Lightning Sketches (1907)

Article 4818 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-10-2015
Directed by J. Stuart Blackton
Featuring J. Stuart Blackton
Country: USA
What it is: Trick short with animation

An artist draws lightning-fast sketches of people and things.

Most of this short is just what it sounds like; it’s an artist making sketches in fast motion. This in itself makes it sound thin in the fantastic content department, but there are a few touches here and there. Occasionally, some of the sketches come to life through the use of animation, and the sheets of paper will sometimes crumple themselves up without noticeable human intervention. It’s a fun if non-exceptional short, but it does strike one sour note for today’s audiences. The copy I saw was on YouTube, and the fact that it starts without a title and with the artist already partway through his first sketch made me wonder if the print was incomplete. After reading the full plot description on IMDB, I now believe the short has been censored; the first two sketches involve the artist transforming a word into a face (the second sketch involves changing “Cohen” into a Jewish caricature), and the first face (of a black caricature) is drawn from a racial epithet which is considered offensive nowadays. I won’t say what the word is, but if he had drawn a four-legged animal that looks like it was wearing a mask, it wouldn’t have been.

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