the masterworks of the earliest years of animation
December 30, 2019 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Although it's more recent than the proto-animation discussed in the article, this reminds me of how much I enjoyed the 1961 Czech film The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (here's a trailer for the restored version, which is on the Criterion Channel). It's as audacious and innovative as Into the Spider-Verse, but the animation is more like Gustave Doré meets Terry Gilliam. It's magnificent!
posted by oulipian at 3:45 PM on December 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was somewhat disappointed in the piece, specifically in this section:

McCay’s third film, “Gertie the Dinosaur,” introduced what became a beloved character, likely the first to be born in an animated film. Gertie, a lumbering and amiable beast, emerges from a cave. McCay renders her delicately, taking pains to have the small wrinkles of her body undulate with her breathing. The animator “talks” with Gertie in the title cards and, like a circus trainer, commands her to raise one foot and then another—and even draws himself as a tiny character entering the prehistoric landscape with her.

Brody has either chosen to ignore, or never learned in his research for the piece, the fact that McCay toured the Gertie films in vaudeville. McCay, in part, created the Gertie films as an element of live performance, in which he stood outside the projected film, in person, and as noted above, directed his performer’s actions - before, to the delight and shock of the audience, apparently climbing into the frame of the film and riding off into the distance.

All of this is easily learned from the monumental bio of McCay by John Canemaker, Winsor McCay: His Life and Art. While this omission does not undermine the overall thrust of Brody’s linked essay, I found it disappointing, and for me, it called into question the breadth of research that contributed to the work’s composition.
posted by mwhybark at 4:32 PM on December 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

Boo! No mention of Lotte Reiniger and her cut paper animation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:22 AM on December 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this. I've been rewatching early Looney Tunes* with my young kids, and they are just stupendous. I have been reading more and more about animation. I am a bit worried (as with all things that catch my interest now) that my interest just shows that I'm an old least it isn't American history.

*Gotta be careful and pre-screen them, they can switch from cute to horribly offensive in seconds.
posted by OmieWise at 6:33 AM on December 31, 2019

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