Archivos de la categoría CINEMA HISTORY

BEETLESAND WIRES. THE STOP MOTION IS BORN! THE BIRTH OF STOP-MOTION. PART I

My gratitude to Isabel, responsible of this amazing meeting.

Sometimes life kisses us in the mouth, in a surprise. And that is the most beautiful day.

Usually, most of the articles are written by filling them with dates, names and places that can easily be found online. But, I always wonder what kind of information  the reader can achieve with that.

To me, names, dates, and numbers are almost impossible to be remembered . However, I never forget a  man’s story, and that feeling I get when I understand his work. It is not possible to appreciate someone’s work if you know nothing about the author. I love to study about stories, fantasies and narratives because I really believe that every meaning of human life is in there. We need to realise that these meanings are the basement of the human soul.

AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER

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A couple of days ago, Isabel, a friend, invited me to visit the local village’s museum, Nogent Sur Marne Museum. She insisted. I am a writer, so I am always curious. You never know what is around the next corner waiting to surprise you. The Nogent Sur Marne Museum is a little space with some pictures from the XIX century given by the local generosity, showing country scenes.

 

At this moment, and until 31th May, there is a small temporary exhibition about the history of the cinema in the area; I will share that interesting part with you some other day.

Here is the web of the museum of Nogent Sur Marne.

I walked to the end of the exhibition where a small space hides a surprise inside a couple of glass cases. Like some lost treasure from a pirate’s map, quietly protected behind the glasses a century old piece of animation looked at me silently. I could not believe what was before my very eyes! The old Lion Queen herself from the Tale of the Fox, Le Romand de Renard, 1930, joined by her loyal troubadour cat who carries on playing and singing his sweet love song always close to his beloved queen.


….. You know how much I love you, meow, meow, I won’t go away, meow, meow, as you know, you own my heart give me yours. Tonight, in the moonlight with ecstasy, meow, meow, I want to say you’re my only love, meow…..

I still can hear the magical sound coming from the cat’s instrument.
They are not alone, with them are a couple of rats from The Town Rat and the Country Rat, 1926; some diabolic creatures from the hell from the glorious The Mascot, 1934, and a couple of insects from earlier legendary films like The Cameraman’s Revenge, 1912– a century old.

Like an old Norma Desmond walking down through the stairs, shining again for a second under the camera lights, at the end of the (also forgotten)
Sunset Boulevard, these old puppets pose for my camera-phone smiling again as if the times of their greatest moments had come back (thanks to my honest admiration).

I wish to ask them for an autograph, have the opportunity to sit down and talk. I cannot even imagine what kind of amazing things these old puppets could explain if they could talk. I would give a hand to have the opportunity to take pictures of these puppets properly, making them sparkle again.

I was a professional photographer once, and now I feel like a child putting the objective of my spontaneous camera in front of the display trying desperately to steal a smile from these old characters that I know well from years ago. Just as if I was five, and that was a shop window in Christmas, and I was wishing the toys inside would be mine but now I know that I can have them. I have come back a couple of times to visit them again at the museum, only to be sure that I was actually watching the real ones.

Ladislas Starewitch is a man to be remembered, and today I want to honour him, one of the main, but forgotten, master of animation and cinema the world has ever known.

SO, WHO ARE YOU, STAREWITCH AND WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT YOU?

Well, guys, I have the pleasure of introducing you to the real father of STOP MOTION !

Ladislas Alexandrowitch Starewitch was born on 8th of August, 1882 in Moscow. Son of Alexandre Starewicz and Antonina Legiecka, members of the small Polonaise aristocracy from a village then called Surviliskis in Lituania, then part of the Russian Empire. Alexandre, his father, took part in the January Insurrection of 1863, and because of that, he had to go into exile to Moscow, where Ladislas was born. After the death of his mother and his sister’s too, his father decided to send him to live with his maternal grandfather in Kaunas where he grew up in a feminine universe. Probably was there where his love for fairy tales started.

I imagine him like a little stubborn kid, expelled from school because he was too independent; and he had a critical mind. Interested in almost everything, he was a self-taught man; always curious, always wanted to prove and taste everything. He knew pretty well what he wanted and he was always ready for doing whatever was necessary to achieve it.

