Cartoon Roots: The Bray Studios—Animation Pioneers - a classic cartoon Blu-ray/DVD by Tommy José Stathes
Hello, everyone! I'm Tommy José Stathes, an animation archivist and historian. It's my pleasure and privilege to tell you about my new archival film project, which can become a reality with your help: I want to produce a brand new Blu-ray/DVD collection of restored animated films from the historic Bray Studios.
Bray? What's That?
Most people think animation history all started with a mouse. But in truth, Bray Studios was the first successful animation studio. From 1913 to 1927, the New York City production company, headed by John Randolph Bray, produced well over five hundred animated films. Bray’s groundbreaking series Col. Heeza Liar was the first to feature a recurring animated character created specifically for the cinema screen, and, under a partnership with Bray, Earl Hurd's Bobby Bumps series was the first to employ the use of cels in streamlining the animation process. Bray Studios also gave many later significant animation legends their start: Paul Terry (of Terrytoons, Mighty Mouse, Heckle & Jeckle fame) directed many of his first Farmer Alfalfa cartoons at Bray; Max Fleischer (of Betty Boop and Popeye) brought his initial cartoon creation, Ko-Ko the Clown, to life in "Out of the Inkwell" at Bray; Walter Lantz (of Woody Woodpecker fame) created his own first series, Dinky Doodle, at Bray. While these historically significant early series laid the entire groundwork for the animation world to come, many of the Bray films have been lost, inaccessible, or simply ignored in the decades since they were produced.
About the Producer
If you're a silent film fan or animation history researcher, you might be familiar with the Bray Animation Project, an online educational resource that I created in 2011. You may have seen me presenting early silent cartoons on Turner Classic Movies; or maybe you've attended some of my 16mm film screenings in New York City. I'm also a Consulting Director on Cartoon Carnival: The Documentary, a wonderful film project by Andrew T. Smith, currently in production, that was successfully funded here on Kickstarter back in December of 2014.
If you’re an animation fan or hardcore Blu-ray collector, you might also be familiar with my recent home video release: Cartoon Roots. Released under my Cartoons On Film label and produced with the help of Thunderbean Animation, Cartoon Roots is a collection of fifteen rare silent and early sound cartoons, in beautiful new HD restorations, designed as an introduction to the world of early animation.
You'll find an excellent review of Cartoon Roots by Mike Matei here at the Cinemassacre site.
Rather than simply collect rare early animated films for my own research and enjoyment, I’ve always wanted to find ways to have the general public see them properly again. My long term plan is to release several home video collections of early animation, and people have been asking me about the next release. Do I want to produce another Cartoon Roots volume? You bet I do!
With your help, this second Roots collection will be an introductory Bray Studios Blu-ray/DVD combo set with cartoons representing major (and a few minor!) Bray characters, series, and directors--all taken directly from rare surviving 16mm, 28mm and 35mm prints; in brand new HD transfers and digital restorations. Plus extras!
Through my collecting and archiving efforts over the past several years, I have been able to amass a sizable collection of rare Bray cartoons. It's time to start sharing more of them with the general public, and pay this pioneering and largely ignored studio its due for practically creating an industry that has given millions of people joy for more than a century.
Example of a Bray cartoon, with Walter Lantz appearing in the live action segments, from the late 1920s.
What the Cartoon Roots Bray Studios Blu-ray/DVD collection will include...
The collection will mainly consist of approximately 15 shorts, and the following are most of the likely candidates*:
The Artist's Dream (1913)--the first-ever Bray film, sourced from 35mm!
Col. Heeza Liar (a 1913 or 1914 subject TBA)
Diplodocus (1915) Bray's infamous rip-off of Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur
Police Dog on the Wire (1916) by Carl Anderson
Farmer Alfalfa Sees New York (1916) by Paul Terry
Bobby Bumps' Pup Gets the Flea-Enza (1919) by Earl Hurd
How Animated Cartoons Are Made (1919) by Wallace Carlson
The Tantalizing Fly (1919) by Max Fleischer, with Ko-Ko the Clown
The Best Mouse Loses (1920) with Krazy Kat and Ignatz
A Fitting Gift (1920) with Judge Rummy and Silk Hat Harry
The Tale of a Wag (1920) with Jerry on the Job
Dinky Doodle in Cinderella (1925) by Walter Lantz
Pete the Pup in The Lunch Hound (1927) by Walter Lantz
The Point of View (circa 1920) A rare educational Bray film about poor eyesight--including stock footage from Bray cartoons. A film previously unknown in Bray research until this lone 16mm print surfaced in 2014!
...plus a couple more surprises.
*One or two of the above may be subject to change, depending on certain production variables--but even if specific titles change, all of the milestone films, characters and series previously mentioned will still remain.
Extras: Possibly the only known footage of pioneer J.R. Bray (with audio!); archival galleries of period posters, trade magazine reviews, illustrated advertisements, original artwork, copyright synopses, and more; also, an informative printed booklet!
What will the funds cover?
Some of the preparation work on a few of the films included in this set is already near completion, and the funds raised will cover:
•Additional HD film transfers at 2K resolution
•Completing digital restorations of all of the films
•New musical tracks for films that are not already scored
•Packaging design and film, Blu-ray/DVD menu graphic design, etc.
•Disc mastering and one initial replication run of the collection
•Printed sleeve inserts, booklets, etc.
•Raw materials such as Blu-ray cases, mailers for shipping, etc.
A note about my Cartoons On Film restorations
When it comes to hundred year old 'orphan' films, we simply no longer have original, good quality negatives for nearly all surviving films--and in most cases, no native 35mm material either. Surviving prints of films of this vintage occasionally look beautiful on their own, while many tend to have damage, printed-in flaws from various generations of copying, and other inherent problems. My team's digital restorations seek to make these antique films look as good as possible, given the problematic material we have to work with, and in consideration of our limited time and finances. Most of these films will always contain some minor visual condition reminders that they are nearly a century old, and yet the results after some careful work are still very pleasing. Many countless films from the silent era are completely lost, and therefore we are incredibly lucky to have any versions of these films at all.
Simply look to the above demo reel and our previously-released Cartoon Roots collection, with fine digital restoration work performed by the Thunderbean Animation team, for samples of the results we can attain.
So when will the release be ready?
If all goes according to plan and this campaign is successful, I am aiming for a Thanksgiving 2015 availability-- or mid-December, for Christmas availability, if some extra time is needed.
The collection will be available for sale to the general public as well at that time--but please contribute now, as production of this set could be delayed by about another year if this campaign is unsuccessful.
Moving forward, I want to make more films from my collection available to the public, along with films that I continue to find elsewhere! Supporters and fans regularly ask about new releases of early animation; but because archival film work has its financial limitations, it has become obvious that crowd funding will probably be necessary to kickstart new projects. Thanks in advance for your assistance not only in meeting my goals, but for your help in ultimately providing education and enjoyment to people around the world through projects like this.
Join The Family!
Let's bring an exciting animation retrospective to life!
Risks and challenges
Based on my experience in producing the original Cartoon Roots, it is safe to say that the only real risks or challenges in a project like this are production delays. Even after all of the necessary funds are raised to cover general expenses, delays can still occur; certain films may require more restoration work than was expected, or hired contributors may need more time to finish the creation of new content. Sometimes there are delays with third-party disc replicators finishing and delivering an order.
Backers of the project will be notified about any significant delays during the production period, especially if such delays will impact the general expected delivery date of the completed product.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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