Max Fleischer, where animation meets live action.
Cartoon Factory (1924), directed and produced by brothers Dave and Max Fleischer, is a black and white animated short starring Koko the Clown. Koko engages in a playful battle between his creator, Max, using the power of the ink pen. The idea behind Koko originates from Dave Fleischer working at Coney Island as a clown, and photographing his brother in the clown garb, leading to the creation of the Out of the Inkwell series (1918-1929) and the technique of rotoscoping. Rotoscoping, at the time, was the process of the animator re-drawing live action footage on a frosted glass panel; this was patented in 1917 by Max Fleischer. The brothers established their own company, Inkwell Studios, in 1921, renamed in 1929 to Fleischer Studios. The company was purchased by Paramount Studios in 1942, and went under the name Famous Studios until 1967.
Aside from rotoscoping, the short utilizes a brief demonstration of cut out animation, traditional hand-drawn techniques and live-action in the form of Max himself. Koko creates a replica of Max as a solider to use as target practice for his cannonballs. The poor clown desired revenge against his creator for electrocuting him, denying him food, and a kiss from a beautiful woman. What ensues is a hilarious battle between a cartoon character and its creator attempting to outdo one another’s antics. Audio is also featured in the short (it was added in the 1930s after the silent era as a reissued version), however, the quality is muted and some lines of dialogue can be heard while others aren’t as clear; is to be expected with such an aged production. In the end, the impressive animation and comedy outshines the small audio difficulties–and the music is pretty nifty too.
The animator was responsible for creating the Popeye the Sailor and Superman cartoons, while his brother Dave served as the director and producer. Max had created one more character who would later on become one of the most popular animated personalities of all time: Betty Boop. Fleischer was also responsible for inventing the famed “follow the bouncing ball” tool seen in many sing-a-long videos and karaoke devices.
Fleischer’s innovation in comedy went as far as his ingenuity in animation, even inspiring Walt Disney to take inspiration from his work. Disney was quoted in Fleischer’s biography stating the following:
“Without his pioneering spirit and additions to the technology of animation, few, if any of us, would be where we are today.”
It is easy to see that from the numerous ideas the Fleischer Brothers contributed to the world of animation, animated features we appreciate today might not have been possible.
Featured below is the original version of Cartoon Factory.