Britain’s National Media Museum has posted the results of their restoration of what they claim to be the world first color moving pictures, which were patented by photographer Edward Turner and his financial backer Frederick Marshall Lee in 1899, which is embedded above. The details are briefly explained here.
The process, which seems to anticipate the original three-color Technicolor process—in particular the successive exposure method used for animated films—seemed to have been unworkable. The Museum’s restoration really doesn’t prove otherwise, and I suspect that George Albert Smith, who was asked by Charles Urban to perfect the process, was right to suggest abandoning it in favor of his simpler two-color Kinemacolor system, which had some popularity. Nevertheless, the results of the restoration are fascinating to say the least.
The Bioscope, Luke McKernan’s invaluable blog, notes that tomorrow the Cannes Film Festival is presenting “what may be the film restoration to beat all other film restorations—the colour version of Georges Méliès‘ Le voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902).” While the film is far from being lost, all known hand-colored prints of the film were considered lost until 1993, when a copy, in very poor shape, was turned up by Filmoteca de Catalunya in Barcelona. The print was then acquired by Serge Bromberg’s Lobster Films, who overcame great odds to restore the film in time for Méliès’ 150th birth year celebration.
Bromberg, whose Lobster Films (along with Dave Shepard’s Film Preservation Associates) is one of the most respected brands in classic films on DVD, also serves as Artistic Director of the Annecy International Animation Festival. I only met Bromberg once, during one of his visits to Los Angeles, when he paid a call on animator and film collector Mark Kausler. At the time, Bromberg was elated over his recent discovery of a different cache of Méliès films, which I believe he had turned over to the La Cinémathèque française. Thank God, his enthusiasm for Méliès and his films has not wavered.