Beavis and Butt-head were not what the creators of Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat had in mind when they inked their modest characters, but animated personalities have become lasting staples of contemporary culture. Now, cartoon fans have the rare chance to see some of the first classic, silent animated shorts from the 1910s to the early 1930s — along with contemporary favorites — in the four-day, 10th annual Animation Block Party on July 27.
According to event founder Casey Safron, characters have always been the life-blood of animations. He pointed to Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, and even SpongeBob SquarePants as characters who have and will endure for decades.
They are also a reflection of the times in which they were made. Just as Beavis and Butt-head — whose moral compass consisted mainly of musical taste and nihilist toilet humor — were a reflection of the so-called MTV generation, classic animated films played with themes from the Roaring 20s, Prohibition, and the rise of the corporation, to name a few.
Ten shorts will be screened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s theaters, including a rare 35mm print of Harry Baily and John Foster’s 1930 “Making ‘Em Move.” The rest have been transferred to digital film. All of the shorts are between five to eight and a half minutes and are provided by Tom Stathes’ Cartoons on Film.
The screening will be followed by a panel moderated by Safron featuring Stathes, Howard Beckerman, an animation historian who has worked in the field for over 60 years, and David Gerstein, a comics author and editor.
Animation Block Party is a festival dedicated to showcasing professional, independent, and student animation from around the world. Festival highlights include exclusive content from Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, as well as screenings of “Beavis and Butt-head Do America” and “The Secret of NIMH,” both on 35mm film. Also included is “The Blue Umbrella,” a short from Pixar’s “Monsters University” about the love story between two umbrellas who are brought together on a rainy day in the city.
The festival will feature over 100 screenings (some of which will be world premieres) in addition to a number of other special events, but, according to Stathes, viewers shouldn’t miss the classic shorts screening.
“So many historic films have been lost through neglect or deliberate destruction,” he said. “It’s a blessing to still be able to watch these films today.”
Animated films at BAMcinématek [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, animationblock.com]. Silent classic shorts on July 27, 4:30 pm, “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America” on July 27, 9:30 pm, “Wind & Tree” on July 27, 7 pm, the “Secret of NIMH” on July 28, 9:30 pm, $8-$13.
“The Blue Umbrella” at Music Hall of Williamsburg [66 N. Sixth Street between Kent and Wythe avenues, (718) 486–5400, animationblock.com]. July 24, 8:30 pm, $20.