KURO NYAGO (1929) or “The Black Cat” is a cut paper animation set to an infectious song of the same name. Written by Kouka Sassa and recorded by popular child star Hideko Hirai, director Noburo Ofuji animated the characters using a form of cut paper animation that he pioneered known as chiyogami eiga. Noburo Ofuji was clearly influenced by the Disney short THE SKELETON DANCE (1929) as you can hear a nod to the familiar theme toward the end of KURO NYAGO. The film, shot silent, was shown with a 78 rpm phonograph recording played at 80 rpm to achieve synchronization and was the first to utilize Japan’s Eastphone sound-on-disc system

To see a subtitled version of this film, visit Crunchyroll.

For everyone in the Northeast digging out after winter storm Nemo, take a break with Winsor McCay's LITTLE NEMO (1911). Actually titled WINSOR MCCAY, THE FAMOUS CARTOONIST OF THE N.Y. HERALD AND HIS MOVING COMICS, it’s commonly shortened because, aside from being a mouthful, the film is based around the characters from McCay’s popular weekly comic strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” Produced with J. Stuart Blackton (founder of Vitagraph Studios), this film was McCay’s first foray into animation. A little over 10 minutes long, it’s not until the final 2 minutes that the film transitions to full animation (hand tinted by McCay in post-production).

DOTS (1940) by Norman McLaren is an experimental animation where the artist painted frame by frame onto clear film stock. Interestingly, the audio was also composed by McLaren using the same method of scratching directly onto the strip of film where the soundtrack would be recorded. Combined, this experimentation creates a unique and playful short. 

THE SKELETON DANCE (1929) was the first of the Silly Symphonies produced and directed by Walt Disney. Carl Stalling, who composed the score, pitched the idea of one-off musical shorts that married animation and music seamlessly. Expertly animated by Ub Iwerks, THE SKELETON DANCE remains a beloved classic of whimsical macabre.

INVENTION OF LOVE (2010) written and directed by Andrey Shushkov for his graduation project from Saint Petersburg University of Culture and Arts. The film utilizes digital technology to achieve the look and feel of traditional silhouette puppetry. Like if Lotte Reiniger were into Steampunk.

Since the internet seems to be abuzz with the Disney short “Paperman” that layers traditional 2D hand drawn with 3D computer animation, I thought I’d share this French short GARY (2008) that takes those same principals in a completely different direction in terms of style and tone. Directed by Clément Soulmagnon, Yann Benedi, Sébastien Eballard, and Quentin Chaillet the film has no english subtitles, but dialogue is minimal and not all that necessary to follow the story.

What better way to kick things off than with the sassy and mischievous GERTIE THE DINOSAUR (1914) by Winsor McCay. McCay (most famous at the time for his popular “Little Nemo” comic strip) toured with “Gertie” as a vaudeville act where he would interact live with the film on stage. McCay touted Gertie as his “wonderfully trained dinosaurus” and would entertain the audience by giving commands that she would (or would NOT) follow, thus making Gertie the first animated character with personality.

Make a pretty bow, Gertie!