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Birth of An Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Performance, Page 43

The performing animator opened up other planes of metaphysical existence through the act of drawing, and although he did not appear on stage, Emile Cohl was famous for inserting his hands into his own creations and toying with them, especially in films such as Fantasmagorie (1908) and The Hasher's Delirium (1910). (The fame of his early efforts led to Cohl moving to the United States to adapt George McManus' The Newlyweds into an animated series in 1913.

In Fantasmagorie, one of the earliest examples of fully drawn film animation, Cohl eschewed the broad performativity of his peers, but his hand does creep into the frame, manipulating and controlling his Pierrot—contributing to the emerging tradition of the hand of the animator sparring with its creations. This film, in which characters morph into various shapes, is more of stream-of-consciousness than a linear narrative.

In the 1910 short The Hasher's Delirium, a man goes to a cafe and is overwhelmed by hallucinations, perhaps brought on by drinking. The cartoon features Cohl's cutout technique, and a wide range of metamorphoses that reveal what Eisenstein called animation's "plasmaticness." The boundaries between language and image, and between one object/person and the next are all up for grabs, as animation calls the "real" into question.

The Newlyweds images courtesy of Virginia Commonwealth University Digital Collection 

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