Vintage 16mm Stop-Motion – A Pleasantly Strange World

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Before digital everything a number of families, and creative sorts, purchased the old 16-or-8mm camera to film those ‘special moments’ of a day in the life. The imaginative kids quickly figured out the magic of the frame and would often take their little action figures and toys and experiment with their own kind of film-making. The above 16mm Kodachrome stop-motion test print for Camel cigarettes is pretty raw – but every person who remembers the joys of 16-or-8mm film will quickly recall that pleasantly strange world that would come alive with the passing of each frame.

If you’re curious to read more about this particular print click here to get the scoop at Cartoon Research.

The Marriage Of Movement And Music And Their First Child Named, Gumbasia

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When Art Clokey was a boy he would spend his summers on his grandfather’s farm in Michigan. He had a good pal who lived on a neighboring farm and, as boys liked to do in those days, Clokey and his pal often played with toy soldiers. Sometimes, when the battles were particularly fierce, they would need more troops. Clokey would raise them up by fashioning them out of a mixture of soil and water known as ‘gumbo’ – clay.

Some years later Art Clokey would create a children’s television icon – a kind of strange little character made of clay named Gumby.

Gumby - he's known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Gumby – he’s known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Before Art Clokey created Gumby he was an early claymation pioneer. It was his 1953 experimental claymation short, Gumbasia, that excited 20th Century Fox producer Sam Engel into giving Clokey his big break. ‘Art, that is the most exciting film I have ever seen in my life,’ Engel said. Engel envisioned a children’s television show using the idea of little claymation figures in various storylines. Giving free reign to Clokey he financed the Gumby pilot, introduced it to Tom Sarnoff at NBC Hollywood, and the rest is history.

Art Clokey’s Gumbasia was a fascinating project. Inspired by his mentor in film making, Slavko Vorkapich, Clokey wanted to work with the idea of ‘kinesthetic film principles’ which enabled him to show film forces through moving objects.

The movements exert a force on your nervous system. They pinch on your nervous system through your eye cells. When you organize the images in the movement from cut to cut, it stimulates the autonomic nervous system. It gives you added excitement and it can start a feeling of movement.

Combining the kinesthetic film principles with Vorkapich’s philosophy of film as poetry and music, Clokey created a short film unique for its time. Music wasn’t used just as a cover – it was an intrinsic part of the experience. The transformation of the objects along with their movements blend with the lyric and the pulse of the jazz. It’s a visual sound experience. It’s also the concept for what would become music video. Gumbasia might properly be considered a prototype for music videos into the future.

When Darling Gertie The Dinosaur Ushered In The Character Cartoon Age

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Gertie the Dinosaur is a 1914 American animated short film by Winsor McCay. Although not the first animated film, as is sometimes thought, it was the first cartoon to feature a character with an appealing personality. The appearance of a true character distinguished it from earlier animated “trick films”, such as those of Blackton and Cohl, and makes it the predecessor to later popular cartoons such as those by Walt Disney. The film was also the first to be created using keyframe animation. The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and was named #6 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time in a 1994 survey of animators and cartoon historians by Jerry Beck.

The Public Domain Review

Could This Be The Holy Grail Of Sci-fi Animation Film Posters? – ‘A Trip To The Moon’ 1914

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A Trip To Mars Movie Poster - Lubin 1914

A Trip To Mars Movie Poster – Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1914

This poster would be an eye-catcher even without knowing anything about it. The illustration and graphic design just pop – it’s curious and fun, not unlike a lot of circus posters of the time that were designed to project those very elements. Unfortunately the artist is unknown – to collectors the poster is not. This might well be the Holy Grail of animated film posters. Invaluable, the world’s largest online auction marketplace, has listed this A Trip To Mars poster to go on auction on January 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EST. The auction house hosting the sale, Poster Auctions International, Inc., list the estimated price of this gem as $225,000 – $275,000.

This is their description:

Siegmund Lubin, a Polish Jew who came to this country in the 1870s, founded The Lubin Manufacturing Company, one of the earliest film production firms (later becoming The Betzwood Film Co.), in Philadelphia, and by 1912 was head of America’s first movie empire. He was known as “The King of the Movies,” becoming America’s first cinema mogul.

