A Frame By Frame Chronicle of a Unique Collection: Animation at the Cinémathèque Québécoise
Today the animation collection comprises approximately 5,000 titles. Among the rarest are some of the works of Raoul Barre, Oskar Fischinger, Otto Messmer, Charlie Bowers and Winsor McCay, plus, the famous Matches: An Appeal made in England in 1899. This film is considered to be the earliest animation film of all.
On the topic of McCay, the Cinémathèque possesses his complete works or at least all that survives. One generally concedes to him the authorship of the first genuine animation film made in the United States. An exceptional draftsman, he instinctively understood the principles of modern animation and the grammar of their structure. He also experimented, in unpublished projects, with the subjects of progressive movement, rhythm, and the characterization of personalities. Because of this, McCay played a major role in animation history, and his films influenced a whole generation of American animators. Thanks to the efforts of individuals and organizations, including the Cinémathèque, certain films were preserved in authentic full copies. In the 1920s, 75 cans of nitrate film were given to a friend of McCay's, who kept them in his garage for years. In 1947, an advertising film producer examined and catalogued the film prints and negative elements that hadn't already decomposed. They were then kept in cold storage for another 20 years by McCay's friend. At the time of the 1967 retrospective, the entire bunch of cans were shipped to the Cinémathèque, which quickly made safety copies of them all, since their time had run out.
One can also find in our collection many impeccable first-generation 35mm prints of Otto Messmer's "Felix The Cat" films. The films we hold from both Messmer and McCay have been commercially distributed on laserdisc in collaboration with the U.S. company Lumivision.
In 1996, the Cinémathèque received the most important donation in its history from the Cinar Film company. This production house, specializing in animated series for television, gave us some 750 feet of cels from the following programs: C.L.Y.D.E, White Mane, The Irresistible World Of Richard Scarry, Lulu, Robin Hood Jr., Albert The Fifth Muskateer, and others. The Canadian commission for examining cultural goods for exportation gave this exceptional gift the value of roughly $8,138,817 Canadian dollars.
Since the opening of its new quarters in February 1997, the Cinémathèque reaches a larger public that discovers, through our weekly screenings, the great diversity of international animation. Furthermore, the Cinémathèque will open "Forms in Movement" in the Spring of 1999, an exhibition devoted to animation which will remain on display in the Raoul Barre Hall until the year 2001.