Professor Charles Da Costa
27th October 2009
Max Fleischer : the journey of a film giant
Max Fleischer’s name is perhaps most often cited as the Pioneer in the birth and early development of cartoon animations or even as the co-founder of the famous Fleischer Studios, but the name holds more than meets the eye. Max Fleischer was born into a family of inventors in Vienna, Austria. Even after his family immigrated to New York City at an early age, it was only at the age ...view middle of the document...
And yet, just as cartoons were reaching their peak in the early 1940s, Fleischer lost control over his studio, found himself without a job and spent his last 30 years in relative obscurity.
But even today, Fleischer is recognized for his invaluable contribution that helped to revolutionize the field of animation and transformed it into a viable industry.
Fleischer Studios : The Beginning
Max Fleischer had the idea of using frames of a live-action film as the basis for drawing animation. This led to the invention of the rotoscope (a device used to produce moving picture cartoons) allowed for the production of animation more efficiently and economically. As a result of this device, the Fleischer brothers managed to land a contract with Bray Studios in 1919 to produce their own series called Out of the Inkwell, which was the result of three short experimental films that Max Fleischer independently produced during the period of 1914 – 1916 to demonstrate his invention. The series featured their first characters, Koko the Clown and Fitz the Dog, who evolved into Bimbo in 1930. Max’s Out of the Inkwell series became a worldwide success and the cartoon characters garnered much popularity among the audiences. With the diminishing power of the Bray Studios in 1920, Max and Dave Fleischer formed a partnership to produce animated films on their own. This led to the formation of their studio, Out of the Inkwell Films Inc in June 1921.
Throughout the 1920s, the studio proved to be one of the top producers of animation with clever humor and numerous innovations. These included sing along shorts which were the precursors to music videos and extended length educational films on subjects like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, which used a combination of animated special effects and live action. In 1923, animation veteran Dick Huemer redesigned the clown making animation for the series independent of the use of the Rotoscope technique. He also defined the drawing style with his distinctive inking quality that the series was famous for. But the integration and interaction of the live action sequences with animation in which a live artist’s hand - starring Max Fleischer as the artist and creator competing with his pen and ink creations - is shown bringing a cartoon character to life, which is what propelled the series further.
In 1924, Fleischer invented the bouncing ball technique for his Ko-Ko Song Car Tune series of animated sing-along shorts. A year later, the studio incorporated Lee de Forest’s Phonofilm sound-on film process to synchronize ...