1910 color animated film may be world’s earliest

23 Flares 23 Flares ×
Colin McKenzie

Colin McKen­zie

Nota­tions by a pio­neer­ing film­maker sug­gest that a color ani­mated film may have been made in 1911, pre­dat­ing the ear­li­est pre­vi­ously known exam­ple by over a year, the New Zealand Film Archive announced Friday.

A recently exam­ined note­book by Colin McKen­zie describes the mak­ing of a stop-action film fea­tur­ing a lit can­dle, a table and a soup ladle, all of which are made to appear to move. The entry, dated Sep­tem­ber 5, 1911, men­tions the use of dyes from a Tahit­ian berry to color the film stock.

If the film indeed was made, it would break the record for old­est color ani­ma­tion now held by In Gol­ly­wog Land, a Kinema­color pro­duc­tion by Charles Urban for the Nat­ural Colour Kine­mato­graph Com­pany. Com­bin­ing pup­pet ani­ma­tion with live action, the Novem­ber 1912 release was cred­ited by his­to­rian Denis Gif­ford in British Ani­mated Films, 1895–1985 as the first ani­mated film in color.

This would appear to put New Zealand on the map again as far as film his­tory is con­cerned,” said Thelma Cather­ine Ryan, the Film Archive’s direc­tor of acqui­si­tions. “We all knew of Mr. McKenzie’s out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the tech­nol­ogy of motion pic­tures. The lat­est find just adds to our country’s rep­u­ta­tion as a pio­neer in film industry.”

It was already known that McKen­zie cre­ated the first color film in 1911, a gen­er­a­tion before Tech­ni­color,” said Joseph F. Keaton, direc­tor of the archive’s tech­no­log­i­cal divi­sion. “He and his brother Fred painstak­ingly dis­tilled the juice from an exotic trop­i­cal berry to get the right dyes.

Unfor­tu­nately, they didn’t notice, when they tested Colin’s film stock in Tahiti, that they had shot footage of some top­less island girls. When they exhib­ited it in Waipahu, they were arrested for an ‘inde­cent exhibition.’”

Keaton also regrets that no footage of the sup­posed ani­mated film sur­vives, but believes that McKen­zie was dar­ing enough to have made it.

The ups and downs of McKenzie’s inven­tions — along with those of his col­or­ful per­sonal life — were explored in the hour-long 1995 made-for-TV doc­u­men­tary For­got­ten Sil­ver, directed by Peter Jack­son and Costa Botes.

The pos­si­bil­ity that the ear­li­est color ani­ma­tion may come from New Zealand thrilled the cre­ative direc­tor of Weta Dig­i­tal Ltd., a lead­ing visual effects com­pany based in Welling­ton and co-founded by Jackson.

No one can say we aren’t all excited here at Weta,” said Pauline Phillips. “Kiwis can’t fly, but they sure know how to invent!”

Related Posts:

About Paul Anderson

Paul is an old-timer here at BCDB- his contributions go back to before the site! Paul is widely regarded as a Disney historian, and is also on staff at the Disney Museum in San Francisco. Paul is also a contributing historian for D23, the Disney Club. Paul has published several books and magazine articles on Disney history, too. You are welcome to drop Paul a line here.

News, ,

Leave a Reply