Birth of a Flivver


Notes: Willis O'Brien, former newspaper cartoonist, was a stop-motion animation pioneer at Conquest Pictures (the name used by Thomas A. Edison Studio for Obi's releases) before creating the special effects for The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933), and other pictures. This short claymation film reportedly involves cavemen and a brontosaur.

Morpheus Mike


Summary: In this short Willis O'Brien claymation film, a woman hangs laundry out to dry, but a goat steals the clothes. Morpheus Mike, a hobo, rescues the laundry, returns it, and awaits some food as his reward, which the goat secretly and this time successfully steals. Mike smokes his pipe and has a dream of being in a restaurant during prehistoric days. Choosing from a hieroglyphic menu, Mike is served by a mastodon, not very successfully. His large ostrich egg hatches at the table, and his "trunk of soup" is squirted on him. He awakens during the soup deluge to find a bucket of water being dumped on him from an overhead window.

The Dinosaur and the Missing Link:

A Prehistoric Tragedy


Summary: The clayey Miss Araminta Rockface inspires devotion from "the Duke" and Stonejaw Steve, who vie for her affections. Theophilus Ivoryhead is our trickster antihero, and Wild Willie--the "missing link"--is a local terror who appears first in a dead tree looking like a sociopathological and anorexic Kong. When he steals food from the gathering of humanoids, the three males must go hunt down more to salvage what will be an entirely carnivorous banquet. One fellow shoots an arrow at a giant quail but hits another fellow in the butt. While Theophilus Ivoryhead fishes, Wild Willie decides to catch snakes for his dinner. He pulls on the serpentine tail of a dinosaur who is drinking from the lake and in the ensuing fight is thrown and dies. Theophilus happens on the scene, pokes at the mssing link's corpse, and feels secure enough to pose nobly with his foot on the deceased's chest (a pre-Kong glimmer from O'Brien). The others witness this tableau and Ivoryhead pontificates: "Yes yes--a mere trifle. He irritated me and I was forced to kill him." Kisses and praise end the scene.

Note: Early test footage by Willis O'Brien was expanded into this short claymation film. The pose of Theophilus with his foot on Willie's chest is called a "gesture of triumph that would become an O'Brien trademark."

R.F.D. 10,000 B.C.:

A Mannikin Comedy


Summary: Clay beauty Winnie Warclub makes a pie. The mailman comes by (he appears to be Morpheus Mike but goes unnamed), his wagon pulled by a dinosaur, and is punched. Johnny Bearskin, Winnie's suitor, carves her a valentine in stone: "I know you and you know me / Howd you like my wife to be." The mailman reads this and exchanges it for a goofy caricature and the words "old maid." When Bearskin comes calling, he gets conked. The mail wagon tips, Johnny B. catches up to Mike, and a fight breaks out. The top half of Mike's body is punched off and flies through the air, landing in the branches of a tree. The bottom half wanders until reuniting with the torso. Johnny Bearskin wins Winnie and, with the wagon and dino, has a new job as mailman.

Note: O'Brien's installation of air bladders made it appear as if the creatures were breathing. But the humanoid characters are perhaps too real in ugly hairy ways, so that the severed body is more gruesome than it is a hoot.

The Ghost of Slumber Mountain


Notes: In this 1-reeler released by World Film Corporation (a ten-minute film that took three months to shoot), Willis O'Brien himself, though he refused ever to confirm this, seems to be playing the main role in the story of a mountain climber, Uncle Jack, who tells his nephews that, in a forest cabin once, he discovered an odd optical device. The ghost of a hermit demonstrated to him the invention, a magical telescope, through which one can view Slumber Mountain as it appeared millions of years ago. We see a prehistoric landscape with several dinosaurs: first a brontosaur grazing, then a flightless bird devouring a snake, two triceratopses fighting, an impressive allosaur attacking. The ghost vanishes, and the allosaur attacks Jack. Jack fires at the dinosaur, but the creature chases him and is about to devour him when the flashback ends. The nephews realize he's full of it and beat him.

The original $3000 investment yielded $100,000 in profits. This O'Brien film sparked the interest of Watterson R. Rothacker, Billboard's West Coast manager and founder of the Industrial Motion Picture Company which developed special effects techniques. Rothacker and O'Brien joined forces to create the "monsters" for The Lost World after Rothacker obtained the rights.