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Some people call him an “early animation archivist, while others prefer the term “vintage cartoon crypto-zoologist.”

Tommy José Stathes will share his vast collection of material from 1920s and 1930s during Halloween Cartoon Magic & Fun at the Voelker Orth Museum in Flushing on Sunday, Oct. 28.

The event will begin at 3:30 p.m. with a workshop on mask-making, flip books, and other time-honored activities. Then at around 5 p.m., Stathes, who teaches at the School of Visual Arts and Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, will use an old-fashioned, reel-to-reel projector to show 16mm shorts of such forgotten animated stars as Felix the Cat and Obliging Oliver.

The images might be a bit grainy — and the drawings a bit rudimentary — compared to modern digital prints, but they offer insight into the genre as well as early 20th century technology and culture. As Stathes (below) will inform, John Randolph Bray founded the first-ever cartoon studio in New York City in 1914, when newspaper strips and silent films were the only options. Bray, who had been the cartoonist at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, adapted his “Little Johnny and His Teddy Bears” from print to screen. He then scored more success by blending live action sequences that depicted a hungry dachshund struggling to grab some slightly out-of-reach sausages.

The first cartoon with a soundtrack was “My Old Kentucky Home” by Max Fleisher in 1926. Walt Disney introduced “Steamboat Willie” starring Mickey Mouse two years later. Soon thereafter, cartoons of varying lengths started appearing on television. In 1960, Hanna-Barbera Productions launched the first animated prime time television sitcom with “The Flintstones.”

Stathes, a long-time Queens resident, says he’s on a mission to obtain as many of these old films as possible, preserve them if necessary, and re-introduce them to the public. He currently owns more than 1,000 cartoons and silent films from the 1900s to the 1930s.

Admission is $4 each or $10 per family. Children under age can attend for free. The Voelker Orth Museum is about one block from Northern Boulevard at 149-19 38th Ave.

Top image: Tommy José Stathes; bottom image: Michael Perlman


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