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Blackton Gives a “Chalk Talk”

The Enchanted Drawing

Edison Manufacturing Co.; J. Stuart Blackton/Albert E. Smith, producers; USA, 1900

On the vaudeville stage, Blackton’s specialty was the rapid execution of sketches accompanied by equally rapid satirical patter. Drawing and redrawing, he changed the positions, gestures, and expressions of his simply drawn figures, achieving an effect that's been called “something like slow-motion animation.” The Enchanted Drawing, which Blackton made at Vitagraph for the Edison Co., features a clever accumulation of stop-motion effects, both animated and live-action: in quick succession, for example, Blackton

• draws a face and a bottle on his easel,

• removes the two-dimensional bottle from the drawing in the form of a real bottle,

• treats himself to a drink (top),

• puts the real bottle to the lips of the two-dimensional face, immediately eliciting a two-dimensional smile,

• and restores to the bottle to its two-dimensional status on the easel (bottom).

Though released in and dated 1900, The Enchanted Drawing was probably made three or four years earlier. Eventually, Blackton would transform the concept and its techniques into a pioneering form of cinematic animation.

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