Arthur Melbourne-Cooper

I don't know a lot, and I'm the first to admit it. So, it comes as no surprise when I didn't know who the heck Arthur Melbourne-Cooper was. Another pipe-smoking Englishman in a thick wool suit I'll bet. It wasn't until Ian Truelove, our gaffer at Leeds Met put his name together with the word 'animation', that I was compelled to make a somewhat scurried investigation with intriguing results...

Initial results place Melbourne-Cooper around that gloomy period, the Stone Age of animation where various experimentalists mucked about with more candles than they knew what to do with. Previously, I'd thought that Cohl and Blackton were the pioneers of animation using film, however many sources place Melbourne-Cooper as an, if not, the overlooked pioneer of puppet animation. This is all outlined in a forthcoming book 'They Thought it was a Marvel' by Tjitte de Vries and Ati Mul, which comes complete with a DVD containing six of his animated films. It is this surviving footage which serves as time-stamped proof that Melbourne-Cooper was [to be argued] the first ever animator.

If you can't wait for the book, then the BFI has a fairly decent archive and YouTube Channel where a selection of these surviving works can be found and watched including a vintage precursor to Toy Story, Dreams of Toyland. Needless to say they need to be viewed with a large pinch of context. Despite looking like a KS1 stop-motion project, it's ground-breaking stuff. Animation around this time was cutting edge and was a convincing enough spectacle to have just the un-animated animated.

So there we have it - another first for Blightly. Along with Lasagne [apparently] and Champagne [I think I'm making it up now...].

Order your copy from the Amsterdam University Press.

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