Zippy Frames talks to Giannalberto Bendazzi about his new book in English, Twice the First: Quirino Cristiani and the Animated Feature Film.

Italian-born Argentian illustrator and animator Quirino Cristiani has long been recognized (mostly by the efforts of Italian animation scholar Giannalberto Bendazzi himself) as one of the most underrated precursors of animation.

He is responsible for, among other, the first-ever feature-length animation film (now lost), the 70-minute political satire in cut-outs El Apostol (1917). Cristiani has become the subject of documentary by Gabrielle Zuchelli.

Giannalberto Bendazzi is, among other things, the author of the new, 3-volume encyclopedic turn on the history of worldwide animation.

His fascination with the Argentinian animation pioneer was first recorded in a 2007 Italian monograph (subsequently translated into Spanish). The 2017 version is published by CRC press and features some updates; it now makes Bendazzi's monograph more accessible to the English-speaking market. 

The book cover reads:

This book particularly emphasizes the contributions of Quirino Cristiani and how his work influenced other animators. Bendazzi provides in-depth coverage about Cristiani’s life, both professionally and personally. Twice the First takes the reader on an exciting journey through the historical development of animation through the eyes of Quirino Cristiani.

ZF: Do you think that Quirino Cristiani was a pioneer in more ways than just the director of the first animated feature

GB: He was a great pioneer. He used the cut-out figures in phases, like drawings. He made the first animated documentaries and the first animated commercials in Latin America. He was the example, and in many cases the actual teacher, of the second generation of Argentinean animators.

ZF:  Do you think that we can read the history of animation through QC?

GB: We should read the history of animation in Argentina through him. The rest of the world flatly ignored that he existed.

ZF: Do you think that his personal story is as fascinating and helps us understand better his own artistic efforts?

GB: From 1916 to 1930 freedom of thinking and expression was complete in Argentina, and such freedom matched very well with Cristiani’s bohemian lifestyle. In other times, his life would have been no less fascinating, but his artistic output would have been censored and repressed.

ZF: Do you think that we'll ever have the chance to restore El Apostol?

GB: That film was projected every day, six to ten times a day, for over six months. Considering the quality of the positive film stock of 1917, a copy (one copy) could be projected for less than a month. This means that six to eight copies of El apóstol were printed. All in powder in the cans of Federico Valle’s warehouse? I do not think so. The world is (and was) full of compulsive collectors, and El apóstol was an exciting piece for every private collection. I bet that almost some segments of the film will eventually pop out.

Twice the First: Quirino Cristiani and the Animated Feature Film by Giannalberto Bendazzi is published by CRC press (10 Nov 2017), 171 pages | 2 B/W Illus, and is available for pre-order.