Full Name:

Oskar Wilhelm Fischinger

Occupation / Title:

, ,

Date of birth:


Date of death:



Gelnhausen, German Empire


Oskar Fischinger was a German-American painter, filmmaker and abstract animator. He invented several tools and techniques for special effects. While personally producing a vast amount of abstract fine art and film, he also collaborated with pioneer filmmakers such as Fritz Lang and Lotte Reiniger. After six years managing his own studio in Berlin, he was invited to move to America to work in Hollywood film. He remained in America for the rest of his life.

Family and early life

After school, Fischinger apprenticed and trained for a few different trades including organ-building, architecture, and engineering. Though he was never called to duty, the war continually interrupted these apprenticeships. After the war, his family moved toFrankfurt, where he met theatre critic Bernhard Diebold. Diebold introduced him to the abstract films of Walter Ruttmann, which inspired Fischinger to begin experimenting with film himself.

Career outline

His first major experiment in film was inventing a “Wax Slicing Machine,” which enabled the precise filming of progressive cross-sections into wax and clay. The Wax Slicing Machine was soon used by his inspiration, Walter Ruttmann, to film some of the backgrounds of Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). In 1924, he was hired by American entrepreneur Louis Seel to make satirical cartoons. Throughout this period he continued making his own abstract films and experiments. Trademarks of his own animations include the use of multiple projectors and the tight synchronization of animation with musical score.

In 1927, Fischinger moved from Munichto Berlinto set up his own studio. He began working on special effects for several films, including Woman in the Moon (directed by Fritz Lang) the following year. While his animated cartoon had never been accepted for production before, his artistic films soon became very well known, with Universal Pictures even purchasing distributing rights to Studie Nr. 5. Though many of these opportunities began to dissipate in Germany as the Nazis gained power, recognition in America increased. In 1936, Fischinger moved to Hollywood upon invitation from Paramount Pictures to work on films. However, due to a misunderstanding over his first assigned film, Radio Dynamics, he left Paramount. His later, independently reworked version of Radio Dynamics was to be one of his greatest films. But his attempts at working with several Hollywood studios – such as MGM and Disney (on Fantasia 1940)) – never worked out. As always, he continued his own animating and painting, gaining a Grand Prix at the Brussels International Experimental Film Competition in 1949 and three spots on the 1984 Olympiad of Animation’s list of the world’s greatest films.


Moritz, William. Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger. Bloomington, Indiana University Press: 2004.

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