Later it was in Kaunas, Lithuania, where he got married to Anna Zimmermann, and where his first daughter was born , Irina- his future assistant director, and his passion for cinema.
The director of the Kovno Ethnography Museum, Tadas Daugirdas, asked him to photograph the countryside and film folk ceremonies. There, he shot his very first live-action film, Beyond the River Niemen, in 1909. In 1910, he became director of the museum as well. Starewitch carried on making films, sometimes ethnographies, and sometimes about the life of the insects like Zukow Walka, The Dragonfly life in 1909. Always with the support of Daugirdas, he decided to make a film about a combat between the beetles Lucanus cervix with a pedagogic objective for the museum. But that kind of insects have a night life and they did not always want to fight in front of the camera; other times they simply died under the intense lights of the stage.

AN INGENIOUS FRENCH SOLUTION

At that time, cinema was as young as extended  everywhere, especially French cinema.France was the motherland of the invention and in the first decade of the 1900s, the French companies, like Gaumont and Pathé, were the kings of the business, known all around the world. In 1907, Pathé had a Russian branch in Moscow. There, Joseph N. Ermolieff was hired as a projectionist to later become director of Pathé-Russia. Pathé, Gaumont and Eclair hoarded until 1910-11 75% of the films produced and distributed in Russia. Emile Cohl, so called the Father of the animation, became a start for Gaumont; later he worked for Pathé, both of them with an office in Russia at that moment. Thus, it’s not surprising that Starewitch watched Emile Cohl’s rudimentary but effective 2D animation work  and a stop motion animation made out of paper cuts in the local cinema.
That was an inspiration for Starewitch and his beetle problem; he decided to work with the dead beetles filling them with wires so he would be able to move them like Cohl animated the paper cuts in his film. Then, with the patience of Jacob, and some dead beetles filled with wires, he produced a film, shooting picture by picture. That innovative way of moving his characters meant the birth of a new kind of cinema making. Piękna Lukanida, Lucanus Cervus in 1910 was his first movie. The Stop Motion Animation had been born!

MOSCOW

Animated by the success of his first film, Starewitch wrote and directed his first scripts. Until the beginning of the war, there were three companies that dominated the Russian market: the Russian subsidiary of Pathé, Thiman & Reinhardt, and Kanzhonkov.

Kanzhonkov was the most important pre-revolutionary cinema entrepreneur. From a newspaper publication Aleksandr Khanzhonkov, the most relevant Russian director and producer of films at that moment, found out that a certain young clerk in Lithuania had been taking prizes for fancy Christmas dresses made of wrappings and hay. Not knowing exactly what it could come out of this offer, Khanzhonkov immediately invited Starevich to Moscow. Starewitch worked with him until the Revolution of  October forces both of them to leave the country.

This was a great period. Starewitch made two dozen films; most of them animating dead animals as a puppets. La Bella Lucanide 1912 inspired by the opera bouffe, The Beautiful Helena by Jacques Offenbach, gave him international fame. The result was above all expectations – many of the viewers were convinced that the insects on the screen were real trained beetles.
And after that, The Ant and the Grasshopper, a version of the Aesop’s fables, was the first film produced by a Russian company and distributed around the world. More than 140 copies were made. Zar Nicolas II offered a reward to Aleksandr Khanzhonkov who worked on it as the producer, and to Starewitch as director, which allowed him to go ahead with his work and have a better live. That was the first time the Zar gave such an honour to anybody. It was a remarkable success.
In 1912, he had his own movie studio inside his home in Moscow. Working with Khanzhonkov as the producer, he makes The Revenge of a Kinematograph Cameraman, 1912, the best-known film of this period.

It was a beautiful time for him. His second daughter, Jeanne, who would be known as Nina Star for being the main star of most of his films, was born in 1913.
I love watching this little girl in Starewitch’s movies. I can  imagine the whole family working on it together. The mother made the costumes for the puppets. The sister was the assistant director and she was the main actress. Everyone had a role in this game. That is a great childhood.

During those years, he worked with real actors as well, and made live action films but, unfortunately, not one of those films survived. When the World War I broke out, he had already directed more than twenty films with some of the most famous Russian actors of that era, like Ivan Mozzhukhim. Particularly remarkable is The Night Before Christmas, 1913 that is an adaptation of the Nikolai Gogol story. His film Terrible Vengeance, 1913 won a gold medal at an international festival in Milan in 1914, being one of the five films which won awards among 1005 contestants.

PUPPETS, FILMMAKERS, REVOLUTION AND WAR.

The start of the twenty century was a hard time. Everything was changing; new countries like EEUU were emerging; new technologies; new communication systems; new philosophies, and new working class system too. New revolutionary ideas were springing up everywhere. It was a convulsion. In 1914, the first global war in the history breaks up, and in 1917, the Russian Revolution. The revolution hampered Khanzhonkov’s business. Ladislas Starewitch lost his comfortable life and tried to go ahead by working for other diverse producers. In Russia, the situation became hard day by day and Starewitch, like thousands of other cinema workers, decided to go out of the country in 1918. In 1920, the Red Army won and Lenin set implementation of a decree on the nationalisation of film industries. The studio team of Ermolieff, the old chief of Pathé branch, decided to go to France, via Constantinople.

