Chapter XXXIV


Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)

pp. 147-149

The secret of the making of the movie cartoon has seldom been divulged, for the producers have objected to its becoming known on the grounds that their competitors would imitate a special and particular process. This, and this only, is the reason for official silence on this matter.

Those who have come forward with solutions of the mystery say that the drawings are thrown on a silhouette screen, another camera being used to film them.

Number two discovery is that a mannikin is used, manipulated by invisible strings.

Yet another asserts that moving cardboard figures are photographed.

It so happens, however, that none of these solutions is correct. How, then, are the cartoons made? Let me tell you that there are different processes adopted by the various studios.

You are, of course, familiar with the Colonel Heeza Lair series, released under the Pathe banner. The creator of this series is J.R. Bray, a newspaper artist of note. His is a patented process which has been imitated by other motion picture cartoonists.

Mr. Bray experimented for several years before he invented his speeding up process and he now works with the assistance of a talented corps of artists.

Before a single reel, one thousand feet, is completed, Mr. Bray has to sketch between four and vie thousand outline drawings on tracing paper. These are then inked in by four artists, after which a week is consumed in photographing them. To make even one error with the pen would ruin the whole film, so all have to take great pains over the exacting work. The drawings, when seen on the screen, have also been enlarged twenty-five times since they were executed by the artists.

The method followed by most studios is to draw each "move" on cardboard, and then place the boards together one by one. After this they are separately photographed. It is the showing of these in rapid succession that gives action to the cartoons.

But the plan is so tedious that the preparation of each drawing occupies upwards of twenty minutes, hence the reason why the output of one cartoonist seldom exceeds two hundred and fify feet weekly. There is also a considerable amount of time consumed in planning out a subject.

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