Fleischer Studios (1930)

Screen Songs are animated cartoons featuring the famous “bouncing ball” produced by Max Fleischer and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1938. The cartoons are sing-alongs featuring popular song hits of the day along with the ethnic stereotypes and humor typical of the era in which they were produced. In the 1930s, the series began to feature current popular musical guest stars such as Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee and Ethel Merman. In the 1950s, the series was syndicated to television by UM&M/National Telefilm Associates.

The Prisoner’s Song was one of the top-selling songs of the 1920’s, and of the 20th century. Sheet music sales was the typical way to gauge music sales in the 1920’s, and this song sold over 1 million copies. The song was copyrighted and recorded in 1924 by Vernon Dalhart, who had heard the song from his cousin, who had heard it from his brother – a former prisoner. The authorship of the song has been a major controversy, and one story claims that the songs lyrics had been discovered on the walls of a Georgia cellblock. A Prisoner’s Song was the first country music song to sell over a million records. In 1930, the song was the plot basis for a Screen Songs short film, featuring a bouncing teardrop in the place of the Fleischer’s famous Bouncing Ball. The teardrop bounces over the song’s lyrics for almost an entire three minutes. The Prisoner’s Song also appears briefly in scenes from several other Fleischer Studio’s films.

Pat Sullivan & Otto Messmer (1929)

This Felix the Cat cartoon doesn’t have much of a plot but rather is a series of random adventures starring our hero and a fox. It’s a silent cartoon that had crude sound added after the fact by distributor Jacques Kopfstein. This cartoon looks to have been made earlier than 1929. It’s no wonder that Disney and Fleischer made serious inroads into Felix’s popularity.

Felix the Cat is a funny cartoon character created in 1919 by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer during the silent film era. An anthropomorphic black cat with white eyes, a black body, and a giant grin, he is one of the most recognized cartoon characters in film history. Felix was the first animated character to attain a level of popularity sufficient to draw movie audiences.

Felix originated from the studio of Australian cartoonist/film entrepreneur Pat Sullivan. Either Sullivan himself or his lead animator, American Otto Messmer, created the character. What is certain is that Felix emerged from Sullivan’s studio, and cartoons featuring the character enjoyed success and popularity in popular culture. Aside from the animated shorts, Felix starred in a comic strip (drawn by Sullivan, Messmer, and later Joe Oriolo) beginning in 1923, and his image soon adorned merchandise such as ceramics, toys, and postcards.

Fleischer Studios (1930)

A Bimbo cartoon (though he is still unnamed).

Bimbo is the hot dog vendor at an opera led by a Leopold Stokowski-like lion, with plenty of operatic mice. Includes a repeating gag of a hippo coming and going through the seats, displacing patrons.

Animated by Seymour Kneitel & Al Eugster

For the Fleischer brothers, the transition to sound was relatively easy. With the new contract with Paramount Pictures, and without the burden of Red Seal Pictures and Alfred Weiss, Max Fleischer was free to experiment with new, bold ideas. First he changed the name of the Ko-Ko Song Cartunes series to Screen Songs. Although the Screen Songs were successful, Fleischer felt that it wasn’t enough. Walt Disney also seemed to gain a great amount of fame through his sound cartoons. Max decided to work with his brother Dave on a new series of cartoons where the characters did more than just simply dance to the music of the “bouncing ball”. The name for the new series was to be Talkartoons. When the idea was pitched to Paramount, they leaped at the opportunity.

The Talkartoons started out as one-shot cartoons. The first entry in the series was Noah’s Lark, released on October 26, 1929. Although a Fleischer cartoon, it appeared to be patterned after the Aesop’s Film Fables of Paul Terry. In it, a Farmer Al Falfa-esque Noah allows the animals of his ark to visit Luna Park. When he brings them back into the ship, the weight is so heavy that it sinks. In the end, Noah chases topless mermaids throughout the ocean waters. Lark has very few gray tones, very much like the Screen Songs produced during the same time and the earlier Fleischer silent works. It also included copyright-free songs, mostly utilized from old 78-rpm’s.