Starewitch left Moscow in 1918, going to Odessa first, and then to Yalta, Crimea, where Khanzhonkov had also gone to. But before the Red Army conquered Crimea, he decided to go to Italy. It was not too long when he opted to go to Paris like thousands of Russians did.

FRANCE

After the January Insurrection, 1863 a big number of Russian refugees had gone to France; to the Paris suburbs. In the 1880’s there were an estimated 5,000 Russian emigrants in or near the French Capital. Maybe because of that, after the new revolutionary moment, Russians turned their eyes to Paris again. On the other hand, before the World War I, this area was the European Hollywood, thus made a lot of sense that the community of Russian cinema workers decided to choose the place.

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In 1922, there were approximately 70,000 Russian exiles in France, and the number reached a peak of 175,000 in 1930. Starewitch and his family arrived in 1920, to Joinville-le-Pont first, also called “the little Hollywood”, the most important centre of French cinema production at that moment, but finally he settles in Fontenay-sous-Bois, which is really close to  where I am living right now. He lived in Fontenay until his death in 1965.

It was then when Владисла́в Алекса́н дрович Старе́вич, or Vladislavas Starevičius, changed his name to Ladislas Starevitch, as it was easier to pronounce in French and in English. However, he used to sign with Starewitch, that being the reason I am using this version. I saw his signature and I prefer to respect his own way.

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I am pretty sure that I am walking the same streets that Starewitch did. Since I met his puppets, I look for him in every corner. I can imagine his arrival. The Spanish and the French are “cousins”. All of us are Latins, sons of the Romans. Our cathedral, our medieval streets and our passion for food is the same. However, I am an outsider here, an outlander. My problems are things like pointing my finger at the right cake in the bakery or not feeling too ridiculous trying to pronounce correctly the few French words that I know when I need it.

How it would have been if you were Russian, in a world just after a world war, almost one hundred years ago, I wonder. That I cannot imagine.
I have been a script teacher for a while. I have always felt that when we are teaching dates, names, and places, we are not actually “teaching” anything at all. When you tell the young ones that “Starewitch was the father of the stop motion” they feel invidious and small. “Starewitch and the others were great men, you are not”; this is what they hear. Nobody is showing them the real, human part of the history. Looks like one day someone wakes up and become the most famous director ever; invents stop motion; builds Disneyland from nowhere, or discover the relativity because today is the day. Being famous is the only thing that is important nowadays. Some idiot will call it “success”. But life is a process; a complicated, private and long one. And money is only a tool, not a goal. Unfortunately, we are hiding this part as if it was something dirty and shameful. However, if you ask me, this part is the only really interesting one.

II part: A RUSSIAN IN PARIS.THE BIRTH OF STOP-MOTION. PART II

See the pictures of the post in the Instagram count of the instagram.com/lasmusasnoavisan #pllTHEBIRTHOFSTOPMOTION

New pictures appear every day!

CARTOONS FOR CHILDREN, OR MAYBE NOT. II PART THE HAPPY 20’S

I PART, THE BEGINNINGS.

II: THE HAPPY 20’s
pharma-chemical-employees-1920-s-for-webFrom the late 19th century everything had changed in the new world. The working class had been growing fed by thousands and thousands of new immigrants, who, unlike the first ones who came from Britain, Canada, Germany, Ireland and Scandinavia, these arrived from Hungary, Italy, Poland and Russian. The new immigrants were often Catholics and Jewish and, often as well, their cultural and religious heritage collided with the one of the first colonists.312517041

Cinema and cartoons were the main forms of entertainment in cities, a cheap ticket to dream for a while trying barely to escape from a harsh life. Cinema was not only inexpensive so that everybody could go, but it also was silent, so you did not need to speak English to understand the film, and in this way, 20080308194734!Auditorium_Theatre_in_Torontoimmigrants became a very significant volume of the audience.

