Hello everyone! I’m Tom Stathes, early animation historian and archivist. Your sitemaster Jerry Beck has graciously allowed me to share some information about a couple of important upcoming events involving my film collection which should be of general interest to readers. Thanks Jerry! I hope it’s the first of many guest posts. Before I begin, though, I might as well go into my background a bit for those who may be unfamiliar with my work.
Above: In the film print archive with a certain well-known animation historian
Like many cartoonophiles under the age of 40, I grew up with VHS tapes surrounding me. It seemed that any birthday, holiday, or even a simple trip to the drugstore resulted in a couple of new, inexpensive VHS tapes containing old cartoons from the 1930s and 40s. I know this was commonplace for most children in the 80s and 90s, but for some reason that is still unclear to me, my interest in the contents of these tapes grew to the point where I spent a lot of time thinking about and trying to find more of these cartoons. Eventually, I learned there were a couple books on the subject of animation history–penned by the likes of Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck, and others–which I immediately consumed.
Above: A tiny portion of the Stathes early animation collection
I should also mention that for yet another unknown reason, I was always more fascinated by black and white cartoons as a toddler, some of which were included in those cheap Public Domain VHS tapes. Minnie’s Yoo Hoo, Smile Darn Ya Smile, Bosko in Hold Anything, Felix Turns the Tide and others come to mind. When I eventually read in the history books that there were not only hundreds, but thousands of cartoons produced before the color Golden Age classics we all love, I simply had to see more of them. I also learned that plenty cartoons were produced in the silent-era, and the concept of films without soundtracks intruiged me at a young age. Save for a scant releases by companies like Video Yesteryear, there was very little available from the silent era of animation to see on home video. It was no accident, but when I was eventually introduced to 16mm prints at the age of 7 or 8 (another long story), I realized that I could not count on the video distributors to find and release these curious, obscure and “lost” early animated films. I had to find them myself in 16mm film print form by digging in antique shops, scouting flea markets, and eventually corresponding with a few collectors many decades my senior. Today I’ve amassed a library of several hundred silent-era cartoons and almost as many early sound cartoons, in mostly 16mm prints with a few 35mm titles and other early, odd formats like 28mm. There are lots of stories to be told about the hunt and the finds, and it’s a most exciting and rewarding undertaking…one that I will probably discuss on Cartoon Research from time to time.
An Alice Comedy, one of Tom’s early silent animation favorites.
As I mentioned earlier, a major reason I began collecting these films and specializing in early animation specifically was the great lack of availability. My wish to see films that were written about in books in fact led to what can only be described as an obsession, but a very meaningful one! Throughout collecting, however, I kept feeling a need to share the films with the public via live events. My collection proved satisfying to me for research and enjoyment purposes, but the films were intended to be seen by audiences, and I decided it was my responsibility to exhibit them publicly once again. There were definitely other animation enthusiasts in my native New York City who were probably interested in seeing these films, and others who would watch them out of curiosity and maybe even learn to appreciate them. Out of this desire, and with some successful trial and error in one of the best cities possible, my Cartoon Carnival screening series was born in 2009.
Above: A recent screening event in Brooklyn.
Now for the event info you’ve been waiting for! If you’re in the NYC area, please consider coming out to Cartoon Carnival #15–which is happening this Friday, July 12th at LaunchPad in Brooklyn. You can find more info on show and venue specifics over at my blog. This is going to be a special one: providing the weather will be good, it will be my first 16mm screening outdoors! As such, the theme of this show will be cartoons that feature or take place in the great outdoors. Hope to see some readers there!
Above: A 1920s Aesops Fable cartoon, to be screened at Cartoon Carnival #15
If you’re on Facebook, join the Tom Stathes Cartoon Carnival group to keep up to date on screenings.