Animation History
September 24, 2014 posted by

A Frank Moser Mystery


I got an interesting packet in the mail a few weeks ago. It came from London – and I wasn’t expecting it. It was a flat thin barely padded envelope. Not very sturdy, you could fold it in half with ease. I didn’t recognize the return address, but I cut the tape of the side to have a look inside. As soon as I did that – the contents started to expand – like an inflatable life raft. That’s when I started taking pictures. (click thumbnails below to enlarge).

I could see this packet was filled with drawings and cells… old ones. Very old ones. I slid them out carefully. The cels were warped. The paper was brittle. How these things made it to my mailbox intact was beyond me. Alas, some of the paper ripped; some of the cels crumbled before my eyes.

moser1moser-2moser-3moser-4 cel-warped

So what was this stuff – and who sent it?? About a year ago I got a call from a British fellow who found me on the internet. He was an older gent, a retired, former broadcast journalist who wrote and reported from from the U.S. but lived between New York and London.

In the 1980s he lived in upstate Hastings-On-Hudson, New York in a house formerly owned by pioneer animator Frank Moser. When he returned to London he had the contents of the house moved to England. The movers took everything including a bunch of drawings, cels and film canisters that were in the attic.

He had forgot about the drawings and films for years, storing them in his London house – until now in his retirement, he’s decided to figure out what this material is and see if there is any way to preserve it. I was but one of a few people he reached out to. I know what you are thinking… and let me jump to the answer: Serge Bromberg (Lobster Films Archive) now has the films.

As for the drawings and cels – I asked him to take a picture with his phone and send me a jpeg. Instead he sent me a bunch of them, crammed in a manila envelope. Amazingly they arrived in relatively good shape all things considered.

There were few cels that practically disintegrated into tiny chips as soon as I opened the envelope. Are they on nitrate? I can’t say. Check out these “work sheets” from “Scene 12”. Primitive exposure sheets. Fascinating stuff! (click images below to enlarge)

moser-7pioneer1pioneer2pioneer-3 pioneer-4pioneer-7 pioneer-sheets-600

What film is this from? He said these were in a folder marked THE PIONEER. I have no idea what this film was – an industrial? An Aesop’s Fable?

Charlie Judkins says Moser made a cartoon for the National Federation of Wildlife around 1936 or 1937, “something to do with water level issues during the depression.” Could this be from that film? I asked Tom Stathes if these cels looked familiar – within a few minutes, Tom unearthed this silent print from his archive. His film came from the University of Arizona and was labeled “Once Upon A Time“. The print itself has no main title… but it was a match!

The mystery continues. If anyone has any more information on this mysterious Frank Moser film, please send it our way.


  • Wow! Happy half-birthday.

  • What a heartbreaker, in a way.
    But it’s great to see what made it through! I especially like the tiny crowd of snowman-headed people stuffed into that trolley (or train car, or whatever). I would never have tried to get away with that level of simplification in a cartoon, but it works so well!
    Makes me wanna do the Charleston.

  • I think it would the National Wildlife Federation….note above…and transpose the name of that nonprofit….

  • Did Frank Moser work on any Jam Handy films? This might be one. On the other hand, this would be too enviromental for a company that did industrial commercial films.

  • A very unusual combination of “technical-diagram” animation with comic-style cartooning a la Terrytoons, yet with a serious intent that must have left an impression on audiences who saw it, especially during the “dust bowl” 1930’s when this was current news.

  • Audio Cinema?

    Paging Steve Stanchfield

  • That is wonderful, A lost Frank Moser. It looked so much like his style, I don’t think it could be anything but that. From a Frank Moser Fan,

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