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From the Beginning: Cartoon Roots (2014) - Black Maria

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From the Beginning: Cartoon Roots (2014)


" (http://theblackmaria.org/author/brandieashe/)Brandie Ashe
(http://theblackmaria.org/byline/brandie-ashe/)
% May 16, 2015
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J. Stuart Blackton. J.R. Bray. Raoul Barr. The


Fleischer brothers. Otto Messmer. Paul Terry.
These names may not be all that recognizable
today, but even the most casual observer of
popular culture can see the ever-present results
of their collective legacy. These men are just a
few of the pioneers of animationthe artists, directors, and visionaries who laid the foundation
for what the genre would become.

http://theblackmaria.org/2015/05/16/from-the-beginning-cartoon-roots-2014/

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From the Beginning: Cartoon Roots (2014) - Black Maria

5/18/15, 1:56 AM

An essential new collection of remastered and


restored early cartoons seeks to shine the spotlight on these and other legends of animationa
goal at which it excels exceedingly well.
Seriously, there arent enough superlatives in
my vocabulary to fully express just how much I
enjoyed this collection.
Cartoon Roots, recently released on Blu-ray and
DVD, serves as a solid and impressive primer
for introducing modern audiences to the joys of
rare and classic animation. Roots is the brainchild of historian and avid cartoon collector
Tommy Jos Stathes, the founder of Cartoons
on Film (http://cartoonsonlm.com/) and curator of the Bray Animation Project (http://brayanimation.weebly.com/), an online tribute to and
resource on the rst animation studio. In
putting together this (hopefully rst of
many) compilation, Stathes turned to Thunderbean Animation, an animation company (headed by historian Steve Stancheld) which specializes in producing high-quality restorations of
classic cartoons and features. Drawn largely
from Stathes substantial personal cache of
classic cartoons, and spanning a twenty-ve
year period from the earliest days of lm itself
through the dawn of sound, the fteen cartoons included in this carefully-curated collection represent the work of many talented innovators who built an industry from the ground
up.

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From the Beginning: Cartoon Roots (2014) - Black Maria

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(http://theblackmaria.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/cartoon-roots.png)
Indeed, what Cartoon Roots does so eectively
is to show, in brief, the evolution of animation
as an art form, from its earliest days as a novelty act (Blacktons Lightning Sketches) through
its melding with live-action (Barrs Cartoons
on Tour), to a narrative place solely its own,
marked by interesting, recurring characters and
entertaining, fully-animated stories. We see animations beginnings, from experimentation and
painstaking-yet-crude craftsmanship, and its
growth into an industry, in which technical cleverness and assembly line-type construction
methods allowed for quicker and more skilled
production. And not only do we see the development of the art of animation itself, but also
the early work of young cartoonists who would
go on to nd great acclaim in their later years,
among them Bob McKimson, who found
renown with Bugs Bunny at Warner Bros.; Preston Blair, who worked for both Disney and
MGM; Grim Natwick, the father of the Fleischers Betty Boop (http://theblackmaria.org/2014/08/02/saturday-morning-cartoonsdizzy-dishes-1930/); Walter Lantz, the creator of
Woody Woodpecker; and Dick Huemer, who
spent most of his career shepherding shorts
and feature lms for Disney.

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From the Beginning: Cartoon Roots (2014) - Black Maria

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Cartoon Roots is a veritable Whos Who of early


animation stars, featuring a mix of more familiar characters (Felix the Cat romps through a
misadventure in the freezing north; Koko the
Clown takes us on a trip to the circus; Col.
Heeza Liar solves a real-life crime involving a
wayward chicken) along with some genuine rarities, including a sample of the never-released
Binko the Bear Cub series from the ill-fated
Romer Grey Studio. Though some of the characters found in this collection have been somewhat lost to the passage of time, they are
brought back to vivid life through the eorts of
Stathes and the Thunderbean team. Their
restoration eorts are truly a wonder; with visuals as crisp and clear as we could possibly hope
for, the old gang has never looked better. And
the cartoons havent sounded this great in a
long time, either, with the silent shorts boasting
a selection of lively new scores thanks to composers Ben Model and Robert Israel.
The animated shorts are treasures in and of
themselves, but thats not all Cartoon Roots has
to oer. The Blu-ray is chock full of extras, from
vintage publicity materials ranging from newspaper and magazine ads to theatrical posters
and reviews, to behind-the-scenes material
about the making of certain cartoons, including
copyright documents and original art and
sketches. Just about the only thing its missing is
a commentary track for any or all of the included cartoons. Still, while that would be a welcome addition to an already exceptional collection, there is more than enough here to satisfy
even the most voracious fans of early animation.
Cartoon Roots is available to order from Amazon
(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00O5TOD0K/blamar20) now as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
Editors note: On Monday, Black Maria will feature an interview with the inimitable creator
of Cartoon Roots, Tommy Jos Stathes. Be sure
to check it out!
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