Full Name:

Margaret J. Mintz nee Winkler

Occupation / Title:

,

Date of birth:

22/04/1895

Date of death:

21/06/1990

Birthplace:

Hungary

Biography


A crucial figure in the history of the American animation industry, Margaret Winkler was the first woman to produce and distribute animated films, including early works of the Dave and Max Fleischer, Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney. Born in Hungary, Winkler, who was of German descent, began her career in films as the personal secretary of Harry Warner.

Career outline


In 1917, Warner Brothers started distributing animated cartoons starting with Mutt and Jeff. In 1921, both Pat Sullivan and Max Fleischer came to WB looking for distribution, but the studio was eager to enter into feature films. Winkler showed great interest in Felix, and as Harry Warner made the deals at Warner, impressed with Margaret’s ambition, he gave her the Out of the Inkwell series created by the Fleischers, and Sullivan’s Felix The Cat contracts. Urged by her boss, Winkler started her own distribution company, M. J. Winkler Productions with a states-rights distribution deal. M. J. Winkler was quickly established as a short subject distributor of comedies, cartoons and travelogues.

At the beginning of the ’20s, Winkler started distributing the Pat Sullivan Felix the Cat series which was hugely popular at the time. In 1922, she fell out with the Fleischer brothers, who left to form their own production company, Red Seal Pictures. Soon after, conflicts began brewing between Sullivan and Winkler, the big star and his outrageous demands for his contract renewal in September 1923 led to the production of the Alice Comedies, created by Walt Disney and his team of animators. 

Then unknowns, Disney and his team submitted a pilot to Winkler, a combination of a live-action girl named Alice, supplemented with an animated world onscreen. The Walt Disney Company was signed to a year-long contract under Winkler, who insisted on editing all of the episodes of the Alice Comedies herself. The series had a rocky start in finding the right balance between live-action and animation, and Disney was urged by Winkler to create Julius, an animated cat modelled after Felix, the first Disney star. 

In 1924, Winkler married a film distributor, Charles B. Mintz, who eventually took over the company. In 1927, Mintz took on the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series which was sold to Universal, as Disney wanted more money for his work in the Alice Comedies.  Mintz’ conflict with Disney ended up costing the studio severely, as Disney went on to create Mickey Mouse which was an explosive success, and M. J. Winkler Productions was replaced by Walter Lantz at Universal, who created animations right on the Universal lot. 

Winkler was falling into retirement.  

References:


“Inkwell Images Ink – The Alice Story – by Ray Pointer.” Inkwell Images Ink – The Alice Story – by Ray Pointer. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2014.

“M. J. Winkler Productions Studio Directories (1921-1931).” Big Cartoon DataBase RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2014.


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