Colonel Heeza Liar (partially found theatrical animated series; 1913-1924)

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Colonelheezaliar1.jpg

A scene from "Colonel Heeza Liar's Forbidden Fruit" (1923)

Status: Partially Found

Colonel Heeza Liar was the lead character in the first animated series to have a recurring character, The series was created by J. R. Bray as part of the Bray Cartoon company who also produced “Bobby Bumps”,"Silhouette Fantasies", “Koko The Clown” and “Farmer Alfafa” among many. Before his creation cartoons generally had characters appear as one shot appearances, The Colonel himself appears as a stereotype of the 19th century retired adventurer type character who has some inspiration drawn from Theodore Roosevelt with his first appearance being “Colonel Heeza Liar In Africa” released on the 29th November 1913 in a safari styled adventure. The format of the shorts would usually revolve around the idea of The Colonel leading into the story by telling it to the viewer as a tall tale which both entertained and infuriated those he told them to as they called him out on the improbability of it, playing into his pun inspired name “Heeza Liar”(He's-a-Liar). Despite this the character achieved fame and became widely recognized by his nickname “The Colonel” in the various film magazines and soon got a large following of fans eager to hear more of his outlandish tales.

The Great War

World War One was in full swing by 1915 and like many characters who would follow him The Colonel found himself drafted into a series of war themed cartoons created for the Pathe Screen Magazine which ran slightly shorter than usual shorts. Starting with “Colonel Heeza Liar Runs The Blockade” and ending with “Colonel Heeza Liar, War Dog“ he would find himself on the battlefields, In one of two only known surviving wartime examples “Colonel Heeza Liar Foils the Enemy” he is seen navigating french ruins and trenches of no man's land constantly having to avoid cannon fire and enemy German troops, the only surviving print of the cartoon ending with him being launched through the air right into the enemy camp from a cannon.

Postwar Years

After continuing until 1917 the series went on hiatus only to return in 1922 drawn as the first Bray animation project by future star Walter Lantz (Who would later go onto work on many cartoon series including Dinky Doodle, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Woody Woodpecker) amid the then popular fad for combining animated cartoons and live action. He would appear in another 20 short cartoons ending with the now lost short “Colonel Heeza Liar, Nature Faker” released on the 1st December 1924, After that his series was canned for good as the studio focused on producing newer more currently popular characters leaving him to fade into obscurity.

Preservation

A large amount of the shorts were lost over the years with the 1915 and 1924 shorts suffering the worst losses as time went on, During the 1940's the Bray Cartoon company sent out a lot of their cartoon negatives to home distributors to be duplicated for 8mm and other domestic film size releases but many were not careful with this material resulting in it's destruction, this along with the financial issues the Bray company had resulted in a lot of films being lost, Today through the efforts of the Bray Animation project [1] and a number of International Film Archives 25 out of the 59 cartoons shorts produced are now known to survive as either full cartoons or fragments / clips with a small handful of those being available to view online.

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