Max Fleischer, The Father Of Modern Animation

Max Fleischer, The Father Of Modern Animation Generally when people think of cartoons, in the sense of animated films, they assume that all the real pioneering work was done by Walt Disney back in the 20’s of the last century, but this is absolutely not the case.   In fact almost all the development of […]

Max Fleischer, The Father Of Modern Animation

Generally when people think of cartoons, in the sense of animated films, they assume that all the real pioneering work was done by Walt Disney back in the 20’s of the last century, but this is absolutely not the case.   In fact almost all the development of techniques and styles were the work of a man who is now hardly remembered by people outside the world of animated films, a certain Max Fleischer.

The list of techniques and tools that he invented or developed is enormous, and his influence on what we now see every day on our screens is almost entirely due to the amazing imagination and skill of this remarkable man.

I shan’t bother to give a sort of potted biography of him here.   What I shall be looking at here are the main threads of his development as an animator and an inventor of all manner of very significant techniques and aids to making and watching such cartoons.


OK, it is a bit of a give away I suppose, yup, he was the creator of Betty Boop among other famous cartoon characters.

He was also responsible for such famous cartoon characters as Popeye, Koko the Clown and numerous other now forgotten characters who were the result of his work, oh and he was also responsible for the first cartoons of good old Superman as well.

I shall be giving you examples of these various cartoons later in this post, so bear with me as I discuss some of his other major contributions to the art of animated films.

The first, and possibly the most significant was the invention of a gadget called the Rotoscope.

Drawing from the patent application for the Rotoscope

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More Odd And Strange Videos

Here is another collection of some of the odder animations I have stumbled across in my endless wanderings in the deeper levels of Youtube.

I enjoy the way that Youtube leads you from what you originally set out to find, to more and more curious discoveries and as far away from your original search as possible.   It is through this happy aspect of Youtube that I have discovered some of what have become my favourite sorts of music – totally unplanned and serendipitous really.

So, here is the first of my latest discoveries from the weirder side of the world of animations.

This one is from the school of what is known as Steam Punk, a sort of uneasy marriage between Victorian machinery and 20th century technology.   It has its being in music, fashion, animations such as this one, literature and a whole slew of arts.  A very alive and odd aesthetic movement.

Anyhow, here is an animation that comes from that school of thought.

I have to admit that this is actually an advertisement, but totally executed in the Steam Punk idiom, so it is acceptable as an example of Steam Punk I feel.

Fun eh?

And now for something completely different….  An animation called Gentleman’s Duel.  I enjoyed this one, silly though it be.   Nicely observed and extremely well made….   So sit back and enjoy a piece of silliness with no other significance.

However, it also has an element of Steam Punk about it as you will see.

So, that was one totally over the top film….   and the next one is also very silly….   But equally well made and convincing in its own world…

All about the troubles two very strange individuals have with their truck in a desert.. I shall say no more, as I don’t wish to spoil it for you, simply click on the start button below and enjoy this bit of silliness.

So, enjoy that?   Fun isn’t it?

And next?   What more do I have for you today?   Lets see………

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More Truly Odd Videos From Deep In Youtube

Once again I have taken my life in my hands, ensured that there is a rescue plan, and headed down into the darker depths of Youtube to see what weird and odd videos I might find lurking down there for my (and your) pleasure.  And did I ever find some strange ones too!!!!

Once one gets past the first level of automatic offerings from Youtube, one begins to come across extremely odd and frequently inexplicable videos, such as this one.  What on earth did he think of as he made this video?   The mind boggles.

Do you see what I mean?  This guy sat down and created this video, took trouble to get the images he wanted, and spliced them all together behind a long shot of his face.   Not a photo of his face, but him looking into the camera for the entire 1.33 minutes that his video lasts….   Odd I think you will agree.   And all those more or less apocalyptic images behind him.  Are they meant to tell you something about him or…….

Anyhow, lets just accept the fact that it is strange and move on…

To this one, even weirder in another way.. a relatively long, very well made video that seems utterly pointless, and to have nothing resembling a plot… except this girl drawing in the air with an enormous pencil… with a face!

To be honest, I can’t think of anything to say about this one.  I enjoyed it and found it extremely compelling, but haven’t a clue what its maker was trying to tell me.   Sort of like peaceful music as a background to looking at the night sky…  Saying nothing, but being good for the soul nonetheless.

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Dark And Disturbing Animations

This time I have selected some very dark animations for your pleasure.   One thing that all these animations have in common is that they deal with the more unpleasant or worrisome aspects of our lives.   No cheerful mice or penguins doing the Charleston to be found in this lot.

