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Film Preservation

The emulsions are browning and mottling, the stock on which they are printed is turning to goo, finally crumbling into powder. This highly flammable nitrate film stock used by the motion picture industry prior to 1950 inevitably decomposes over time. Because of this, many cartoons are in danger of disappearing forever unless they can be transferred to modern 35mm safety film. But this is an expensive proposition, which explains why so much animation is ignored or copied onto inferior mediums such as 16mm or video by its current owners. The only organizations that would consider preserving these animation “orphans” generally are the non-profit archives at which many of them have been deposited.

But film preservation grants archives are limited, and often are earmarked for specific projects by the donors, who usually don’t have animation in mind. Archives do what they can with what money is left, but there are many neglected, non-animated films also in need of preservation. The real problem remains a lack of funding for animation, not a lack of interest in it. Yet many concerned individuals who might wish to help never are given the opportunity. Due to time and manpower constraints, it is seldom cost-efficient for archives to solicit the sort of contribution the average person could afford.

That is where the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood, comes in. As a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the art of animation, we cannot let these films be lost to future audiences. To ensure this does not happen, we have inaugurated our Animation Preservation Project. Through it, ASIFA-Hollywood will seek out, find, preserve, and restore those cartoon “orphans.” We will endeavor to make animation fans and the general public aware of the need to for preservation. “Average person” contributions solicited by ASIFA-Hollywood will be collected into the larger amounts necessary for preserving cartoons that otherwise might never have been considered.

ASIFA-HOLLYWOOD’S “Adopt-A-Cartoon” PROJECTAdopt a Cartoon

For persons who can afford more than a standard donation, we have initiated an “Adopt-A-Cartoon” program. Participating individuals would fund an entire preservation by themselves, through ASIFA-Hollywood, and receive on screen acknowledgment as well. All preservation work will be handled by UCLA Film and Television Archive, the world-respected institution that restored to full 35mm Cinecolor splendor the Fleischer Color Classic cartoon, Poor Cinderella. Be assured that every dollar raised will be spent on actual lab charges- no money will be diverted into salaries, supplies, mailings, or administration expenses either at UCLA or ASIFA-Hollywood.

If you have in your possession animated films on nitrate stock that you think might be rare or unique, please contact ASIFA-Hollywood. We will evaluate the status and condition of the films and, if we determine the items are in need of preservation, will do everything we can to ensure this happens.

ASIFA-Hollywood already has helped to preserve a number of cartoons, both silent and sound. But much more remains to be done. We hope you will join us in helping to safeguard these neglected treasures of the past. An we thank you in advance for your help in saving animation for the future.

Fill out the printable PDF… ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Preservation Form and mail it to us with your contribution.

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Illustration by Milton Knight