Friday, April 20, 2012

The Silent Oscars: 1908

Émile Cohl was a well-known caricaturist working in Paris who got into the motion picture business when he spotted a movie poster design obviously stolen from one of his drawings. To placate Cohl, the management of the Gaumont Film Company (the oldest studio in the world) offered him a job on the spot, mostly turning out short animation sequences for insertion into live-action films.

In 1908, Cohl drew and directed a two-minute film, Fantasmagorie, one of the best of the early animated films. In the film history Animation: The Whole Story, Howard Beckerman called Fantasmagorie "a key juncture between the aping of stage trickery and the exploration of animation as a medium in its own right."

Actually, the leap from "stage trickery" to "a medium in its own right" might sum up this entire period in film history ...

winner: Fantasmagorie (prod. Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont)
nominees: The Tempest (prod. Clarendon); The Thieving Hand (prod. J. Stuart Blackton)

winner: Émile Cohl (Fantasmagorie)
nomiees: J. Stuart Blackton (The Thieving Hand); D.W. Griffith (various Biograph shorts); Percy Stow (The Tempest)

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