Max Fleischer, American Animator and Inventor

- Image ID: HRP10W
Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Image ID: HRP10W
Fleischer and Bimbo publicity shot. Introduced in the 1920's, Bimbo was one of the early Fleischer stars. Max Fleischer (July 19, 1883 - September 11, 1972) was an American animator, inventor, film director and producer. He was a pioneer in the development of the animated cartoon and served as the head of Fleischer Studios. He brought such animated characters as Betty Boop, Koko the Clown, Popeye, and Superman to the movie screen and was responsible for a number of technological innovations. He devised a concept to simplify the process of animating movement by tracing frames of live action film. His patent for the Rotoscope was granted in 1915. He invented the "follow the bouncing ball" technique for his Song Car-Tunes series of animated singalong shorts beginning in 1924. Into the early sound era, he produced many technically advanced and sophisticated animated films. Several of his cartoons had soundtracks featuring live or rotoscoped images of the leading jazz performers of the time, most notably Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong. His use of black performers was bold at a time when depictions of blacks were often denigrating and stereotypical. His cartoons were very different from Disney cartoons, in concept and in execution. The Fleischer approach was sophisticated, focused on surrealism, dark humor, adult psychological elements and sexuality. The Fleischer milieu was grittier, more urban, sometimes even sordid, often set in squalid tenement apartments with cracked, crumbling plaster and threadbare furnishings. He died from heart failure in 1972, at the age of 89, after a period of poor health.