Before Mickey Mouse: support a new documentary about American silent animation

UPDATE July 2015 : Cartoon Carnival is now looking for completion funds. Support the film here

Well, this looks like an interesting investment. Andrew Smith, one of the brains behind the critically acclaimed Gerry Anderson documentary Filmed in Supermarionation, wants to make a new documentary about a less well-known era of animation – the silent years. He has turned to Kickstarter to fund his film, so if you like his idea, you can back Cartoon Carnival yourself. For those who pledge £1 or more, Smith is promising “a virtual hug”. Some of the other rewards are even more enticing!

To many, the history of American animated cartoons begins with the story of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Before the mouse, however, Disney was simply one of many who attempted to make their name in animated cartoons. From the earliest experiments with moving drawings, to the technical and artistic triumphs that arrived just prior to the introduction to synchronized sound, men like Winsor McCay, John R. Bray, and Max Fleischer pushed to make each cartoon better than the last. To our mind, their names deserve to be as venerated as their counterparts in the live-action film industry.

Beyond their historic significance, it it worth stressing that many of the animated films produced during the silent period are wildly entertaining and often down right weird and wonderful. In the days before film censorship or the misconception that cartoons were only for children, anything went. The result is a valuable canon of films which firmly reflects American society of the time.

The proposed documentary film will make use of a treasure trove of early American animation, held by collector Tommy José Stathes, who has an impressive archive, which he delves into for regular screenings in New York.

Why crowdfund such a worthy project? Well, Smith doesn’t believe that he can get mainstream funding, and he doesn’t want to cheapen his film. As he says on the Kickstarter page: “Rather than compromise the vision we have for the film (Cartoon Carnival will not be hampered by pointless celebrity commentary and it will not talk down to its audience), we though we would turn to its prospective audience.”

He means you, you know.

You can find out more, and back the project, on the Cartoon Carnival Kickstarter page here.

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