Silent animation online

A trailer for The Lost World, from

Acknowledgments to the Nitrateville discussion forum for news of this latest discovery. The UCLA Film and Television Archive has produced Silent Animation, a section of its website which offers eleven animation films from the silent era for viewing online or download. The films cover all kinds of silent animation productions, including lightning sketches (a ‘lightning’ artist filmed drawing a caricature), hand-drawn animation, stop-frame animation, cut-out animation, animated letters, and films which integrate live action with animation.

These are the eleven film on offer:

A Pool Plunge (1920)
Burr’s Novelty Review
Animator, J.J. McManus

Animated Hair Cartoon (1925)
Red Seal Pictures

Bob’s Electric Theatre (1906)
Pathé frères
Director, Gaston Velle (animation by Segundo de Chomón)

How Jones Lost His Roll (1905)
Director, Edwin S. Porter

Indoor Sports (1920)
International Film Service
Animator, Paul D. Robinson

Joys and Glooms (1921)
International News Corp.
Animator, John C. Terry

The Enchanted Drawing (1900)
With, J. Stuart Blackton

The Lost World – Promotional Film (1925)
First National

The Lost World – Trailer (1925)
First National

The Wandering Toy (1928)
Lyman H. Howe Films Co., Inc
Director, Robert E. Gillaum
Animator, Archie N. Griffith

Theatre De Hula Hula (19–)

Each film can be viewed silent, with piano score, with a music score or with a commentary from the film’s preservationist. The download options for each are MPEG-2 (at 8Mbps) or MPEG4 (at 1.1Mbps). You can also view notes by preservationist Jere Guldin and historian Jerry Beck, which are available in longer form as downloadable PDFs. There are also sections giving background information on the UCLA project to preserve and make accessible its silent animation holdings, on the music (commissioned from Michael D. Mortilla), a study guide (which lists many other silent animation films held by the UCLA archive), and an historical overview of animation in the silent era written by Mark Langer, which situates the animation film within the histories of pre-cinema motion picture devices, newspaper cartoons, and early film. As Langer observes, all films at this time were, to a degree, seen as animation films:

Animation’s silent era was a period of discovery and experimentation in which animation was not yet regarded as a separate subset of the cinema at large. Indeed, in the first years of film’s existence as a medium, movies commonly were referred to as “animated films,” based on the principle that all motion pictures were still objects (be they photographs or drawings) magically brought to life through the cinematographic apparatus. What were to be the separate forms of live-action and animated cinema both drew on those pre-existing mass media and entertainments.

It’s a helpful account of the roots of animation film and of the world in which early film in general was situated. All in all this is a most impressive resource, thoughtfully presented with educational and research use in mind. The help notes state that the films are all presumed to be in the public domain; the silent versions are published with a Creative Commons licence “to encourage free and unlimited repurpose for educational use or remix”. All music on the site is copyright Michael D. Mortilla. All written text is published with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States Licence.

Lucky us. Go explore.

3 responses

  1. The internet is a wonderful place. Twenty years ago people would have thought us crazy if we said everyone could see these movies for free at any time we desired.

  2. It sure is a wonderful place, but what will be interesting will be to see what happens next. The Internet is becoming to natural place to find moving image content (and anything else for that matter). Just as you expect to find the book want in a library, so you now expect to find whatever film you are looking for online. Broadcasting has effectively gone that way and is now looking to see how best to do the same with its archives. Feature films are ever increasingly available through multiple outlets, including download. More and more content which can’t be made available to all for third party reasons is nevertheless can be made available to educational users (particularly in the UK). The result could be – should be – that public money can be concentrated that much more towards the difficult stuff, that which is culturally valuable but needs some investment to get it preserved, digitised and put online. Which is good for things like early animation films, I hope.

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