It was September of a happy 1921 when newspaper showed a new face of the Rosco Abaco “Fatty”, farbuckle 5glamorous joyful dreamed Hollywood.
Rosco Abaco “Fatty”, one the best paid and most famous Hollywood stars was charged with raped and murder. It was a social shock, especially because Rosco was a naive and innocent comic character. Rosco was charged for killing Virginia Rappe, another star, with his weight while savagely raping her. After three days of a wild party, Virginia was translated from a destroyed suite of the hotel to the hospital where she died some days later. Rosco was declared innocent of all the charges, but his career was finished, and the public opinion was convinced of his culpability.
TAYLORBut, Rosco was not alone. February 1, 1922, William Desmond Taylor, one of the most famous movie directors, was murdered in his bungalow in the West Lake District of Los Angeles. He had been shot in the back by a 38 caliber revolver. Taylor’s murder became one of the most sensational cases in the annals of Hollywood crime and one that has never been close to being solved.
Hollywood land of dreams had a dark side and this affected to the box office. The enormous weight of the new immigrants with their traditional Catholics and Jewish moral ideas let showed all his power in the answer of the audiences to the new Hollywood face, and they were not ready to accept this kind of behaviour. The producers had serious reasons to be worried. The forces of moral new-york-1920s-prohibition3conservatism, fresh from their triumph of adding a prohibition against alcohol to the United States Constitution, prepared to challenge the film world. They started to claim to ask the government for some federal action; voices began calling for censorship of the movies, and the box office went down.
The movie industry needed to be put their house in order, and Will Hays was going to be the man for the task. On 14 March 1922, The Association of Motion Picture Producers, and The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc MPPDA, made Hays the first president of it, with an office on Fifth Avenue in New York. He accepted a salary of SI 15,000 per annum (about 8600,000 in 1986 dollars), a prepaid life insurance policy, plus an almost unlimited expense account.

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Hays’s first move was to strengthen the finances of the new trade association. He approached New York bankers whom he knew from his days as head of the Republican party and within a week had set up a line of credit which put the MPPDA on stable economic footing. Such quick action impressed his new bosses. With his political connections, he demonstrated that he was the right man for the job. Then, he created a formal public relations arm of the MPPDA to deal with the religious groups, educational organizations, and other parties so concerned with the presumed negative influence of the movies.

It was Hays who, in 1927, established the Copyright Protection Bureau to register titles of films and thus head off disputes over duplication. The next year saw the establishment of a formal committee on labour relations. This interest in
Labour resulted in the formation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 1928, today well known for its annual Oscar Awards, but the Hays Office had created the academy to provide a forum for labour disputes.

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PART I. THE BEGINNINGS 

PART III AND LAST. THE CODE

Pepa Llausas

CARTOONS FOR CHILDREN, OR MAYBE NOT. I PART, THE BEGINNINGS.

We are in Big Cartoons Database too! Have a look!

The idea that cartoons were born for children is pretty common. However, as far away from the reality. Since Disney became the king of the land, turning animation part of the film industry, his philosophy had been dominating the market until the end of the century. But, animation, not even in Walt Disney intentions, was never only for kids. We must not forget that Disney is more interested in being wearing with the moral of the times than in understanding the child’s mind. For more painful it could be, Disney himself, barely before to die, said that it was never an artistic point, it was always a business, and while the box office worker that meant the people wanted it because that is what all is about and it was always!

Then, everything started with Disney?

Yes and not. Better start from the beginning.

In the early 20th century EEUU was inside of a thick and speed industrialization process. The modern America was born during the so-called “America’s formative period”, between the late 19th and the early 20th centuries when an agrarian society of small producers was transformed into an urban society dominated by industrial corporations. And, a little place called Hollywood was a good example of that. At the beginning of the 20th century, Hollywood was anything else than an orange plantation. One day, “D. W.” Griffith passed for there and thought that it was a perfect place for shooting, full of wonderful opened landscapes, peaceful people, and sun. It was 1910 when he shot “In Old California” the very first film ever filming in Hollywood.  Three years later, C.C. B. Demille arrived to shoot “The Squaw Man”, the very first production filming.

The largest production company, at late 19th and early 20th centuries, was the French Pathe, until the I World War arrival. It was in 1914. Four years later, 1918 the world had changed and Hollywood was about to become a new power in a new era without any barrier in front of it. Like a volcanic explosion, the development of the new industry was a phenomenon that seemed to have own life, and this was unstoppable.

Mary Pickford - Ziegfeld - c. 1920s - by Alfred Cheney Johnston. Restored by Nick and jane for Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans Website: http://www.doctormacro.com/index.html. Enjoy!
Mary Pickford  1920s

In 1909, the Selig Polyscope Company established the first permanent studio in the Los Angeles area.  In 1910, the “Star System” knew his very first American name: Florence Lawrence, the “Biograph Girl.” Barely later, Mary Pickford became the first million dollar contract, the “America’s Sweetheart”. Long before 1920 Hollywood already was Hollywood and the actual nature of the blood in his veins was as well already crystal clear, money. Nobody could imagine how big it was going to be, how capable of influencing the public opinion and the individuals the existences of the Star System was going to be.

