The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer

American Animation Pioneer

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About the Book

The history of animated cartoons has for decades been dominated by the accomplishments of Walt Disney, giving the impression that he invented the medium. In reality, it was the work of several pioneers. Max Fleischer—inventor of the Rotoscope technique of tracing animation frame by frame over live-action footage—was one of the most prominent.
By the 1930s, Fleischer and Disney were the leading producers of animated films but took opposite approaches. Where Disney reflected a Midwestern sentimentality, Fleischer presented a sophisticated urban attitude with elements of German Expressionism and organic progression. In contrast to Disney’s naturalistic animation, Fleischer’s violated physical laws, supporting his maxim: “If it can be done in real life, it isn’t animation.” As a result, Fleischer’s cartoons were rough rather than refined, commercial rather than consciously artistic—yet attained a distinctive artistry through Fleischer’s innovations. This book covers his life and work and the history of the studio that bore his name, with previously unpublished artwork and photographs.

About the Author(s)

A 40–year film and animation professional, Ray Pointer studied film and television production at Wayne State University and University of Southern California. He served as a film producer for the U.S. Navy Office of Information and worked in the animation industry for Film Roman, Hanna-Barbera, Fred Wolf Films, MGM and Nickelodeon. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Bibliographic Details

Ray Pointer
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 320
Bibliographic Info: 254 photos (15 in color), filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6367-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2741-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vi

Foreword by Jerry Beck 1

Prologue 3

Introduction 5

 1. The Formative Years 7

 2. The Birth of a Career 21

 3. The Inkwell Studio 42

 4. Fleischer Studios, Inc. 62

 5. The Queen of the Animated Screen: Betty Boop 87

 6. Betty Boop on the Couch: A Character Analysis 103

 7. The Fleischer Factory 112

 8. The Popeye Plant 133

Between pages 152 and 153 are 8 color plates containing 15 photographs

 9. The Spinach Lid Blows Off 153

10. Picking Up the Pieces 167

11. Setting Sail for Miami 174

12. Stormy Seas Ahead 198

13. The Ship Wreck 221

14. The Change of Command 247

15. Separate Courses, New Directions 258

16. Recommissioned 265

17. Raising the Inkwell 274

Filmography 285

List of Animators 295

Chapter Notes 297

Bibliography 299

Index 301

Book Reviews & Awards

“Pointer’s account of Fleischer’s life and work draws on his own experience in film and animation as well as interviews with Fleischer family members. It is also stocked with previously unpublished photographs and artwork, including trade ads and patent diagrams. The story of this artist-inventor and the early days of animation will appeal to all interested in film history and iconic cartoons”—Booklist; “fascinating…a working blend of information, entertainment and scholarship”—SpeedReaders.