How did Edwin gain the knowledge and experience in order to have written Animated Cartoons? The book was published in February 1920. Although we have no information to help answer that question, it seems possible that he either worked for or collaborated with one or more of the dozen or so animation studios that existed in New York City (NYC), where he lived before 1920.
Fort Lee, NJ, was the motion picture film capital in the early 1900s. NYC attracted many comic strip artists that contributed to newspapers and magazines. As early animators were obsessive with drawing, the metropolitan New York area became the center of animation studios.
A great source of information about early animation studios is Michael Sporn’s Splog – NFB Animation Chart. This chart was originally created by André Martin and sold at the 1967 Montreal World Exhibition of Animation Cinema. It chronicles the early history of animation through the Golden Age (1941).
Animation studios were in a state of flux during the industry’s beginning years. Some companies existed for only a few years and then merged with other companies. New companies would sometimes hire animation staff away from competitive studios, luring employees with better pay. While some companies collaborated with each another, others were unscrupulous, stealing production methodologies and pirating works.
From the NFB Animation Chart, we know that the following animation studios existed between 1915 and 1919.
- Raoul Barre Studio (1913-1916) / became Barre-Bowers Studio (1916-1919) / Split into Bud Fisher Studio (1919-1927) and Charles Bowers Studio (1920-1922)
- Winsor McCay (1909-1918)
- John Randolph Bray (1910-1914) / became John Randolph Bray Studio (1914-1917) / became Bray-Hurd Process Company (1917-1920/21) / Split into Goldwyn-Bray Company (1920- >1941) and Max Fleischer Studio (1921-1928) and Paul Terry Studio (1918)
- George McManus & Emile Cohl (1913)
- Wallace A. Carlson (1914-1920)
- Hearst International Film Service (1915-1919) / became John Colman Terry Studio (1919-1921)
- John Colman Terry Hugh Michael Shields (1911-1915) / became Cartoon Film Service (1915-1919) / became John Woman Terry Studio (1919-1921)
- Pat Sullivan (1914-1932)
- Henry (Hy) Mayer (& Bert Green) (1912-1915) / became Keen Cartoon Corp. P.A. Powers (1915-1918)
- P.A. Powers Prod (1914-1915) / became Keen Cartoon Corp. P.A. Powers (1915-1918)
- F.M. Follett (1915-1918)
- Harry Palmer (Gaumont Company) (1915-1916)
- Paul Felton (B.D.F. Film Company) (1912-1926)
As shown in the list above, there were a number of animation studios from which Edwin could have learned the trade. Each studio had its own methods for making an animated cartoon, even though they may have shared basic practices. No doubt, the studios refined their methodologies over time.
What Edwin wrote about in Animated Cartoons was not an exposure of industry trade secrets as much as an explanation of general practices that were used. Animated Cartoons was not a how-to manual for the established studios. Just the opposite. The audience were people that did not work in a studio.
It would still be great to know the backstory of how Edwin learned about animated cartoons in order to write a book about it.
Writings Preceding Animated Cartoons
There were several pieces written about animation, before Edwin’s book Animated Cartoons was published.
Homer Croy, How Motion Pictures are Made, 1918. Chapter XV The Making of the Animated Cartoon, page 308. This is a 20 page chapter in a book primarily focused on motion pictures. It gives an overview of the contributors of early animation and methods used for creating animated drawings.
Bert Green, The Making of Animated Cartoons from Motion Picture Magazine XVII, no. 4 (May 1919), page 51. Another copy can be found on the Stripper’s Guide – News of Yore 1919: Bert Green on Animation. This two-page article gives insight into the human perspective of creating a cartoon, rather than the methodologies.
Winsor McCay, Lesson One, 1919. An actual copy of this 15-page correspondence course manuscript could not be located. However, Karl Cohen wrote a summary of it in his article Winsor McCay’s Animation Lesson Number One, 1919.
John Robert McCrory, How to Draw for the Movies, 1918. This 40-page booklet covers the following topics: the process of animating a cartoon, drawing for movies, industry-related terms, how to draw for quality results in motion, and thoughts on how to advertise and market your animated film.
Scientific America, October 14, 1916. The cover story of this issue was titled Animated Cartoons in the Making – How Sixteen Thousand Drawings Are Prepared and Photographed in Producing One Thousand Feet of Motion Picture Film. This one-page article discusses animated cartoons from concept through its production, with emphasis on the tasks of the animator.
So, Edwin was certainly not the first to publish about animated cartoons. However, he undoubtedly had the most detailed coverage of the subject. In the 261 page book, Animated Cartoons covered these topics: animation history, methodologies, movement on humans/animals/objects, general guidance, and future speculations of applications of the medium. The number of copies of Animated Cartoons that were sold is unknown, but it was initially published and distributed in the United States, England and Germany. In the United States it was reprinted several times within its first six years.