The series began to take a new direction, however, with the arrival of Max and Dave’s brother, Lou Fleischer, whose skills in music and mathematics made a great impact at the studio. A dog named Bimbo gradually became the featured character of the series. The first cartoon that featured Bimbo was Hot Dog (1930), the first Fleischer cartoon to use a full range of greys. New animators such as Grim Natwick, Shamus Culhane, and Rudy Zamora began entering the Fleischer Studio, with new ideas that pushed the Talkartoons into a league of their own. Natwick especially had an off-beat style of animating that helped give the shorts more of a surreal quality. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Talkartoons series and the Fleischer Studio was the creation of Betty Boop with Dizzy Dishes in 1930.

By late 1931, Betty Boop dominated the series. Koko the Clown was brought out of retirement from the silent days as a third character to Betty and Bimbo. By 1932, the series was at an inevitable end and instead, Betty Boop would be given her own series, with Bimbo and Koko as secondary characters.

Ub Iwerks (1931)

Flip the Frog is an animated cartoon character created by American animator Ub Iwerks. He starred in a series of cartoons produced by Celebrity Pictures and distributed through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1930 to 1933. The series had many recurring characters besides Flip; including Flip’s dog, the mule Orace, and a dizzy neighborhood spinster.

Flip was created by Ub Iwerks, animator for the Walt Disney Studios and a personal friend of Walt Disney in 1930, at the Iwerks Studios. After a series of disputes between the two, Iwerks left Disney and went on to accept an offer from Pat Powers to open a cartoon studio of his own and receive a salary of $300 a week, an offer that Disney was unable to match at the time. Iwerks was to produce new cartoons under Powers’ Celebrity Pictures auspices and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The first series he was to produce was to feature a character called Tony the Frog, but Iwerks disliked the name and it was subsequently changed to Flip.

Iwerks’ studio quickly began accumulating new talent, such as animators Fred Kopietz, Irv Spence, Grim Natwick, and Chuck Jones. After the first two cartoons, the appearance of Flip the Frog gradually became less froglike. This was done under the encouragement of MGM, who thought that the series would sell better if the character were more humanized. Flip’s major redesign is attributed to Grim Natwick, who made a name for himself at Fleischer Studios with the creation of Betty Boop. Natwick also had a hand in changing Flip’s girlfriend. In earlier films, she was consistently a cat, but Natwick made Flip’s new girlfriend, Fifi, a human who shared distinct similarities with Betty.

The frog’s personality also began to develop. As the series progressed, Flip became more of a down-and-out, Chaplin-esque character who always found himself in everyday conflicts surrounding the poverty-stricken atmosphere of the Great Depression. Owing to the influx of New York City animators to Iwerks’s studio, the shorts became increasingly risqué.

The character eventually wore out his welcome at MGM. His final short was Soda Squirt, released in 1933. Subsequently, Iwerks replaced the series with a new one starring an imaginative liar named Willie Whopper. Flip became largely forgotten by the public in the ensuing years. However, the character would make a small comeback when animation enthusiasts and historians began digging up the old Iwerks shorts.

by Irving Berlin (1912)

Fleischer Studios (1926)

You can sing along with the bouncing ball and Fleischer animation depicting passengers boarding a train, including one late arrival who, magically, opens the conductor as if he were a door! Learn more about Max and Dave Fleischer, Fleischer Studios, and the early days of animation at http://www.fleischerstudios.com/

“Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American music”

— Jerome Kern

in 1911, Berlin hit upon the musical composition that catapulted him into legend:  “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”  A jaunty tip of the hat to the ragtime craze (although not technically of the ragtime genre) the song reached the larger public in several stages: first as a vaudeville number premiered in Chicago by Emma Carus; then as a performance by Berlin at the Friars Frolic of 1911; then increasingly “covered” by performers in vaudeville and early gramophone recordings. It set a new record by becoming the fastest selling song of its time, moving a million copies of sheet music within four months; by 1912, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” had sold over two million copies of sheet music and subsequently a million more.   It was the most ubiquitous song of its era and had become a cornerstone of the music publishing industry.

