Welcome to the official online destination for Fleischer Studios. Max Fleischer, founder of
Fleischer Studios, was a major pioneer in both the creative and technical development of
animated films. Among the many characters he was responsible for creating are the beloved
Queen of Cartoons, "Betty Boop", and "Ko-Ko the Clown," star of the Out of the Inkwell series.
Max began working in animation in 1915. He had been fascinated by early attempts at animation
and knew he could improve on the jerky movement he saw on screen. He conceived, patented,
and began building his first invention… the Rotoscope. Filming his brother Dave dressed in a
clown suit, this device allowed him to draw, frame by frame, over the filmed action, creating
more life like movement. Coming home from their day job and working nights in Max's living
room, it took a year to produce one minute of film featuring Ko-Ko the Clown. The look of
animated cartoons had changed forever.
The size of the studio staff grew to meet the increased public demand for Fleischer films. When
Max founded "Out of the Inkwell, Inc." in 1921, the staff consisted of himself, his brother Dave,
and one other employee. By 1923, with a staff totaling 19, the studio moved to its longest lasting
location, 1600 Broadway, in New York City. They would eventually expand to occupy 4 floors of
the building to accommodate a staff of 250.
Contributing to Fleischer popularity were the new and wildly popular 'Bouncing Ball' sing-along
Song Car-Tunes series, which began in 1924. Using the new DeForest sound system, these were
the first sound cartoons ever made, preceding Disney and others by four years. These, and the
later Screen Song series, often featured popular entertainers of the day, including Rudy Vallee,
Cab Calloway, The Mills Brothers, Louis Armstrong, and Ethel Merman.
By 1929 the studio name officially became Fleischer Studios. This coincided with the start of the
Great Depression, a time when people sought escape from their problems by going to the movie
Betty Boop, Fleischer's most famous creation, was born during this time. Betty first appeared in Dizzy Dishes, which was released on August 9, 1930. She was created as the love interest for one of Fleischer's popular animated characters, 'Bimbo,' a dog, who was the star of his own Talkartoon series. Betty's first film appearance was brief, and appropriately… she looked a little bit like a dog! She was unnamed, had jowls, big teeth, and dog ears. Still, anyone who later became familiar with the fully-evolved Betty Boop would immediately recognize the Betty of Dizzy Dishes as, well, Betty— with her curls, big eyes and tiny pouting mouth and short flapper dress. Her flirtatious persona was inspired by the popular flapper look, and the most famous female stars of the day (including Mae West).
Betty's looks continued to evolve slightly with each film, and her popularity continued to grow. Eventually, as her jowls and teeth disappeared, her floppy dog ears became earrings… and she became fully human. Still, it took over a year before she got her famous name, "Betty Boop." Many of Betty's films cleverly integrated animation with live people, often Max himself. She was such a hit with audiences that she soon replaced Bimbo as the star, and by 1932 was the star of her own Betty Boop series. Betty had become the first animated screen siren, and the unrivaled star of Fleischer Studios.
In 1938, Fleischer Studios left Manhattan and relocated to Miami, Florida. This much larger
facility was needed to house a staff that would soon grow to the over 700 employees needed to
produce the Fleischer's first full length animated feature film, "Gulliver's Travels." The film,
a box office success, led to a second feature film in 1941, "Mr. Bug Goes to Town," as well
as a 17-minute animated film, "Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy," the same year.
In addition to animating their own characters, Fleischer Studios animated and brought to
life two other famous characters created by others that had previously existed only
in comic strips. These were 'Popeye the Sailor" (starting in 1933), and "Superman" (starting in 1941).
The Popeye series remains incredibly popular even to this day. Recently,
New Wave Entertainment began releasing all the Fleischer Popeye films on DVD.
The Superman films are known for their visually stunning animation. Superman, the first
in the series, was nominated for the 1942 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons.
To achieve a level of realism in the Superman series the studio relied heavily
on Max's original Rotoscope invention.
The Rotoscope was only one of the more than 15 patents Max Fleischer held on his inventions,
many of which significantly advanced the technology of early film and animation. He was
a true pioneer in the film industry.
To this day, the original Fleischer Studios characters and films remain popular. "Betty Boop,"
who starred in more than 100 Fleischer cartoons and continues to be the studio's most popular
character, has starred in two animated musical television specials for CBS, two syndicated
comic strips, and in the 1988 film, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" She was the first cartoon
character to be profiled for A & E's award-winning Biography series, and has also starred in
numerous television commercials and print advertisements.
In 2003, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penales recognized the achievements of Fleischer Studios
during their Miami years (1938-1943), and named July 10th, 2003 "Fleischer Studios Day"
in Miami-Dade County.
Today, Max's grandson, Mark Fleischer, an entertainment executive and attorney, serves as
Chairman and CEO of Fleischer Studios. Mark oversees merchandising activities, as well as the
development of media and other opportunities for "Betty Boop" and all the Fleischer characters.
There is currently a new Broadway musical in development starring "Betty Boop," with music by
15-time Grammy Award-winner David Foster.
Stanley Handman, an instrumental part of Fleischer Studios since 1956, has served as
legal counsel and close advisor to the Fleischer family. He continues to serve as a director,
shareholder, and corporate secretary.
Max's granddaughter, Ginny Mahoney also serves on the board of directors. Since 1972, Fleischer
Studios has worked closely with King Features Syndicate, which acts as the exclusive
worldwide licensing agent for "Betty Boop," and all the Fleischer characters. King Features
also served as the original merchandising agent in the 1930's. More than 250 licensees
in the United States and nearly as many internationally produce quality products
bearing Betty's likeness in virtually every category.
The official Betty Boop website is www.bettyboop.com
For more information about Fleischer Studios and Max Fleischer, see Out of the Inkwell by Richard Fleischer, 2005, published by The University Press of Kentucky.