Tommy Stathes has been drawn to classic animation for as long as he can remember. Really classic, as in pre-Disney, pre-sound, even… As a child, he regularly scoured local stores in search of obscure animation treasures on VHS. You’ve seen them – those poorly produced, haphazardly programmed, cheaply packaged cassettes that fill pharmacy bargain bins.
Young Tommy saw something through the grain and blur of these shoddy releases – he saw history, and a unique aesthetic that has never been, and never can be, truly recreated. Tommy’s childhood love of vintage film has led him to become one of the world’s foremost animation archivists, with a personal library of thousands of original reels dating back nearly a century.
In this interview, we discuss his collection, his restoration efforts, and his new Blu-Ray release, Cartoon Roots (available at Amazon).
We also discuss:
- the earliest days of animation history
- how he obtained 16mm and 35mm copies of these obscure films
- the nature and legal status of “orphaned films”
- digitizing and restoring vintage reels
- prepping the Blu-Ray
- advantages of selling niche-interest material on Amazon