The first one, created by Jonny Lawrence which is called Mothlight deals with a young boy trying to get to sleep, and in the words of Jonny, it is basically a study in light and shade.

Whilst it is a very short film, and nothing nasty happens, it still manages to create an atmosphere that is spooky and laden with the idea that something horrible is about to happen. Quite clever to manage that in a film that only lasts 1 minute and 20 seconds.

Anyhow, here it is, watch it and see what you feel about it.

Next on the list is a very odd film called The Passenger, which was made by Chris Jones.  I am not sure quite what to make of this one – it is truly strange, the story line is equally odd.  The drawing style seems to be a pretty standard sort of computer rendered animation, and if it wasn’t for the setting ( a dark and gloomy street) one would expect it to be a cheerful little film about a character walking home whilst reading a book – which is exactly what is happening, but then it takes a turn for the worse, and starts to be downright Gothic and alarming….  I shan’t spoil it for you by describing it further, but I would simply say it is very well worth passing some seven minutes in the company of the very odd hero of this little film….  Enjoy it!

And now for a truly weird film, a sort of Cyber Punk (ish) film, which on the surface is about a machine, a sort of robot, wanting to become human, and failing….  On the technical level, this is a truly remarkable film, and one that its maker – Andrew Huang – has every reason to be very proud of.

And on the level of its story, he has succeeded very well also.   The motivation of his robot, and its struggles to become human are horribly easy to see and identify with, and its ultimate failure is depressing…

A complex and intriguing film I think you will find, so click away and see what you think of it.

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Steve Cutts – A Most Extraordinary Cartoonist

I have just come across the work of Steve Cutts, a very strange but committed cartoonist and animated film maker, whose work shows a very strong involvement with the less attractive sides of our society.

As you will see from the several examples of his work I shall bung up here for you to look at, he is deeply concerned with environmental issues, social problems and the general difficulties of life.

He puts it this way:  I like to make animations about life and society in general, so there tends to be a message in most of them. The general insanity of mankind is an almost endless pot of inspiration!”

I would say that having looked at a large amount of his work, that this is, if anything, an understatement.  His work is totally involved in the problems of the world in one way or another, in a very dry and succinct manner as well.   One is in no doubt as to the message he wishes to impart unto us when looking at any of his drawings or animations.

Anyhow, to whet your appetite, here are a few of his cartoons, and a couple of typical videos.



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The Illusionist – Tati Rides Again

I have just seen a full length animated film of a story by Jacques Tati (of M. Hulot fame) called The Illusionist, and I have to tell you it is superb!


This curious film, which was made by Sylvain Chomet, who also made that very odd animated film The Triplets of Belleville is based on a script that Tati wrote many years earlier, and was a sort of long apology to his estranged illegitimate daughter apparently.

The story line is about an illusionist whose career in the music halls of Paris is slowly but surely going downhill, as a result of which he finds himself performing on a remote Scottish island (watch the film to find the logic in this!), where he is sort of adopted by a young woman who is a cleaner in the hotel he lives in.. and the rest of the film is really about his efforts to look after her, provide for her and generally act as a father to her – no suggestion of a sexual relationship.

In January 2010, The Manchester Guardian published the article “Jacques Tati’s lost film reveals family’s pain” stating,

“In 2000, the screenplay was handed over to Chomet by Tati’s daughter,Sophie Tatischeff two years before her death. Now, however, the family of Tati’s illegitimate and estranged eldest child, Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel, who lives in the north-east of England, are calling for the French director to give her credit as the true inspiration for the film. The script of L’illusionniste, they say, was Tati’s response to the shame of having abandoned his first child [Schiel] and it remains the only public recognition of her existence.

All of this is profound and no doubt intriguing stuff for film history buffs, but for the rest of us, this film can – and should – be seen for what it also is, which is a highly entertaining, very odd and eccentric animated film made for adults, that is not scary, bloody, full of monsters or in any way nasty, simply a film with likeable and understandable characters.   And the most wonderful animation.  None of your cheap and badly made TV animations here, but animation of the highest order.  It is a real pleasure simply to watch the work of world class animators.

The animators have exactly caught the way Jacques Tati moved – his awkward leaning forward way of walking, and his well known hands high on his hips and leaning forward as he talks to people…   All his mannerisms have been beautifully reproduced here…. instantly recognisable character.

You can see what I mean about both the story line and the quality of the animation in this trailer for the film.

So, if you admire the work of Jacques Tati, or simply enjoy well made adult animated films, then this is certainly a film you should see, if you can find it online or in the video stores.

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