In 1902, Georges Méliès created A Trip to the Moon based on Jules Verne’s classic novel. It was the first movie to achieve worldwide fame. Lubin and other iconic contemporaries such as Thomas Edison were cited for rampantly pirating the film. Méliès sent his brother to the United States to stop it, establishing many of the copyright laws that still stand today. However, Lubin decided that he wasn’t going to be stopped, figuring out an innovative way to avoid paying royalties to Méliès: he created one of the earliest fully animated films ever produced, an American version of A Trip to the Moon, in 1914.

Animated films were extraordinarily unusual for the time. This production opened to the public six months prior to the release of WIndsor (sic) McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur, which is often (incorrectly) cited as the beginning of movie animation. This, in fact, is the earliest film poster to ever surface representing a significant title in animation. And this is the only known specimen of it.

The design of this poster is noteworthy for its futuristic boldness and graphic clarity. There is no known surviving poster for the Méliès original film (and most probably none were produced). This is the only representation of the famous title, and one of the earliest science fiction artifacts ever discovered. Lubin went all out in this poster. He sensed that the sheer novelty of this animated film (crude and short as it was) would be worth a special marketing effort, therefore this spectacular poster. The A.B.C. company, which handled all of Lubin’s posters, gets design credit. It is doubtful that Vincent Whitman, the animator of the cartoon, had anything to do with the poster. The famed Otis plant in Cleveland (Otis Litho Co., Cleveland, OH – ed.) handled the stone lithographic work with precision.

So there you have it – a truly one-of-a-kind piece of American film history. It will be interesting to see if this rarity sells and by how much. The starting bid is $220,000. Imagine how great it would be to have an extra quarter-of-a-million dollars to spend on a fantastic little item like this.

Happy Intergalactic Thanksgiving and…Please Don’t Eat The Planet

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Warm greetings to all on this day when tradition reminds us to take time out and celebrate the good things/people in our lives. Thanks for taking time to visit this tiny space on the world-wide-web to recall the stuffs of yesteryear. While it seems that all things change – sometimes quite remarkably – some things will always stay the same: like the human needs of food, shelter, and love. Folks who have any or all of these things should treasure them, but also take a moment to think of those who do not.

Then watch this way neato Thanksgiving cartoon.  *heh*

Seven Minutes Of Terror, or How Ed Sullivan Sent A Shock Wave Across America

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From 1948 until 1971, Sunday nights were vaudeville nights on televisions across the U.S.. For twenty-three years Americans tuned in to CBS for Ed Sullivan’s ‘really big shooo…‘ From circus acts to ballet dancers, from ventriloquists to opera singers, from Elvis Presley and the Supremes, to the Beatles and The Doors, from classic vaudevillians to Broadway musicals, The Ed Sullivan Show meant variety.

Still, no one was prepared for the night of May 27, 1956. Scheduled to appear on the show were entertainment favorites like singer Kate Smith, and ventriloquist Senor Wences, as well as The Haslevs (tumblers & trampoline artists). Pretty normal fair for Sunday night – it would turn out to be anything but.

A Short Vision human meltdown.

… I’m gonna tell you if you have youngsters in the living room tell them not to be alarmed at this ‘cause it’s a fantasy, the whole thing is animated…It is grim, but I think we can all stand it to realize that in war there is no winner. – Ed Sullivan, 27 May 1956

After referencing the first test drop of an H-bomb the week previous, and giving a subtle hint of what was to come to the parents who might have been viewing the show with their children, Sullivan introduced the animated short film, A Short Vision. The live television audience were then shown the horrific vision of a nuclear apocalypse created by husband and wife team, Peter and Joan Folde:

A Short Vision (1956) | BFI National Archives

Needless to say, the airing of the film sent a shock wave across the country. The next morning the news and entertainment media enthusiastically covered the event and the reactions from the public. The New York World-Telegram and Sun reported that, (f)or some it was ‘seven minutes of terror.’ For others it was ‘the best piece of anti-war propaganda ever shown.’

With how tightly television is controlled these days, it’s highly unlikely that such a stunning surprise would ever be allowed to jump out at viewers today. The images played over and over again on September 11, 2001 were/are indeed ghastly, but that event was an unpredicted disaster. What occurred during The Ed Sullivan Show in May of 1956 was a grim warning about the all too predictable horror and destruction that awaits the world with the release of that Thing.