The films included in Origins of American Animation were taken from several collections in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. These include the Paper Print, American Film Institute/J. Stuart Blackton, A.F.I./Maurice Zouary, A.F.I./Frederick Edell, A.F.I./George Marshall, A.F.I./Dennis Atkinson, A.F.I./James Ashton, A.F.I./Rhode Island Historical Society, A.F.I./Thomas Souder, A.F.I./Bernard Uhl, Louise Ernst, George Kleine, and Cinémathèque Québécoise Collections. These films were previously released in 1994 as a videotape by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution under the title Origins of American Animation, 1900-1921.
The motion pictures used for the original videotape presentation were taken from 35mm and 16mm prints and transferred to D2 composite digital videotape. For this American Memory presentation, a BetaSp videotape copy was made from the D2 master, and the BetaSp copy was digitized by Crawford Multimedia in Atlanta, Georgia.
The motion pictures chosen for digitization were all black-and-white and silent. A piano score written and performed by Philip Carli has been added to these films and is not part of the original motion picture. The original motion pictures were shot with hand-cranked cameras at varying frame rates, generally at 22 frames per second (fps). In the video mastering process, the playback speeds were adjusted to present the appearance of natural motion to the greatest degree possible.
The MPEG and Quicktime versions of titles with running times greater than four minutes have been divided into segments to reduce the file sizes to 40 MB or less. A typical 28.8 Internet connection achieves a theoretical maximum download rate of approximately 3.5 KB/sec (210 K/min) under ideal conditions. Therefore, a file of 40 MB would take approximately 190 minutes (3 hours, 10 minutes) in optimal conditions and more likely much longer than that (as much as two to three times depending on Internet traffic load).