cartoons that reveal the influences on the young Walt Disney. After all, shouldn't a program about animation use animation to tell the story?

Featured is the landmark, HUMOUROUS PHASES OF FUNNY FACES by J. Stuart Blackton (1906), as well as works by Emil Cohl, Winsor McCay, J.R. Bray, Earl Hurd, Wallace Carlson, Max Fleischer, Paul Terry, and Otto Messmer.

While these pioneers built the foundation for the Disney successes, this program reveals many of the sources of Disney's inspirations from techniques to character designs in the examples of his early works such as NEWMAN'S LAUGH-O-GRAMS, PUSS IN BOOTS, and ALICE SOLVES THE PUZZLE.

To my knowledge, no one else is doing anything of a production nature to recognize the centennial of animation. This gives BEFORE WALT a special significance, and it will have it's world premier at the Blue Ridge Southwest Film Festival in Roanoake, Virginia on April 22nd. The first showing will be at 3 p.m. with an encore at 6:15 p.m. There are tentative plans for ASIFA-Hollywood to screen it at The American Film Institute later this spring.

SRBissette said...

With the recent (excellent) DVD packages of rare avant-garde, experimental and underground films of yore (Kino's collection; UNSEEN CINEMA; etc.), here's hoping we indeed see some definitive early animation collections! There's some solid character and studio specific DVD collections available now, from the Disney 'tins' (SILLY SYMPHONIES) to FELIX THE CAT, Winsor McCay, etc., but something as carefully assembled and painstakingly annotated as the UNSEEN CINEMA set would be most welcome.

Ray Pointer said...

A series of the level of UNSEEN CINEMA was precisely what I had in mind when I drafted a 12 part series for PBS back in 1989. But the mainstream does not seem to see the value of vintage animation as we do, and the years of continued contempt and disdain on the part of broadcasters has only allowed the films to continue to advance in deterioration and obscurity.

While we have heard that more than 50% of all silent films are gone forever, the percentage of silent animation may be even higher. While there are some amazing survivors, only 50% of the Bray OUT OF THE INKWELL films exist, and even fewer of the Bray COL. HEEZA LIAR and BOBBY BUMPS cartoons, as an example. Strangely, as popular as KRAZY KAT and MUTT AND JEFF were, only a fraction of these cartoons survive as well.

In the 11th and one half hour of disappearance, people are now showing interest in these cartoons that have been chronicled in the wave of books that have been written over the last 30 years. And while these books document the existence of these films and their popular characters, they cannot by their very nature capture the true essence of the what is a moving medium. The Chinese said that "A picture is worth a thousand words."
In the case of animated cartoons, it would take millions upon millions of words to describe them, because they are such a unique visual medium. This means that the cartoons must be seen to be totally realized. And it is only by seeing them that younger generations will understand why these films and their characters
are important in film and cultural history, and also why they continue to be regarded with great fondness after so many decades.

As I stated earlier, I have been resurrecting what is left of these animation treasures, and packaging them in programs that are both entertaining and enlightening. So far as I know, I am the only one doing this, and from the responses received from around the world, these efforts are most appreciated.
My product has had a presence on the Internet for seven years. So to address the issue of producing a comprehensive series the likes of UNKNOWN CINEMA, it is being done. I've been doing it without much assitance, and most of all without enough money. Yet I manage to maintain as high a level of production value as I can provide. This is what these film treasures should have in order to garner the respect they deserve.