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Animating Music: The Fleischer Era

Monday, August 22, 2011

It wasn’t an easy road to bringing music and animation together. In the days before sound and image became one, theaters had live accompanists…or films were simply silent. But in the late 1920s, New York-based Fleischer Studios - whose work includes Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman - revolutionized the genre. We’ll hear how this family-run animation studio pioneered many practices, some of which are still used today. Guests include Daniel Goldmark, author “Tunes for ‘Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon” and Will Friedwald, author of "A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers."

Check out Betty Boop and Cab Calloway in "Minnie The Moocher" - a 1932 animation from Fleischer Studios.


Will Friedwald and Daniel Goldmark

Comments [10]

Bill Greenfield from NYC

Two great songs I first heard in old Fleischer Popeye cartons, both viewable on YouTube: "You Gotta Be a Football Hero" and "Brotherly Love." The names of the songs are the same as the names of the cartoons!

Aug. 24 2011 05:56 PM
Don Rosler

Whoops, I meant Louie Jordan and Billy Austin re "Is You Is...".

HERE'S the Johnny Mercer nomination re animation. Both winners. "Small Fry".

Aug. 23 2011 11:27 PM
Don Rosler from NYC

Here's one for ya, courtesy of the great Johnny Mercer, who hooked up with Jerry and Tom...whoops, I mean Tom and Jerry.

Aug. 23 2011 11:21 PM

One thing many people forget is that a lot of the cartoons of this era were really selling vehicles for records/songs in the music library of their respective entertainment company (Warner, MGM, Paramount). A good example of this would have to be the Warner Bros. cartoons.

When Schlesinger oversaw the production of the cartoons, there were two groups: Merrie Melodies, and Looney Tunes. The former was the group that "sold" the songs. They featured a chorus of characters performing a particular song, often with the lyrics slightly changed, while going about their business in the cartoon. Some good examples of this would be:

I've Got To Sing A Torch Song
I Love To Sing-a
The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos
Shuffle Off to Buffalo
We're In The Money
Page Miss Glory

The Looney Tunes usually starred or introduced a single character, and in some cases may have featured a snippet of a song, or an original number played to the tune of a well-known song.

A lot of these cartoons have introduced me to classical music, and to songs that were popular at the time. Thanks to the Merrie Melodies cartoons, I'd taken an interest in songs I would otherwise had never bothered to look for.

Aug. 23 2011 08:04 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

That Louie Prima number -- "I Want To Be Like You" was GREAT! Very clever and very catchy.

Haven't heard it for years, since I played the DVD of the Disney "Jungle Book" animated movie for my 2 young boys about 12 years ago.

Don't remember who wrote the songs, but "Bear Essentials" as song by Phil Harris won the Academy Award.

Two cool guys, who really knew how to deliver a jazz number: Harris & Prima -- in the same work!

Aug. 22 2011 02:43 PM
Nick from UWS

Despite Disney's pioneering studio, Disney cartoons don't hold a candle to the great Warner Brothers cartoons of the 30s and 40s. Those cartoons were so hilarious, so full of adult references and double entendre, so unafraid to be ugly or grotesque or violent, and chock full of GREAT music. They were also drenched in the sharp wisecracking attitude of New York and the East Coast, which, as a lifelong New Yorker, I deeply appreciate. Personally I find Disney to unwatchable, it is so sanitized and Polly Anna.

Aug. 22 2011 02:38 PM
Tristian from NYC

If you are going to talk about Snow White tomorrow, please play part of this Snow White Pogo Remix!!!!!

Aug. 22 2011 02:35 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Max Fleischer -Wikipedia

"Born to a Jewish family in Kraków, Poland, then part of the Austrian-Hungarian province of Galicia, Max Fleischer was the second oldest of six children of an Austrian immigrant tailor, William Fleischer.[2] His family emigrated to the USA in 1887 and settled in New York City, where he attended public school; he spent his formative years in Brownsville and Brooklyn. He attended Evening High School, received commercial art training at Cooper Union, and also attended The Mechanics and Tradesman's School. While still in his teens, he worked for The Brooklyn Daily Eagle as an errand boy, and eventually became a cartoonist..."

Aug. 22 2011 02:15 PM
Jaime Viñas from TriBeCa, NYC

One of my favorite songs from Soul Coughing... 'Bus to Beelzebub' incorporates cartoon music in the intro and carries the beat throughout... wacky, wonderful stuff.

Aug. 22 2011 02:13 PM
Ken Campbell from Harlem, NYC

I love the big band tunes that have been set as cartoons. "Mutiny In The Nursery" gets me every time.

Aug. 22 2011 02:09 PM

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