A special program by Carlo Montanaro
From time to time paper has indicated and established intermediate stages of a necessary process. Eventually, when celluloid gained the upper hand allowing the birth of the cinematograph, it has become the authorial element par excellence. Originally set aside it has been found as a base for bring images to an artificial life, creating a standard (stop-motion). Then it has been applied to puppets, object and also nature. This principle continues to allow the artist itself (the artist alone with himself) to manage on its own the entire process of working. From the very beginning the artist reflect with irony and lightness as is typical of the cleverly use of graphic design. It’s a sign that has developed from the photographic emulsion inability to encode in black and white all the colors allowing a quick “tracing” and then move on to puppets that come alive until getting to the caricature of both the characters and the technique necessary to the existence of the phenomenon. Blackton, Cohl, Sullivan, Fleischer, Sarg are some of the pioneers who created all sorts of this amazing things and who has been forgotten.
Blackton Sketches n. 1 Thomas Edison 1896
James Stewart Blackton, of English origins, was an extraordinary draftsman who performed also in music halls opening for the magician Alber Smith. Also a cartoonist for the newspaper New York World, he was involved in the American testing of the emerging cinematograph. He painted from life a portrait of the inventor Thomas Alva Edison in his Black Maria Studio. Blackton then started using Edison’s invention in his own shows and together they founded the Vitagraph Co. of America Company in 1987. He could be considered the inventor of stop motion, originally using chalk, eraser and blackboard and then cut out paper. He continued to experience as a director and producer until the New York stock market crash in 1929.
Le theatre du petit Bob – Gaston Velle 1906
Gaston Velle was one of the pioneers of special effects in French movies, after starting his career as a magician and illusionist. He works with Lumiere brothers, even if he is most remembered for his collaboration with La Pathe, in competition with the pioneer par excellence of special effects and trick movies Georges Melies. In 1907 he was hired by Cines and he become the first fiction director in Italy. Despite accusations of plagiarism he come back to England and started working again.
Le binettoscole – Émile Cohl 1010
Emile Courtet, Cohl, draws, shoots and writes comedies. He is hired in Gaumont as subjectivist. In 1908 he has the possibility to “draw” a movie, Fantasmagorie. From this particular moment he gave life to different things, also to cinema, with a great curiosity, expertise and fantasy. In his endless need to always change variable, he touched pre optical styles, pre surrealism, pre attraction and pre he was completely aware of. Hired at Eclair he arrived in America in 1912 where his work started to be studied and copied, paving the way to the great made in USA animation.
Charley on the farm – Otto Messmer, Paul Sullivan 1919
Pat Sullivan, of Australian origins, started to publish satirical drawings in Great Britain and then in America where he opened a studio in 1917 inventing an award character, Felix the Cat. It achieved a very impressive success, approaching soon to printed paper. It is the first important hero in printed paper in celluloid world. It allowed the studio to dedicate itself also to other kind of characters, like a little caricature of Chaplin. Sullivan was an alcoholic and that didn’t help his career, because the stories and drawings belonged to Otto Messer, a submissive employee. It will be only after his boss death that he will claim his authorship.
The original movie – Tony Sarg 1922
Tony Sarg, of Sud American origins, was of the most famous American puppeteers. In the 20’ he dedicated himself to animation, realizing cut out papers silhouettes. His characters act on an essential background, foreshadowing a proto Filonstones Stone Age seasoned by a strong sense of irony.
Felix in Hollywood – Pat Sullivan 1923
A starving actor, reduced to trying his luck in the movies, travels to Hollywood. His cat, Felix, poses as a travel bag and comes along. That’s the plot, in which Felix also meets some real actors, such as Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. DeMille.
KOKO the Clown – Dave Fleischer, Max Fleischer 1924
The Fleischer bothers, German immigrants, took their fist steps in animation movies after the rotoscope invention, a device that allowed for animation to be more lifelike by tracing motion picture footage of human movement. So the competition between the two brothers, Max and Koko, started. In Koko series gave birth to the sensual Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor Men. Other important characters will be brought to life in this studio (like Superman) in real competition with Disney, also thanks to new technologies (sound – like in CARTOONS FACTORY -, colors and 3D animation).