John Bray (1915)

At the Bat

Foils the Enemy

in 1914, John Bray opened John Bray Studios, which revolutionized the way animation was created. Earl Hurd, one of Bray’s employees patented the cel technique. This involved animating moving objects on transparent celluloid sheets. Animators photographed the sheets over a stationary background image to generate the sequence of images. This, as well as Bray’s innovative use of the assembly line method, allowed John Bray Studios to create Colonel Heeza Liar, the first animated series.

Colonel Heeza Liar is the star of the first animated series featuring a recurring character. He was created by John Randolph Bray and is mainly based on Theodore Roosevelt and the general stereotype of the 19th and early 20th century former adventurer and lion hunter. The series ran from 1913 to 1917 and restarted in 1922 until 1924. It was produced by Bray Productions and directed by Vernon Stallings. The series was animated by Walter Lantz from 1922 to 1924 and featured live-action segments interacting with the animation, much like the popular contemporary series Out of the Inkwell.

John Randolph Bray (1913)

During the 1910s, the production of animated short films, typically referred to as “cartoons”, became an industry of its own and cartoon shorts were produced for showing in movie theaters. The most successful producer at the time was John Randolph Bray, who, along with animator Earl Hurd, patented the cel animation process that dominated the animation industry for the rest of the decade.

Bray’s first completed cartoon animation was released in 1913. Accepted and released by well-known producer Charles Pathe, The Artist’s Dream (or The Dachshund and the Sausage) portrayed an artist drawing a chest of drawers with a dog sleeping next to it. As the artist completes a drawing of a bowl of sausages on the chest of drawers, his wife enters and calls him away. After the artist leaves, the drawing comes to life: The dog jumps up, climbs up the drawers, and wolfs down the sausages until ultimately it explodes. The venture resulted in a contract with Pathe for six more films in six months, with a new film to be released each month. Considering it had taken Bray at least six months to create The Artist’s Dream, the contract provided a challenge that Bray would be unable to meet. However, even though production times had to be extended, the need for streamlined production forced Bray to find creative solutions to the problem of how to make animated cartoons financially successful.