Monday, July 03, 2006

"Now that the feature's finished ..."

Fleischer Studios artist Bill Turner penned the cartoon below for a company newsletter, presumably dating from after the completion of Gulliver's Travels in 1939. Of course, we all know this kind of thing doesn't happen any more. After all ... ... nowadays most feature artists fall asleep at their terminals, not their desks.
Courtesy Harvey Deneroff, originally published in the 1993 Screen Cartoonists Annual. Click on the thumbnail to link to a larger image.
"Gulliver's Travels" was started in New York City in early 1938 and completed in Miami late in '39. The Fleischers, Max and Dave, would have dearly loved to be the first animation kingpins to create a full-length, animated feature. Trouble was, they couldn't get their releasing company Paramount Pictures to pony up the production cash, so Walt Disney -- the Fleischers' main rival in the 1930s -- beat them to the punch with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Like the crew of "Snow White," Fleischer employees worked long hours to complete "Gulliver." (They had far less time, overall, than Disney's team did.) The film was released in December of '39, just in time for the holidays, and made a considerable amount of box office coin. (If memory serves, something around $3 million, a considerable amount for a 1939 domestic release.) "Pinocchio," released in February of 1940, was undoubtedly hurt by "Gulliver's" earlier roll-out (Why did Disney wait until February? That's when Walt and company got the film done.) Within three years, however, the Fleischers' Florida Studio was gone, and Disney's major competitors passed into history. But for a few simple twists of fate, Walt's Burbank facility would have disappeared as well, but WWII and the Federal government came to the rescue with generous contracts for the production of training films. If not for that, Disney's first five features might well now be in the public domain like "Gulliver's Travels," to be picked up at Amazon for five or six bucks.


Anonymous said...

In my haste to get out ofd the office on Monday, I posted the full-size scan of the Bill Turner artwork. I have replaced it with a more manageable version. Mea culpa.

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