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.
While wandering around in Youtube the other day I found a number of cartoon films made before and during the last World War, that were apparently intended for adults. I don’t mean by this that they were pornographic I hasten to add, but simply not intended for children.
Apart from the fact that they were very well made, unlike the dross that is churned out these days for TV consumption (as opposed to the amazing full length computer generated animated films that studios such as Pixar make), they were all remarkably surreal as well – distinctly odd they are.
To start the ball rolling, here is a somewhat “adult” cartoon that was made in 1932, the very early days of animated films. This one, which has the wonderful name of “in my merry Oldsmobile”is actually about sex, but in a very odd fashion, as you will see. A curious mix of animation and real action as well. Altogether a strange film, but fun nonetheless.
The tone of this film is made clear in the very first frames…
As you will have seen, the world it creates is truly weird, in so many ways. And the characters live in their insane world perfectly happily. Apparently living according to their world’s rules. For example, the way the “hero” doesn’t simply climb through the hole in the door, but has to smash the door down.. and loads of other similar examples of the oddities of their world. An enjoyably silly and totally surreal film.
Another form of adult animated film was made during the war to teach people how to behave in a war situation. No end of equally weird films were made that were intended to use humour to get points of security and military safety across, and obviously were not intended for kids to watch.
This US Army film about the dangers of Booby Traps (replete with jokes about “boobies” of course) gives a good idea of how these films looked. This one seems to star Elmer Fudd of Bugs Bunny fame.