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.
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.
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,