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 Dave Fleischer

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Dave Fleischer

  • Birth 14 Jul 1894 New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
  • Death 25 Jun 1979 Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Plot Maimonides 5, L-8696, space 1
  • Memorial ID 6233524

Motion Picture Producer, Director, Writer. Co-founder (with his brother Max) of the Fleischer Studios, a leading producer of animated cartoons in the years between the World Wars. Their star characters Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor made them Walt Disney's strongest competitor in the 1930s and had a lasting effect on American popular culture. Four of their films were nominated for Academy Awards in the short subject category: "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor" (1936), "Educated Fish" (1937), "Hunky and Spunky" (1938), and "Superman" (1941). Fleischer was born in New York City, the son of Austrian-Jewish immigrants. He had a talent for drawing as a child but gravitated towards the budding movie industry, becoming a film cutter at Pathe in 1912 and working his way up to editor. During World War I he served as a cutter with the US Army's Medical Corps Film Unit. His first experience with animation came courtesy of Max, who in 1915 invented the Rotoscope, a machine that enabled animators to trace live-action footage frame-by-frame to create the illusion of lifelike movement in drawings. For the test reel Dave donned a clown costume and cavorted for the camera; the clip was then rotoscoped into a cartoon. This was the origin of their first popular character, Koko the Clown. In 1921 Max and Dave founded a studio in Manhattan, Out of the Inkwell Inc., reorganized as the Fleischer Studios in 1929; from 1927 their films were distributed by Paramount. The Fleischers' silent era "Out of the Inkwell" series was technically ingenious and the surviving entries are still entertaining today. They typically combined live-action and animation, with the real Max Fleischer interacting with Koko and his canine sidekick Bimbo against photographed backgrounds. In 1924 - four years before Disney made a historic splash with "Steamboat Willie", often cited as the first sound cartoon - the Fleischers produced a quartet of animated talkies in collaboration with inventor Lee de Forest. Lack of interest from exhibitors caused the project to be dropped, but the experience left the brothers well prepared for the industry-wide transition to sound at the end of the decade. While Max ran the business affairs, Dave was in charge of getting the product out. He was the credited director of every Fleischer cartoon during the studio's history, but he left that job to the lead animators and functioned instead as creative producer and head story man, with a freewheeling gift for inventing visual gags. Plot and continuity would be cast aside if he thought up more jokes during production. Animator Shamus Culhane remembered, "His favorite thing was...a crazy ad-lib he would just hang on the story like you would hang a banana on a Christmas tree - whether it went or not". His racy humor and grungy, urban sensibility set the Fleischer cartoons well apart from Disney's, and they were at their unbridled best in the Betty Boop films of the early 1930s. Created by animator Grim Natwick at Dave's suggestion, Betty Boop was the first cartoon star to deal with sex, a flirtatious but innocent flapper who had some trouble protecting her "boop-oop-a-doop" from lecherous men. (Even inanimate objects sprang to attention in her presence). Increased censorship under Hollywood's 1934 Production Code forced the Fleischers to tone down their sexy little character; Betty was never the same again, though her series lasted until 1939. Luckily they landed an even bigger hit property when they brought Elzie Segar's comic strip hero Popeye the Sailor to the screen in 1933. The spinach-eating swab and his supporting cast (girlfriend Olive Oyl, nemesis Bluto, and the low-key opportunist J. Wellington Wimpy) immediately caught the public's imagination and for a time he rivalled Mickey Mouse in popularity. The Fleischers capitalized on this by producing three sumptuous two-reel "specials" in Technicolor: "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor", "Popeye Meets Ali Baba and His Forty Thieves" (1937), and "Popeye Meets Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" (1939). Egged on by the unexpected success of Disney's feature-length "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) - and with big financial incentives from Paramount - the Fleischers expanded their operations and in 1938 moved to a new studio in Miami in preparation for making their own first feature. The result, "Gulliver's Travels" (1939), was no match for "Snow White" artistically or financially, though it did well enough for Paramount to back the Fleischers in a second feature and commission a new series, "Superman". The latter were the most visually sophisticated cartoons the studio ever made and happily free of the Disney influence that marred later Fleischer releases. Unfortunately, the feature "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" (later reissued as "Hoppity Goes to Town") was an expensive flop when it was released in December 1941. It left the company deeply in debt to Paramount, and an ongoing feud between Dave and Max caused further concerns on the West Coast. In April 1942, Paramount took the studio away from the Fleischers and moved it back to New York with a greatly reduced staff. (Reorganized as Famous Studios, it would remain active until 1967). Dave Fleischer moved to Hollywood and headed Columbia's cartoon unit from 1942 to 1944, earning an Oscar nomination for the short "Imagination" (1943), before leaving animation altogether. For many years he was employed by Universal as a sort of troubleshooter for live-action comedies, devising gags, consulting on timing issues and even dabbling in special effects. He retired in 1967. Dave lived long enough to see the publication of Leslie Cabarga's book "The Fleischer Story" (1976), a pioneering effort to restore the family to their rightful place in the history of American animation.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: A.J.
  • Added: 4 Mar 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6233524
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Dave Fleischer (14 Jul 1894–25 Jun 1979), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6233524, citing Mount Sinai Memorial Park, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .