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Fleischer Studios

Fleisher Studios was an American Hollywood animation company headed by the brothers, Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer[?] who ran the company from 1921-1942. In its prime, it was the most significant competitor to The Walt Disney Company.

The company had its start when Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope[?] which allowed for animation in an extremely lifelike fashion. Using this device, the Fleischer brothers got a contract with Bray Studio[?] in 1919 to produce their own series called Out of the Inkwell[?] which featured their first character, Koko the Clown. This became a very successful series which gave them the confidence to start their own studio in 1921.

Throughout the 1920s, the studio proved to be one of the top producers of animation with clever humour and numerous innovations. These included sing along shorts which were the precursor to music videos, extended length educational films on subjects like relativity, and even experimental sound films years before The Jazz Singer which attracted little interest.

With the full adoption of sound films in the late 1920s, the studio was one of the few animation companies to successfully make the transition with a new series called Talkartoons with a new character called Bimbo. That character was quickly upstaged by a supporting character called Betty Boop who quickly became the star of the studio. Betty was the first female feature character in American animation and she reflected the distinctive adult urban orientation of the studio which made the studio stand out from their competitors. Their success was further solidified when they licensed Popeye for a film property and it became the most popular series which resulted in not only a long series of shorts but three extended length colour films.

Unfortunately, events turned against the studio and the brothers. In the mid 1930s the Hays Code was put in place in Hollywood which meant severe censorhip for films. As a result, Betty was desexualized and a major part of her charm was lost. What's worse, the Fleischer's eventually caved into pressure from their distributor, Paramount Pictures, to begin emulating Walt Disney in their film content, which robbed the studio of their distinctive flavour. This showed in the film series Color Classics which was essentially a copy of Disney's Silly Symphonies. This culminated in their attempt to compete with Disney in the feature film market with two films, Gulliver's Travels[?] and Mr. Bug[?] which both failed due to a combination of inferior quality by a studio with a newly expanded and green production staff and poor marketing by Paramount. Their best work of this later period was the animated adaptation of the Superman comic character which boasted both the biggest budget ever for a theatrical short series and a return to the original urban tone of the studio which guided its excellent animation and writing which won it an Oscar for the premiere film.

However, this late success did not help the studio lift its financial trouble and in 1942, Paramount called in their loan, ousted the Fleischers and took over the studio under the new name, Famous Studio[?]. The Fleischers were never a major force in the industry again, but their films and characters have remained popular and by the 1980s, they were recognized as the pioneers in the artform they were.



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