Max Fleischer was the founder of Fleischer Studios, and a major pioneer in both the creative and technical development of animated films. His first invention, in 1915, was the Rotoscope. He filmed his brother, dressed in a clown suit, then drew, frame by frame, over the filmed action, creating more life-like movement. Coming home from their day job and working nights in Max's living room, it took the brothers a year to produce one minute of film, but the look of animated cartoons had changed forever.
The Rotoscope was only one of the more than 15 patents Max Fleischer held on his inventions, many of which significantly advanced the technology of early film and animation. He was a true pioneer in the film industry.
Fleischer's 'Bouncing Ball' sing-along Song Car-Tunes series began in 1924. These were the first sound cartoons ever made, preceding Disney and others by four years. They featured popular entertainers of the day, including Rudy Vallee, Cab Calloway, The Mills Brothers, Louis Armstrong, and Ethel Merman.
By 1929 the studio name officially became Fleischer Studios. This coincided with the start of the Great Depression, a time when people sought escape from their problems by going to the movie houses.
Betty Boop, Fleischer's most famous creation, was born during this time. Betty first appeared in Dizzy Dishes in 1930. Her flirtatious persona was inspired by the flapper look, and the most famous female stars of the day (including Mae West).
By 1932, Betty was the star of her own series. She had become the first animated screen siren, and the unrivaled star of Fleischer Studios.
In addition to animating their own characters, Fleischer Studios animated and brought to life two other famous characters created by others that had previously existed only in comic strips—Popeye the Sailor (1933) and Superman (1941).
The Superman films are known for their visually stunning animation. The first in the series, Superman, was nominated for the 1941 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. Here it is:
First posted: 19 December 2012