 

 

In that decade animation was still looking for his way. In 1911, Mc Cay had imagesmade “Little Nemo” that was a remarkable success, to the point that four years later Mc Cay decided to put colour in the film, and he did it by hand frame by frame. Gertie the Dinosaur saw the light the year of the First World War, 1914. This same year, John Bray opened his studios and made animation series, “Colonel Heeza Liar”, possibly, if not the very first recurring cartoon character ever created. In 1915, Max Fleischer, who was then Art Editor for Popular Science Magazine, invented the rotoscope. Bray, who was already making his animation series, was intrigued by Fleischer’s invention.

 

KOKOHe decided put Max’s brother in a clown suit hired Max with the idea to make a series about a clown, “Koko,” going out of the inkwell; the thought of the famous “Out of the Inkwell” series was born. But with the arrival of the war, Bray KokotheClown-decided to send Max and Jack Eventual, a brilliant mechanical draftsman, to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma where they made some first training films for the US Army. Koko, the clown, had to wait for better times. After the break, Max came back to New York and finally started to make “Koko, out of the inkwell” for Bray Studios. The success of “Little Nemo” probably was an inspiration for “Out of the Inkwell” series, which, in turn, was an inspiration for Disney’s “Alice Comedies” series.

 

It is remarkable the work by Mc Cay, who, always looking for innovations, made “The Sinking of the Lusitania” in 1918. It was a real action film, with the first integrated animation scenes, about re-creating the never photographed 1915 sinking of the British liner RMS Lusitania. At twelve minutes it has been called the longest work of animation at the time of its release. The film is the earliest surviving animated documentary and severe, dramatic work of animation. It is a work of propaganda, maybe the first one in animation. It affected in deeply the public opinion about the war and the role what EEUU must play in it.

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“The Sinking of the Lusitania” in 1918

Until 1928, the animation was a vanishing novelty. During the 20’s less than 23% of theatres carried animated short, the demand wasn’t high for them. “Felix the Cat” and “Out of the Inkwell” were the only series of importance of that period, and even they were starting to lose steam by the closing of the decade. However, “Felix the Cat”, who came right from comic strips, had been able to develop merchandising about himself.   Koko the Clown, the protagonist of the “Out of the Inkwell” series by Fleischer Studios, was, without any doubt, a successful series, but far away from the real life films capacity to produce money. Cartoons were slower and complicated to produce than real films and the results were good for entertainment and laugh but anything else. Cartoons were not for children, but they neither could produce the deep emotions than audiences experimented with real actions films.

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“Felix the Cat,” created by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer, saw the light in 1919 with “Feline Follies,” Paramount Pictures. It will be a hugely successful throughout the 1920s. The world must wait until 1922 for Disney opened Laugh O Grams first studios, and two years more, 1923 for he decided to move to the Hollywood land of gold. And nobody, not creators, no distributors, not the audience, had any thought about the necessity of any calcification for films or advises about the contents. There were no distinctions of any age. There were films and cartoons. And, sometimes, cartoons in films or real life stars in cartoons.

During the 10’s, Hollywood went from being a good place for oranges to become the world capital of cinema. It would be not a geographic location in a map anymore; it had converted in the Emerald City of Oz, the place where the Star lived and everything was possible, the capital of glamour, hedonism, and fun. And, of course, eccentricity, dreams, and money. At the end of the decade, Hollywood was a truly gold mine which a clear reason for existing, make money. You could make whatever you wanted, but, the principle was clear, whatever you want if it means money.  That is what it’s all about…

HOLLYWOOD 5The called Star System was surprised but itself, and his powerful capacity to make money and move masses. At the end of the decade, First National Pictures was one of the largest film companies. It opened a studio in Burbank in 1917 and signed a contract with Charlie Chaplin, it was a nine picture deal, becoming the first actor with a million-dollar deal. Next year, the company signed a new millionaire contract with Mary Pickford. But, no one was better to pay than Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was lured in 1918 by the first multiplier, multi-million dollar a year deal to make six feature films within three years with Paramount. And, remember, one million dollars in 1920 had not the same value than now. Life smiled to Hollywood, and nothing and nobody seemed able to stop it.

Animation was in his way, but that was a bit slower than real action films. Everything looked to be smooth, perfect and millionaire for Hollywood business. But, there is always a “but”.
PART II THE HAPPY 20’S

PART III THE CODE