Fleischer Studios, Inc. was an American corporation which originated as an animation studio located at 1600 Broadway. It was founded in 1921 as Inkwell Studiosby brothers Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer who ran the company from its inception until Paramount Pictures, the studio's parent company and the distributor of its films, forced them to resign in April 1942. In its prime, it was the most significant competitor to Walt Disney Productions, and is notable for bringing to the screen cartoons featuring Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Bimbo, Popeye the Sailor, and Superman.
The company had its start when Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope, which allowed for extremely lifelike animation. Using this device, the Fleischer brothers got a contract with Bray Studio in 1919 to produce their own series called Out of the Inkwell, which featured their first characters, the as yet unnamed Koko the Clown, and Fitz the Dog, who would evolve into Bimbo in 1930. Out of the Inkwell became a very successful series. As the Bray theatrical operation started to diminish, the brothers began their own studio in 1921. Dave served as the director and supervised the studio's production, while Max served as the producer. The company was known as Out of the Inkwell Films, Incorporated, and later became Fleischer Studios in January, 1929.
Sound and colorEdit
With their earlier experience with sound, Fleischer Studios made the transition with ease. Their production and distribution deal with Paramount allowed to expand on their song film format in their new Screen Songs, a continuation of the earlier Ko-Ko Song Cartunes. The first of these was The Sidewalks of New York, released on February 5, 1929. In October of that same year, the Fleischers introduced a new series called Talkartoons. Earlier entries in the series were mostly one-shot cartoons, but Bimbo would become a staple of the series. Bimbo was upstaged by his girlfriend, Betty Boop, who quickly became the star of the studio, and in August 1932, the Talkartoon series was renamed as Betty Boop cartoons; Fleischer Studios also gained more success by using Cab Calloway in three Betty Boop cartoons.
The studio's initial successes began to turn as the 1930s continued. In 1934, the Hays Code was enacted in Hollywood, which resulted in severe censorship for films. Betty's sexuality was neutralized, and much of her charm was lost. At the same time Paramount had also gone through three reorganizations from bankruptcy between 1931 and 1936. The new management set out to make more general audience films of the type made at MGM, but for lower budgets. This change in content policy affected the content of cartoons that Fleischer was to produce for Paramount, who was urging Fleischer to consider emulating the Walt Disney's cartoons.
The Fleischers' success was further solidified when they licensed E.C. Segar's comic strip character Popeye the Sailor for a cartoon series of his own. Popeye eventually became the most popular series the Fleischers ever produced, and its success rivaled that of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse cartoons.
Fleischer Studios' efforts to emulate the Disney studio culminated in the production of animated feature films, following the success of Disney's White and the Seven Dwarfs. Paramount loaned Fleischer the money for a larger studio, which was built in Miami, Florida
The Fleischers produced their best work from this period, a series of high quality shorts based upon the comic book superhero Superman. The first short in the series, simply titled Superman, had a budget of $50,000, the highest ever for a Fleischer theatrical short, and was nominated for an Academy Award.
However, this late success did not help the studio lift its financial trouble. The expanded staff of the new Miami studio created a high overhead, necessitating steady production. A number of the shorts turned out during this period, such as the continuing Popeye shorts and a 1941 two-reel adaptation of Raggedy Ann and Andy, maintained a high level of quality. Others, like the Stone Age shorts, and the various Gulliver spin-off series, were among the studio's least successful output.
Acquisition by ParamountEdit
Template:Seealso As profits dwindled, the Fleischers had to frequently request loans from Paramount and eventually had to surrender their shares of the studio. Paramount had both Fleischers submit a signed letter of resignation, to be used at Paramount's discretion, in order for the Fleischer Studio to receive financing for the 1940–1941 film season. On May 24 1941, Paramount called their loans and assumed full ownership of Fleischer Studios Inc. The Fleischers remained in control of production through the end of 1941.
Mr. Bug Goes to Town was finally released on December 5, 1941. Its release fell just two days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II. Mr. Bug failed to get a general release, and while it was made within its $500,000 budget, its costs could not be recouped. While Dave Fleischer was in Hollywood supervising post-production on Mister Bug, Max Fleischer sent a telegram to Paramount explaining that he could no longer work with Dave, and Paramount produced the letters of resignation. As a result, the Fleischers were removed from control of the studio  and Paramount formed a new company, Famous Studios, as a successor to Fleischer Studios in mid-1942.