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The Flying House

Distributed by Bill Plympton Studios
Produced by Serge Bromberg, Matthew Modine, Bill Plympton, Adam Rackoff
Directed by Winsor McCay
DVD , color, 9 min.
Jr. High - General Adult
Animation, Film Studies

Reviewed by Tom Ipri, Drexel University

Recommended with reservations   
Date Entered: 2/19/2013

The Flying House, one of Winsor McCay’s Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend silent shorts, depicts a woman, who after eating rarebit, has a dream in which her husband invents a way to make their house fly, enabling them to escape their mortgage debt. The couple not only escape their mundane life but also escape the atmosphere and fly to the moon.

In 2011, the animator Bill Plympton remastered the film, colorizing it, removing dialog boxes and intertitles and adding a voice track (Patricia Clarkson and Mathew Modine as the couple) in an effort to make The Flying House more accessible to modern audiences. The final product is two minutes shorter than the original.

On its own, the short is an entertaining introduction to the work of McCay. However, the supplementary material enhances the experience. This DVD includes an original version as well as a short making of documentary. Watching the original and the restoration in succession highlights the changes. The documentary provides insight into the technological process of the modifications and also touches on the issue as to whether or not such an effort does more damage than good. Plympton notes that he met resistance from some who argued that restoring the original is more important than trying to make it more accessible.

The Flying House is of rather specialized interest. The remastering shows in what ways an old film can be altered and raises intriguing questions as to the preservation of old films.