Max Fleischer is one of the most renown pioneers in animation since the dawn of the industry. From 1919 to 1942, he and his company, Fleischer Studios, produced nearly 700 cartoons. Among his many achievements, he invented the Rotoscope which revolutionized animation, developed the “Stereo-optical Process” giving scenes a 3-D appearance, and created the “bouncing ball” for sing-alongs. His studio was the first to animate both Popeye and Superman. And he created the iconic Betty Boop, who remains an emblem of of American culture to this day.
Yet despite Fleischer’s major and prolific achievements, there is no single archive or collection of his work.
Our mission is to collect all the Fleischer cartoons that remain today, gather them into a single digital space and restore them so they can be seen by audiences as Max Fleischer intended.
The films will ultimately be made available to everyone and be preserved for all time.
We are starting with the earliest films and those now rapidly deteriorating. While some of the best copies are still on nitrate, which not only decomposes but tends spontaneously ignite, even those on acetate are at risk from vinegar syndrome and just plain old age.
There are approximately 160 KoKo the Clown cartoons in the “Out of the Inkwell” and “Inkwell Imps” series (1919-1929).
In addition, Fleischer Studios made some of the first color cartoons, starting in 1934 with the “A Color Classic” series. These 36 beautifully colored cartoons have long been neglected and are now fading in archives and private collections.
Finally, there are 9 original “Superman” cartoons. These are the first-ever animated Superman cartoons, shot in vibrant, art deco-style color.
However, finding a print is only half the battle. They are often in bad condition, missing frames, title cards, intertitles, are faded and have sometimes completely decomposed. For this reason, we often need to locate several copies of one film in order to make it whole again.
All of these films need restoration. A highly specialized process, restoration requires a knowledge of animation, technical expertise, dedicated equipment, highly sophisticated software, and an enormous amount of time.
In late 2022 we started restoration on the films. Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation is restoring 11 films for us (6 from the “A Color Classic” series). We have also engaged private restoration experts to work with us. As of mid-2023, we have restored 25 films.
This project was started in 2021 by Max Reid, Jane Fleischer Reid and Mauricio Alvarado. Jane is the granddaughter of Max Fleischer.