Thursday 28 July 2016

Heeza Liar and His Friends (No Lie)

It’s always a time for celebration when old cartoons are properly restored and released on DVD, and there is a great release to tell you about.

(Note: I am not associated with this DVD. I don’t even get a free copy. I haven’t seen it, either, but point it out in the public interest).

I won’t go into the numbers about how few films from the silent era still survive, especially short films. But one man who has spent a great deal of his life rescuing prints of silent cartoons is Tommy Stathes. And he’s garnered a nice collection of silents that has been restored as best as possible and released on DVD.

His Cartoon Roots—The Bray Studios focuses on the work of what, arguably, was the first commercially successful animation studio. John L. Bray opened his own studio in 1913 and supplied cartoons from artists on a rotating basis that were part of a screen magazine released by a number of companies—Paramount and Goldwyn to name two. Many of the famous names of animation worked for Bray before striking out on their own—Max Fleischer, Walter Lantz, Paul Terry and Pat Sullivan among them.

Alas, this DVD doesn’t feature my favourite silent character; Felix the Cat is still tied up under copyright, I imagine. You do get Colonel Heeza Liar, the first film cartoon character who starred in a series; Carl Anderson’s The Police Dog; Lantz’s first star, Dinky Doodle—two hours of cartoons in all. For anyone interested in the early days of animation, this collection would seem essential. Find out more about it at this Amazon link. My congratulations to Tom and his team of experts who worked on this.

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