Database for Animation Studies


"They Thought It Was A Marvel" Arthur Melbourne-Cooper (1874-1961), Pioneer of Puppet Animation

In a world obsessed with 'firsts', this fascinating book with its accompanying DVD analyses the stop-motion films made by the British pioneer filmmaker Arthur Melbourne-Cooper, arguably the maker of the first ever animation, MATCHES APPEAL, dating from 1899, in which an animated matchstick writes out on a blackboard an appeal to the British audience urging them to donate money to subsidise shipments of matches to the troops fighting in the Boer War in South Africa. If this dating of the film is correct, it would make it the first-ever animated film shown in cinemas, years ahead of the known early animations, and long before Walt Disney was born. Drawing on a wealth of archival material, frame-by-frame analysis, as well as interviews with Melbourne-Cooper and his family and associates, this book argues convincingly in favour of this early dating of MATCHES APPEAL, and sketches an unforgettable portrait of animation's early days, while being a vital contribution to the history of early cinema. The DVD of the six surviving animation films made by Melbourne-Cooper is a wonderful revelation of what early cinema-going audiences saw and marvelled at.
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