Alice in Wonderland (1903)

I just became aware of the British Film Institute’s YouTube Channel which is featuring the first screen version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which was directed  by  Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow. The BFI, which is touting its restoration in conjunction with the release of the new Tim Burton film, notes that, at around 12 minutes (of which only 8 survive), it “was the longest film yet produced in Britain.” It also features “an early appearance by the [Hepworth] family dog, Blair, who would become famous as the star of Rescued by Rover(1905),” one of the most famous of early British films.

All this and the attempted fidelity to John Tenniel’s original illustrations, is all well and good; but what interested me most was the film’s use of Georges Méliès-style special effects, which I found quite delightful.

4mations Launches

Erika Russel's Feet of Song

Wow! There’s getting to be a delightful glut of films posted online these days. Following the National Film Board of Canada recent launch of their beta site. The Guardian now reports that Britain’s Channel 4, a public-service broadcaster funded by advertising, has launched  4mations, which “it hopes will be an online home for the UK’s animation community, rolling out an advertising-supported, YouTube-style site that will pay animators for their work.”

Channel 4, especially under the guidance of Claire Kitson (who is no longer there), nurtured a Golden Age of British animated short films. (Check out my brief profile of Kitson in this 1999  Animation World Magazine story.) The site is still in the process of posting its films, which seems to be adding almost by the minute. Among those already online include such familiar titles as Alison Snowden and David Fine’s hilarious Oscar-winning short , Bob’s Birthday, which acted as the pilot for their Bob and Margaret TV series, and two wonderfully theatrical efforts by  Barry Purves, his Oscar-nominated Screen Play and Achilles, plus less familiar classics such as Erika Russell’s sensuous Feet of Song (pictured above).

The Guardian notes,

The project is a collaboration with Aardman, the Bristol-based independent producer behind Wallace and Gromit, and the animation specialists Lupus Films.

4mations includes comedy, adult, sci-fi and 3D work along with games and specialist groups. Users can vote on clips, upload their own work and embed their favourite clips on their own websites and social networks.

Channel 4’s new media commissioner for factual, Adam Gee, said the site would provide a new focus for the broadcaster’s animation output.

The broadcaster has a strong tradition in animation going back to its launch in 1982. Channel 4 animations have included Raymond Briggs’ classic The Snowman in 1982, Suzie Templeton’s Peter & the Wolf, and Taking a Line for a Walk, based on the work of artist Paul Klee.

… The full version [of the site] launches on September 15 and will include Thinks, a simple editing tool that will let users create their own animation in less than an hour.

The quality of the films looks better than YouTube, though I encountered technical problems trying to embed films using WordPress, a glitch which I trust they will work out. In the meantime, enjoy.

September 2nd Update: Technical problems solved. Here is Feet of Song.