Georges Méliès

Georges Méliès belonged to the stop motion movement when he stumbled upon it when creating some of his films such as ‘Trip to the Moon’

Then other people in the same discipline as Méliès are animators like Tim Burton, famous for films like, ‘The Corps Bride’, ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’, ‘Frankinweenie’ and ‘Vicent’. Phil Tippett who was asked by George Lucas to work on the Star Wars films, Tippett is responsible  for animating the Imperial Walker and Tauntaun in the Empire Strikes Back film, in Tippett’s early work he designed sequences for the original Robocop and then Robocop 2. Also Willis O’Brien who was a great pioneer of the American stop motion, he created animations for films like the original ‘King Kong’ and ‘The Son of Kong’.

Georges Méliès was born in Paris, France in 1861. Georges was born into a wealthy family, Georges was one of three boys, his father was French and his mother was Dutch. Méliès attended Lycée Michelet, until it was destroyed in the French-Prussian War. Méliès graduated  from the Lycée with a baccalauréat in 1880.

Méliès after graduating started to work with his two brother in the family shoe business, where he learned how to sew. He then when on to do a mandatory three year of military service. Once his service was over his father sent Méliès to London to work for a family friend. Whilst in London Méliès would often visit the Egyptian Hall ran by the illusionist John Nevil Maskelyne, Méliès developed a lifelong passion for stage magic. Méliès returned to Paris in 1885 with a desire for art, his father didn’t support him financially as an artist, so Georges had to settle with supervising the machinery at the family factory. Méliès later that year refused to marry his brothers sister-in-law and instead married Eugénie Genin, they had two children Georgette born in 1888 and André born in 1901.

In 1888 Méliès’ father retired and Georges sold his half of the factory to his two brother. With the money from the sale and his wife’s dowry, Georges purchased the Théâtre Robert-Houdin. The Théâtre that they brought was superbly equipped lights, levers, trapdoors and several automata.

Georges Méliès started out his early film career with his first screening with the Lumière Brothers’ at the Grand Café in Paris in 1895. Méliès later directed 531 film between 1896 and 1913, ranging in a length of time from one to forty minutes long. In most of the films that he directed they contained tricks such as objects disappearing and changing size. Méliès started to film his first film in May 1896. In September 1896 Méliès began to build a film studio on his property in Montreuil.

In May 1902 Méliès made his most famous film, A Trip to the Moon. The film was an enormous success both in France and around the world. Méliès sold both black and white films and hand-coloured versions of the film. The film made Méliès famous in the United States. The film was a major break through for Méliès as this was the first time that double exposure was used and also stop motion. Stop Motion was used when the space ship hits the man in the moon, also when the aliens were hit they would vanish.

Coming to the end of his career in 1923 Méliès lost his studio and it was torn down in order to rebuild Boulevard Haussmann. In the same year Pathé took Méliès business for his own. In rage Méliès personally burned all of the negatives that were stored at the studio along with most of the set and costumes. As a result of his rage many of Méliès film are lost to the world but some are preserved.

After Méliès was driven out of business, he disappeared from public life. By mid-1920s Méliès was making a meagre living as a candy and toy salesman in Montparnsse station. Georges Méliès was awarded the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor). Which was presented to him by Louis Lumière. Lumière himself said that Méliès was the ‘creator of the cinematic spectacle’.