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.

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.

Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising (1930)

Congo Jazz is a Looney Tunes cartoon starring Warner Bros.’ first cartoon star, Bosko. The cartoon was released in September 1930. It was distributed by Warner Bros. and The Vitaphone Corporation. Congo Jazz was the first cartoon to feature Bosko’s falsetto voice that he would use for the bulk of the series’ run. It has the earliest instance of a “trombone gobble” in animation.

In 1927, Harman and Ising were still working for the Walt Disney Studios on a series of live-action/animated short subjects known as the Alice Comedies. The two animators created Bosko in 1927 to capitalize on the new “talkie” craze that was sweeping the motion picture industry. They began thinking about making a sound cartoon with Bosko in 1927, before even leaving Walt Disney. Hugh Harman made drawings of the new character and registered it with the copyright office on 3 January 1928.

After leaving Walt Disney in early 1928, Harman and Ising went to work for Charles Mintz on Universal’s second-season Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. April 1929 found them moving on again, leaving Universal to market their new cartoon character. In May 1929, they produced a short pilot cartoon, similar to Max Fleischer’s Out of the Inkwell cartoons, Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid that showcased their ability to animate soundtrack-synchronized speech and dancing. The short, plotless cartoon opens with live action footage of Ising at a drafting table. After he draws Bosko on the page, the character springs to life, talks, sings, and dances. Ising returns Bosko to the inkwell, and the short ends. This short is a landmark in animation history as being the first cartoon to predominantly feature synchronized speech, though Fleischer Studios’ Song Car-Tune My Old Kentucky Home was the first cartoon to contain animated dialogue a few years earlier. This cartoon set Harman and Ising “apart from early Disney sound cartoons because it emphasized not music but dialogue.” The short was marketed to various people by Harman and Ising until Leon Schlesinger offered them a contract to produce a series of cartoons for the Warner Bros. It would not be seen by a wide audience until 71 years later, in 2000, as part of Cartoon Network’s special Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons, a compilation special of rare material from the WB/Turner archives.

In his book, Of Mice and Magic, Leonard Maltin states that this early version of Bosko:

“was in fact a cartoonized version of a young black boy… he spoke in a Southern Negro dialect… in subsequent films this characterization was eschewed, or perhaps forgotten. This could be called sloppiness on the part of Harman and Ising, but it also indicates the uncertain nature of the character itself.”

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.

Ikuo Oishi (1933)

A farmer walking in the woods is frightened away by a shapeshifting fox, who then disguises himself as a samurai and makes his way to a temple, haunted by a young shapeshifting tanuki whose various attempts to frighten the fox/samurai away fail. The young tanuki telephones his father, and they join forces against the samurai.

In old Japan, foxes and tanuki (Asian raccoons) were considered to have almost mystical powers of disguise, deception, and trickery. In this cartoon, a fox disguised as a samurai uses its magic against a mother-and-child pair of tanuki at a ruined temple. The drawing style shows the influence of Max Fleischer on early Japanese animation.

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.

Fleischer Brothers (1930)

Swing You Sinners! is a 1930 animated cartoon short, directed by the Fleischer Brothers as part of the Talkartoons. The cartoon is notable for its surreal, dark and sometimes even abstract content.

Let’s join Bimbo as he is chased by a policeman for trying to steal a chicken!

The cartoon was released on September 24, 1930 in the Talkartoons series and was animated by Ted Sears and Willard Bowsky. George Cannata, Shamus Culhane, Al Eugster, William Henning, Seymour Kneitel, and Grim Natwick also worked on it, but are uncredited in the title card. The cartoon was animated by a completely new staff who’d never worked in animation before because the studio had to replace some animators who quit. Animator Shamus Culhane states in his memoirs that though he created and animated what might be construed as a racist caricature of “a Jew with a black beard, huge nose, and a derby,” the studio’s atmosphere and its mixed ethnic crew made the depiction completely acceptable to all the Jews in the studio. The caricature in question is a reference to Jewish-American comedian Monroe Silver.

Motion Picture News wrote on October 11, 1930, “The clever cartoon pen of Max Fleischer again demonstrates itself in this Talkartoon. An off-stage chorus sings the lyrics to the rhythm of the action and the result is usually diverting. The cartoon hero is this time taken into a grave-yard with the absurd results that you might well imagine. Worth a play.”

The soundtrack was composed by W. Franke Harling, with lyrics by Sam Coslow. Title song was based on “Sing, You Sinners!”, some of which is played in the titles of the cartoon.

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.