Noah's Ark, by VARB
'Noahzark Hotel'.

Raoul Barré was one of the pioneers of the French-Canadian comic strip, along with Albéric Bourgeois, Joseph Charlebois, René-Charles Béliveau and Th. Busnel. He was the first Canadian comic artist to publish in French. Among his comic series were 'Pour un Dîner de Noël' (1902), 'Histoire de Sauvage', 'Les Contes du Père Rheault' (1906) and Noahzark Hotel' ('À l'Hôtel du Père Noél', 1913). Barré was also an important pioneer of animation. He invented the peg and slash system, which were prominent animation techniques until deep in the 1930s. He also discovered how portray horizons and pan movements in animation. Barré was additionally the first person in history to establish an animation studio and the first to create an animated series around one recurring character. In the 1910s his studio also adapted several popular newspaper comics into animated shorts. 

Early life
Vital Achille Raoul Barré was born in 1874 in Montréal, Canada, as the son of a communion wine importer with 12 children. He studied at the Institut du Mont Saint-Louis in Montréal and le Conseil des Arts et Manufactures. He published his first illustrations in magazines like Monde Illustré and Le Passe-temps. In the spring of 1896 Barré moved to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian and École des Beaux-arts. Around the same time he published caricatures in Le Sifflet, Le Cri de Paris, Le Gavroche, Les Débats, La Revue des Deux Frances and La Gaîté Gauloise. Barré didn't limit his political opinions to just drawing. When French military officer Alfred Dreyfus was put on trial for treason, Barré was one of the few people who realized antisemitism was the real reason for his dismissal. Barré was a fierce critic of the Dreyfuss trial, making him a diagonal opponent of another cartoonist and future animation pioneer, Émile Cohl. Barré returned to Québec in 1898. He lived to see Dreyfuss rehabilitated and cleared from all charges in 1906. 

Pour un Diner de Noël, by Raoul Barré
'Pour un Diner de Noël'. 

Early comics
In 1900 Barré became a frequent collaborator of the Montréal newspaper La Presse. His pantomime comic 'Pour un Dîner de Noël' was published in La Presse on 20 December 1902 and is considered the first Quebecan comic strip. In eight panels, it tells the story of a family of three trying to catch a duck for their Christmas diner. He continued to work for the paper until 1908. He published many picture stories and cartoons, some of them with speech balloons, on the 'En Roulant Ma Boule' page. This included the cartoon feature 'Histoire de Sauvage'. A book collection of 'En Roulant Ma Boule' was published by Librairie Déom Frères. Another comic strip, 'Les Contes du Père Rheault' (1906), appeared in color in La Patrie and also featured speech balloons.

Barré illustrated novels by Henri Julien. He published under the pseudonyms "Raoul Barry" and "VARB" and moved to New York City in 1913, where he began an association with the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. The same year his comic strip 'Noahzark Hotel' was distributed by the same syndicate. It was published in The New Haven Union between 12 January and 9 November 1913 and also ran in La Patrie under the title 'À l'Hôtel du Père Noél'. 'Noahzark Hotel' was a funny animal comic, set in a hotel.

'Les Contes du Père Rheault' (25 August 1906).

Animation career
In 1914 Barré ventured into animation. He started out at the Edison Studios, where he met Bill Nolan, a producer of live-action shorts who'd become his business and creative partner. They made several animated advertisements. They pioneered the peg system to keep animated drawings in the exact same order and same place on paper. Barré also developed the "slash system" which kept the background drawings and the character drawings separate, then combining them together while filming every image. This system was in use until deep in the 1930s, but eventually replaced by the much more efficient cel animation sysem. Nolan also discovered that if a background drawn on a long piece of paper was passed under the drawings of a character walking, an illusion of horizontal motion was produced. This is the basis of all pan movements in animated films.

'Histoire de Sauvage'.

Barré-Nolan Studio
In 1914 Barré and Bill Nolan founded their own studio: Barré-Nolan. This was the first animation studio in history, even though their attempt was moderate compared with the more professional factory-based studios that would follow later. In May 1915 they launched one of the first animated series centered  around one character: 'The Animated Grouch Chasers', distributed by the Edison Studios. It was notable for combining animation with live-action. Together with Gregory LaCava and Frank Moser of William Randolph Hearst's International Film Service, they also worked on a series of "Phables", based on the comic strip by Tom Powers. Among the people who were once employed at Barré-Nolan were Gregory LaCava, Jack King, Frank Moser, Tom Norton, Clarence Rigby, George Vernon Stallings and Pat Sullivan. In 1916 Hearst's International Film Service hired most of Barré's animators, including Nolan. Barré became a contractor to IFS, but only stayed for seven films.

One of Barré's 'Animated Grouch Chasers'.

Barré-Bowers Studio
In 1916 Barré and fellow animator Charles Bowers founded the Barré-Bowers Studios. Bowers had previously made animated films based on Rudolph Dirks' 'Der Katzenjammer Kids' and Frederick Burr Opper's 'Happy Hooligan'. Together they made an animated version of Bud Fisher's comic strip 'Mutt and Jeff'. Among the people employed in their studio were Mannie Davis, F.M. Follett, Burt Gillett, Manny Gould, Milt Gross, Dick Huemer, Albert Hurter, Isadore Klein, Walter Lantz, Carl Lederer, Tom Palmer, George Ruffle, George Vernon Stallings, Ted Sears, Ben Sharpsteen and Bill Tytla. Barré retired from animation in 1919, amidst rumors of a nervous breakdown. Tensions had been high in the studio, particularly because Bud Fisher often took credit for all the work there, while in reality he didn't do anything and rarely visited the place. Barré became an oil painter and poster designer, while the company was renamed the Bud Fisher Studio. Fisher soon fired Bowers over a financial dispute on how the studio was run, which also meant the end of the 'Mutt & Jeff' animated series. He rehired Bowers in 1920, but later fired him again, since he padded the studio payroll and was involved in other shady dealings too. 

In 1926 Barré became an animator for Pat Sullivan's 'Felix the Cat' series again. At his studio he was involved with 'Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure' (1928), the first 'adults only' cartoon in history. A collection of naughty pornographic jokes, it was allegedly intended for a party to honour Winsor McCay's birthday. According to Disney animator Ward Kimball, it was made as a collaboration between the Barré, Max Fleischer and Paul Terry studios, who all animated certain scenes without each other's knowledge. Among the animators who worked on the picture were George Canata, Walter Lantz, George Vernon Stallings and Rudy Zamora Sr. Other sources claim that the short was too risqué to be processed by any lab at the time, which led the footage to sink into obscurity until the 1970s. 

Final years and death
In 1928 Barré retired from the animation industry again, this time for good. He kept making paintings and political cartoons for Le Taureau under the pseudonym "É. Paulette" and started his own art school. In 1932 Raoul Barré died of cancer at the age of 58. 

Raoul Barre
Raoul Barré.

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

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