Visionary Argentine filmmaker Quirino Cristiani created full-length animated films between 1917 and 1931. He has since been all but forgotten.
Written by Marisa Brook • 34 minute read
When the two trailblazers of animated film finally met in 1941, the one named Walt Disney was quickly becoming a legend. The other, an Argentine named Quirino Cristiani, was on an equal but opposite trajectory toward obscurity.
Despite their different upbringings, the two men were attracted to film in similar ways. For each of them, a childhood passion for drawing evolved into experimentation with political cartooning as the Great War loomed over the world. Driven by a well-developed perfectionistic streak and a knack for innovative thinking, each of the animators experimented with animated cut-outs, then hand-drawn animation. Their accomplishments in pioneering feature-length animated motion pictures wowed their audiences and earned them praise and success.
Both were renowned in their day, but the American had become far better celebrated. Disney had persisted through major challenges and found unalloyed success; Cristiani had also overcome a number of steep obstacles, but found mostly bad luck. Although Cristiani earned fame for two milestone achievements—the first feature-length animated motion picture (1917) and the first one with a pre-recorded soundtrack (1931)—most of his films met with unfortunate ends. As a result, his story has slipped into undeserved obscurity.
Only one fictional character has ever been honoured with a front-page obituary in the New York Times: Hercule Poirot, one of Agatha Christie’s two recurring detectives. On 06 August 1975, the headline read, “Hercule Poirot Is Dead; Famed Belgian Detective”. Two months later, the last Poirot mystery – Curtain – was released to the public. Christie, whose life was drawing to a close, had written Curtain in the 1940s as Poirot’s last case and locked it away until she realized that she could not write any more of his mysteries. Christie had long been personally burned out on her famous fictional detective; however due to his popularity, she had refrained from discarding him altogether.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle–famed creator of Sherlock Holmes–also tired of his own popular protagonist, once writing “I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards paté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day.” When Conan Doyle gave in to the temptation to murder the beloved character in 1893, public outrage was so vehement and sustained that the author eventually resumed writing Holmes stories under the pretense that the eccentric detective had merely faked his own death.