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.
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)
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.