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Animation Rarities Online

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin May 29, 2010 at 4:00AM

Cartoonist J. Stuart Blackton in front of the 1900 drawing that magically comes to life.
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Cartoonist J. Stuart Blackton in front of the 1900 drawing that magically comes to life.


Film archives have been doing wonderful work for decades, rescuing and preserving rare, important films, but unless you happen to live in the city where one of these institutions resides, or have the ability to travel to film festivals, you may not have had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labors. That’s one reason I’m so grateful for the Treasures from American Film Archives DVDs from the National Film Preservation Foundation, and so pleased that funding has finally been gathered from a variety of sources for an upcoming set on the American West.(for more information, click HERE.)

Now the UCLA Film and Television Archive has unveiled a new initiative to make some of its rare holdings in the field of silent animation available online. My old pal Jerry Beck (www.cartoonbrew.com) and talented animation director Bill Kroyer hosted an event to screen—

—some of these rare films and launch the website. This is a team effort, of course, but I want to single out UCLA Senior Film Preservationist Jere Guldin, who has a particular passion for vintage animation.

By clicking HERE you can access, or download, an initial selection of eleven rare silent films, from J. Stuart Blackton’s pioneering 1900 Edison short The Enchanted Drawing to a sample of Marcus’ weird and whimsical Animated Hair series from the 1920s. You can screen each short silent, listen to one of Michael Mortilla’s music scores, or in some cases listen to Guldin discuss the challenge of preserving that particular film. Written notes are provided by Jerry Beck, with an overall introduction by fellow animation historian Mark Langer.

One of the caricatures that is revealed in
Marcus' Animated Hair short.

Perhaps the most unusual short in the collection has little to do with animation, per se: it’s a promotional film for the 1926 feature The Lost World, which showcased the amazing stop-motion animation work of Willis O’Brien. Unlike the original preview trailer, which is also available on the site, this one is an early example of product tie-ins, as it touts a hand-held Lost World puzzle game!

I hope this is just the first step in a larger process of making rare films available online. And kudos to my colleagues at the National Film Preservation Foundation for funding this initiative.

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