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The Bootleg Files: Alice the Fire Fighter

BOOTLEG FILES 657: “Alice the Fire Fighter” (1926 animated short by Walt Disney).

LAST SEEN: On several online video sites.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright opens it up to endless duping.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Although it has been restored, it is stuck in public domain hell.

In 1924, an aspiring animator from Kansas City named Walt Disney caught his first big break when he signed with the independent Winkler Pictures to create a series of short films that combined animation with live action. Disney came up with the concept of a having a then-contemporary riff on “Alice in Wonderland,” with a live action little girl interacting with comic cartoon characters. This series became known as the Alice Comedies, and 57 one-reelers were created over the next three years.
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The Bootleg Files: Anderson’s Own Gang Comedy

BOOTLEG FILES 654: “Anderson’s Own Gang Comedy” (1926 fan film inspired on the Our Gang series).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO:
None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Partially-lost film with no perceived commercial value.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.

For every Hollywood franchise that gets screen time at the multiplex, it seems there are an endless number of fan films created by overenthusiastic movie lovers who want to be part of cinematic fun. But fans films are not a recent phenomenon. Indeed, the earliest known fan film was made back in 1926, and it was also part of a strange trend that brought a mix of filmmaking and hucksterism to small town America.
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The Bootleg Files: Tetched in the Head

BOOTLEG FILES 645: “Tetched in the Head” (1935 animated short film featuring Barney Google).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A semi-lost film.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE:
Not until the original version is located.

In 1930, Columbia Pictures was a relatively minor player in the Hollywood scene. The studio’s cred received a boost that year when it signed an agreement with Walt Disney to distribute his popular animated short films. However, in 1933 Disney ended his relationship with Columbia due to a financial dispute.
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The Bootleg Files: Minstrel Days

BOOTLEG FILES 639: “Minstrel Days” (1941 musical short film starring Bud Jamison and Willie Best).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: This is one film that Warner Bros. is not eager to re-release.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Really?

Earlier this week, Starbucks closed down its U.S. cafés for an afternoon and gave its workforce a training session in racial tolerance. Several short films were shown to the Starbucks team that highlighted the insensitive treatment that many African-Americans experience in public spaces and retail settings.
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Three Films by Madeline Anderson

During the 1960s and 1970s, Madeline Anderson broke racial and gender barrier in nonfiction filmmaking through her work as a director, producer and editor. This DVD gathering of three of her short documentaries offers a fascinating consideration of how Anderson used her medium to spotlight the tumultuous fights for civil and women’s rights.
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The Bootleg Files: Malice in the Palace

BOOTLEG FILES 595: “Malice in the Palace” (1949 Three Stooges short).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On too many public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: There was one, but it was lost amid the cheapo duped versions.

In some ways, bad comedies are more interesting than good comedies. Because when a comedy fails, it is can be a fascinating exercise to pinpoint just where things began to go wrong and to wonder whether the wreckage could have been prevented with tweaks here and there.

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The Bootleg Files: Afrique 50

BOOTLEG FILES 591: “Afrique 50” (1950 French documentary short by René Vautier).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS:
Never officially released in the U.S.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE:
It would be welcomed.

In 1949, a newly-minted film school graduate named René Vautier received his first big break when the Ligue de l’enseignement commissioned him to create a nonfiction film highlighting its educational mission in France’s West African colonies. Upon arriving in the French African colonies, the 21-year-old Vautier did not find evidence of French benevolence in Africa. Instead, he witnessed a degree of economic exploitation and repressive rule over people who were slowly simmering in their resentment of colonial occupation. As a decorated member of the French Resistance during World War II and a Communist Party member, he was not about to sit back and just tsk-tsk this situation.

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Short Films Still Matter

This week’s podcast episode celebrates the continuing appeal of short films and the importance they play in launching new filmmaking talent. Host Phil Hall’s guest is Kim Adelman, author of “Making it Big in Shorts: The Ultimate Filmmaker’s Guide to Short Films,” which was recently republished in its third edition. She also reports on short films for Indiewire, co-programs the American Cinematheque’s annual Focus on Female Directors short film screening series, and is the co-founder of FFC Female Filmmaking Collective.

You can listen to the episode here.