Read more about Irving Berlin here: https://www.irvingberlin.com/early-career-and-tin-pan-alley

Fleischer Studios (1929)

This educational film explains how sound motion pictures are produced. It’s only fitting that, as one of the major innovators in the field, Max Fleischer takes on this task. This cartoon has been preserved through the National Film Preservation Society and the Library of Congress. Find out more about this cartoon at: https://www.fleischerstudios.com/blog…​ And learn more about Fleischer Studios in general at: http://www.fleischerstudios.com/

Finding His Voice is a short instructional animated film created to show how the Western Electric sound-on-film recording system worked. Recording stars Billy Murray and Walter Scanlan, uncredited, provide the speaking and singing voices. Murray also provided the voice for the Fleischer Studios character Bimbo.

Fleischer Studios (1935)

Time for Love is a Fleischer Studios film directed by Dave Fleischer and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It was released in September 6, 1935 as part of the Color Classics series.

The courtship of two swans is interrupted by a third swan, who demonstrates his prowess at catching fish. Outmatched, the male swan eventually leaves her mate, but when the interloper begins treating her cruelly and chases her around the pond, her old flame intercedes and chases the evil swan away.

Produced by Max Fleischer, directed by Dave Fleischer, and animated by Willard Bowsky and Nicholas Tafuri.

Max Fleischer (1942)

This obscure Fleischer two-reel cartoon is one of the oddest Fleischer shorts ever made. It starts out as a straight-forward adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic poem The Raven, but quickly turns into a farce about a door-to-door vacuum salesman (the Raven) and a Wolf. Together, they pay a visit to a very thrifty Scottie Dog, where the Raven attempts to make a sale, while the Wolf goes about breaking into the dog’s safe.

The Raven is voice by Jack Mercer, the famous voice of Popeye the Sailor.

This was the last produced animated short of Fleischer Studios before the Paramount take down replaced them with Famous Studios.

Fleischer Studios (1934)

Ha! Ha! Ha! is a 1934 Fleischer Studio Betty Boop animated short film featuring Koko the Clown.

This is a partial remake of the 1924 Koko animated short, The Cure. It’s also Koko’s last theatrical appearance.

Max Fleischer deployed a number of techniques in the service of his anarchic cinematic vision, among them rotoscoping, which he patented in 1917; integrating live action shots; and using still photographs as animation backgrounds to create the illusion of cartoon characters inhabiting a real-world space, as in the opening scene of the astounding Betty Boop short Ha! Ha! Ha! (1934). The most technologically ornate item in Fleischer’s toolbox was the setback camera.

The setback camera is often confused with Disney’s multiplane camera. Both systems evolved somewhat contemporaneously, and both create the illusion of dimensional depth, but functionally they have little in common. The setback rig consists of a forced-perspective, miniature set mounted on a turntable, serving as background to the cel art held in a vertical glass platen, and a horizontal animation camera. The turntable is rotated incrementally behind the cels, creating the effect of a “tracking shot” — the 2D animated character, in a side-view walk cycle, traverses a realistically proportioned (but still recognizably Fleischeresque) 3D environment which moves perspectivally across the background.

The setback camera.
The Fleischer brothers working on the setback camera.

Fleischer Studios (1930)

Seymour Kneitel along with Dave Fleischer directed this animated short film, but was uncredited.

Screen Songs are animated cartoons featuring the famous “bouncing ball” produced by Max Fleischer and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1938. The cartoons are sing-alongs featuring popular song hits of the day along with the ethnic stereotypes and humor typical of the era in which they were produced. In the 1930s, the series began to feature current popular musical guest stars such as Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee, and Ethel Merman.

