From Bradford UNESCO City of Film, we write about photography, film and television, and daily life in a national museum.
Widescreen Weekend at Bradford International Film Festival played host to a special guest. This one did not quite have the stature of Ray Winstone or Barbara Windsor, yet he’s been around for 50 years, and his film has been enjoyed by millions around the world.
This elf starred in the George Pal and Henry Levin film The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm in 1962. He is part of a band of elves that help the sleeping cobbler fix all his shoes in time for Christmas day.
As part of Widescreen Weekend 2012 we screened The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm to a packed audience. Linda Carfagno, the daughter of Edward Carfagno who was Art Director on the film, kindly loaned the puppet to the Museum for the weekend.
As you can see from the photograph, the years have taken their toll on the little guy. His body is made of latex – a material widely used for animation puppets because of its flexibility and skin-like qualities. The elf has been in this position in the box for around 10 years and in that time the latex has dried out and crumbled away. This deterioration of latex is irreversible and he is in such delicate condition that he is unable to leave the box. Even the unpacking of the box had to be done with extreme care as we didn’t want the puppet to sustain any further damage.
Animation puppets are made specifically for the production of a film with no expectation that they should last for decades after they have been used. During filming they are manipulated by animators and there is usually considerable stress on major joints such as knees or elbows which results in cracking of the latex. So it is remarkable that this little elf has lasted so long.
What has survived the test of time is the film and the joy that it continues to bring to audiences everywhere. The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm won an Academy Award for the best costume design in colour, and was nominated for three others. If you fancy seeing the little guy in action have a look at the clip below.
Or, you can experience the grandeur, majesty and pure fantasy of the Brothers Grimm and their tales in the only permanent Cinerama theatre in Europe, and watch the world’s only known surviving 3-panel print of the film, because it’s also playing at this year’s Fantastic Films Weekend, on Sunday 17th June – the first Cinerama screening for FFW, in the year that Cinerama celebrates its 60th anniversary.