Charles Silver, a curator in MoMA’s Department of Film, presents a series of writings to supplement the film exhibition An Auteurist History of Film. The following post accompanies the "Georges Méliès and His Rivals", which screens on October 7, 8, and 9 in Theater 3.
I see Georges Méliès as a link in a continuum that runs from Jules Verne through film artists like Walt Disney and Tim Burton. Verne actually survived until 1905, enabling him to be well aware of Méliès in his heyday, and it can be hoped that the younger filmmaker found a way of expressing his gratitude to the older novelist for inspiring some of his best work. Méliès (1861–1938) died just a few weeks after Disney released the first of his epic fairy tales, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (For the record, Uncle Walt was around for the first eight years of Tim Burton’s life. We are, of course, highlighting Burton’s career in a major exhibition beginning next month, and my colleague Jenny He’s description, “a director of fables, fairy tales, and fantasies,” could as easily be applied to Méliès as to Burton.) One should also take note of Karel Zeman (1910–1989), the Czech animator/director whose feature films like The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1957) and Baron Munchhausen (1962) explicitly evoke Méliès’s style and subject matter.