Fantasmagorie (1908)

FANTASMAGORIE (1908)
Article 4106 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-14-2012
Directed by Emile Cohl
No cast
Country: France
What it is: Abstract animated adventure

A clown in a theater has to deal with a woman with an enormous hat sitting in front of him, but soon embarks on a series of abstract adventures.

Emile Cohl was the first director of animated shorts in film history, and this may be his earliest work in that mode. It starts out with a simple comic situation, but soon the clown begins to warp through space, becoming a jack-in-the-box, encountering an elephant, escaping from the police, riding away on a horse… no story, just a series of scenarios that mutate into each other. This would largely remain his style, and it took Winsor McCay and his short GERTIE THE DINOSAUR to really bring character animation as such to the fore. Yet there’s something really fascinating about Cohl’s early experiments with the form, and this is a good place to start.

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