Full Name:

Max Fleischer

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Date of birth:


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Max Fleischer was an American inventor born in Hungary, who moved to the United States with his family at the age of 4 and later became a filmmaker, animator, director and producer, famous for serving as the head of his own animation studioFleischer Studios, with his brother Dave. 

Family and early life

Fleischer was born the second out of six children to Austrian-Hungarian tailor, William Fleischer. The Jewish family settled in New York City in 1887, where Max attended public school, later receiving commercial arts training as a graphic artist at the iconic Cooper Union School, where admission was and still is granted on the basis of personal skill with admission being largely funded through scholarships.

Career outline

Max worked for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle as an errand boy in his teenage years, later moving up the ranks and becoming a cartoonist for the paper. After moving to Boston briefly for a job as an illustrator, Max Flesicher returned to New York to work for Popular Science magazine in 1912. 

Max patented The Rotoscope as an animating device in 1915, a process to simplify the process of animation through the usage of live-action footage and tracing frames to create animated movements. Dave and Max Fleischer used together the design of the rotoscope to shoot a cartoon in 1914, and their Out of the Inkwell series was largely animated on the basis of this technique, which marked the creation of the characters Koko the Clown and Fitz the Dog. 

For several years, the Fleischer brothers produced the Inkwell series for Bray Productions, until 1921, when they decided to start their own studio for distribution rights. Max’s stars continued to be incapsulated in the characters of Koko and Fitz, and the brothers later collaborated with the Red Seal Pictures Coroporation, who owned large theatre chains on the East Cost. 

Early into the sound era, Max Fleischer made many cartoons or rotoscopes featuring depicted images of black jazz performers, popular at the time, such as that of Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and Don Redman. By 1928, the Fleischers were making their transition into sound, and while Walt Disney was gaining massive popularity with the Silly Symphonies series, the Fleischers created Talkartoon, and premiered with the character Bimbo. Bimbo’s girlfriend was an early prototype for what later evolved into Betty Boop, with the help of animator Grim Natwick, and gradually her canine features were erased for overtly sexualized ideas of feminity. Betty Boop became a huge star for Fleischer Productions, and later Popeye the Sailor would appear on screen with her in 1929. Popeye remained in production until 1957, for a number of decades and at certain moments in time would eclipse the popularity of Mickey Mouse. Though Fleischer studios was funded largely by Paramount, after the crash of the 30’s, and the reorganization of the company which was a result of its bankrupsy resulted in an unstable period for Fleischer Productions. 

Personal style

Fleischer was the first person to come up with the “follow the bouncing ball” technique, for his series of Song Car-Tunes singalongs shorts, which debuted in 1924, May. Often misidentified as the first synchronized sound cartoon, Fleischer actually first synchronized sound with animation for this series, but the badly timed bankruptcy of DeForest Phonofilm Corp. and Red Seal Pictures marked the end of this series. 

Honors and awards

Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1972




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