Fleischer Studios was an American corporation that originated as an animation studio located at 1600 Broadway, New York City, New York. It was founded in 1921 as Inkwell Studios, Inc. and Out of the Inkwell Films by brothers Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer who ran the pioneering company from its inception until Paramount Pictures, the studio’s parent company and the distributor of its films, acquired ownership. In its prime, Fleischer Studios was a premier producer of animated cartoons for theaters, with Walt Disney Productions becoming its chief competitor in the 1930s.

Fleischer Studios characters included Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Bimbo, Popeye the Sailor, and Superman. Unlike other studios, whose characters were anthropomorphic animals, the Fleischers’ most successful characters were humans (with the exception of Bimbo, who was a black-and-white cartoon dog). The cartoons of the Fleischer Studio were very different from the Disney product, both in concept and in execution. As a result, the Fleischer cartoons were rough rather than refined, consciously artistic rather than commercial. But in their unique way, their artistry was expressed through a culmination of the arts and sciences. This approach focused on surrealism, dark humor, adult psychological elements, and sexuality. Furthermore, the environments were grittier and urban, often set in squalid surroundings, reflecting the Great Depression as well as German Expressionism.

The Fleischer Brothers (1930)

I’m Afraid to Go Home in the Dark is a 1930 animated short film which is presented by Max Fleischer and was directed by Dave Fleischer. The film, which was originally released by the film company Paramount Pictures, features a sing-along version of the song “I’m Afraid to Come Home in the Dark”, which was written by Egbert Van Alstyne and Harry Williams and was originally published in 1907.

The film also features an early prototype of Bimbo, the same that was used in the Fleischer cartoon Hot Dog, which was released in the same year.

Copyright on January 30, 1930, and released the same day, the film is part of the “Follow the bouncing ball” series entitled Screen Songs. These films would invite the audience to sing the song featured in them.

Dave Fleischer (1939)

In this animated tale, seaman Lemuel Gulliver (Sam Parker) is the sole survivor of a shipwreck on the distant land of Lilliput, whose people are no bigger than peanuts. Unaware of Gulliver lying on the beach, King Little arranges for the marriage of his daughter, Princess Glory (Jessica Dragonette), to Prince David (Lanny Ross), the son of neighboring King Bombo. Angered when King Little refuses to agree on the wedding song, Bombo declares war just as the villagers discover the giant Gulliver.

Based on the novel written by Jonathon Swift, 1726.

Fleischer Studios (1933)

Is My Palm Read is a 1933 Pre-Code Fleischer Studios animated short film starring Betty Boop, and featuring Koko the Clown and Bimbo.

Betty visits Bimbo the fortune teller for some advice, but Bimbo is only interested in making time with Betty. Bimbo’s crystal ball predicts that Betty will be shipwrecked on a desert isle (during which time she sings part of the Irving Berlin song All by Myself), and attacked by evil spirits resembling poltergeists, but rescued by Bimbo. When Bimbo reveals himself by removing his fake beard, a happy Betty embraces him. Unfortunately, a group of the ghosts from the vision burst in on this scene, and chase the two to the desert isle. Betty and Bimbo eventually escape from the ghosts by tricking them into going off a cliff into the sea.

Fleischer Studios (1934)

She Wronged Him Right is a 1934 Fleischer Studios animated short film, starring Betty Boop. This is also the first appearance of Betty’s semi-regular boyfriend, Fearless Fred.

Betty Boop appears in a stage play, complete with obvious theatrical backdrops. Betty doesn’t have the money to pay the mortgage, so the dastardly villain Heeza Rat threatens to foreclose unless Betty agrees to marry him. The villain threatens Betty in various ways until the handsome and muscular Fearless Fred comes to her rescue.

Directed by Dave Fleischer

Produced by Max Fleischer

Voices by Bonnie Poe

Music by Herman Hupfeld (song “Let’s Put Out the Lights (and Go to Sleep)”)

Animation by Roland Crandall & Thomas Johnson

Studio Fleischer Studios