Fleischer Studios (1933)

Snow-White, also known as Betty Boop in Snow-White, is a film in the Betty Boop series from Max Fleischer’s Fleischer Studios directed in 1933. Dave Fleischer was credited as director, although virtually all the animation was done by Roland Crandall. Crandall received the opportunity to make Snow-White on his own as a reward for his several years of devotion to the Fleischer studio, and the resulting film is considered both his masterwork and an important milestone of The Golden Age of American Animation. Snow-White took Crandall six months to complete.

The plot, such as it is, is really more a framework to display a series of gags, musical selections, and animation. Critics have cited the film as having some of the most imaginative animation and background drawings from the Fleischer Studios artists. Mae Questel performs the voices of Betty Boop and the Olive Oyl-ish Queen, and Cab Calloway is the voice of Koko the Clown, singing St. James Infirmary Blues. Koko’s dancing during the “St. James” number is rotoscoped from footage of Cab Calloway.

The film was deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1994. The same year, it was voted #19 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. The film is now in the public domain.

History of Fleischer Studios

Fleischer Studios was an American corporation which originated as an animation studio located at 1600 Broadway, New York City, New York. It was founded in 1921 as Inkwell Studios by brothers Ma 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 is notable for 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 in the 1930s.). 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, commercial rather than consciously artistic. 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, and the environments were grittier and urban, often set in squalid surroundings, reflecting the Depression as well as German Expressionism.

The Fleischer Studio was built on Max Fleischer’s novelty film series, Out of the Inkwell (1919-1927). The “novelty” was based largely on the results of the rotoscope, invented by Fleischer to produce realistic animation. The first Out of the Inkwell films were produced through The Bray Studio, and featured Fleischer’s first character, “The Clown,” which became known as Ko-Ko the Clown in 1924.

In 1921, The Bray Studio ran afoul with legal issues, having contracted for more films than it could deliver to its distributor, The Goldwyn Company. The Fleischer Brothers left and began their own studio with Dave as Director and Production Supervisor, and Max as Producer. In 1924, Veteran Animator, Dick Huemer came to The Inkwell Studio and redesigned “The Clown” for more efficient animation. Huemer’s new design and experience as an Animator moved them away from their dependency on The Rotoscope for fluid animation. In addition to defining the clown, Huemer established the Fleischer style with its distinctive thick and thin ink lines. In addition, Huemer created Ko-Ko’s companion, Fitz the Dog, who would evolve into Bimbo in 1930.

Throughout the 1920s, Fleischer was one of the leading producers of animation with clever moments and numerous innovations including the “Rotograph”, an early “Aerial Image” photographic process for compositing animation with live action backgrounds. Other innovations included Ko-Ko Song Car-Tunes and sing-along shorts featuring the famous bouncing ball, a precursor to Karaoke.

a-ha (1984)

At the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, the video for Take On Me won six awards—Best New Artist in a Video, Best Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Best Direction, Best Special Effects, and Viewer’s Choice—and was nominated for two others, Best Group Video and Video of the Year. “Take On Me” was also nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Video at the 13th American Music Awards in 1986.

Take On Me is a song by Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha, first released in 1984. The original version was produced by Tony Mansfield and remixed by John Ratcliff. A new version was released in 1985 and produced by Alan Tarney for the group’s debut studio album Hunting High and Low (1985). The song combines synthpop with a varied instrumentation that includes acoustic guitars, keyboards, and drums. It is considered to be the band’s signature song.

A-ha released a less slick version of the song in 1984, but redid the tune after it proved to be a commercial flop. And despite releasing a revised rendition in 1985, Waaktaar-Savoy says, “it took, like, four months to reach number one in America. And it felt like years. Every week it would go up a spot, up three spots…. It would pick up, then slow down. [It] was a whole process.”

They teamed up with director Steve Barron, who directed Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, for a short-form piece that mixed live action with rotoscope animation — never before used in a music video. “It was a dream to work with talent like that,” Waaktaar-Savoy says of Barron. “Normally, videos took a week of shooting in a hangar. But for this, we did a whole day that was only to make the comic magazine. Then four months spent doing hand-drawn drawings. It was very thorough stuff.” Illustrator Mike Patterson drew more than 3,000 sketches for the final clip.

Weezer (2019)



Weezer had teamed with Calpurnia – the indie rock band led by Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard – for a nostalgic new video for their cover of a-ha’s Take On Me. The track appears on Weezer’s self-titled covers record, also known as The Teal Album.

Ralph Bakshi (1981)

Created and animated by Ralph Bakshi in 1981, American Pop is an animated story of a very talented and troubled family starting with 19th-century Russia and moving through several generations of musicians. The film covers American popular music from the pre-jazz age through rhythm and blues, 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, drug-laden psychedelia, and punk rock, finally ending with the onset of New Wave in the early 1980s.

American Pop is a 1981 American adult animated musical drama film starring Ron Thompson and produced and directed by Ralph Bakshi. It was the fourth animated feature film to be presented in Dolby sound. The film tells the story of four generations of a Russian Jewish immigrant family of musicians whose careers parallel the history of American popular music in the 20th century.

The majority of the film’s animation was completed through rotoscoping, a process in which live actors are filmed and the subsequent footage is used for animators to draw over. However, the film also uses a variety of other mixed media including water colors, computer graphics, live-action shots, and archival footage.

Following the production struggles of The Lord of the Rings, Ralph Bakshi decided that it was time to work on something more personal. He pitched American Pop to Columbia Pictures president Dan Melnick. Bakshi wanted to produce a film with an extensive soundtrack of songs which would be given an entirely new context in juxtaposition to the visuals in a film. While the film does not reflect Bakshi’s own experiences, its themes were strongly influenced by individuals he had encountered in Brownsville. The film’s crew included character layout and design artist Louise Zingarelli, Vita, Barry E. Jackson, and Marcia Adams, each of whom brought their own personal touch to the film. Bakshi once again used rotoscoping, in an attempt to capture the range of emotions and movement required for the film’s story.

“Rotoscoping is terrible for subtleties, so it was tough to get facial performances to match the stage ones.”

Ralph Bakshi

The rock band Fear appeared in the film, Fear lead singer Lee Ving acted under the name Lee James Jude. And actor Elya Baskin performed in the film in an early role as a tuba player.

The score for American Pop was composed by Lee Holdridge. As the result of his reputation as an innovator of adult animation, Bakshi was able to acquire the rights to an extensive soundtrack, including songs by Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Doors, George Gershwin, The Mamas & the Papas, Herbie Hancock, Lou Reed, and Louis Prima.

If you enjoyed American Pop, please check out this other wonderful creation by Ralph Bakshi entitled THIS Ain’t BeBop by clicking on the link below:

https://hobomooncartoons.com/2020/04/15/this-aint-bebop/

Max Fleischer (1923)

Out of the Inkwell was a major animated series of the silent era produced by Max Fleischer from 1918 to 1929. The series was the result of three short experimental films that Max Fleischer independently produced in the period of 1914–1916 to demonstrate his invention, the Rotoscope, which was a device consisting of a film projector and easel used as an aid for achieving realistic movement for animated cartoons. The Rotoscope would project motion picture film through an opening in the easel, covered by a glass pane serving as a drawing surface. The image on the projected film was traced onto paper, advancing the film one frame at a time as each drawing would be made. Fleischer’s younger brother Dave Fleischer was working as a clown at Coney Island, and served as the model for what was to become their first famous character that later evolved as “Koko the Clown.”