Suspended Animation #376
Dave Tendlar born August 8th,1909 did animation and direction among other things from the 1930s through the 1970s for a variety of studios including Fleischer, Famous, Terrytoons, Filmation and finally Hanna-Barbera. He also illustrated funny animal comic book stories. He passed away September 9th, 1993.
While many animation fans are familiar with his work on the Fleischer Popeye animated cartoons, Tendlar also worked on the Fleischer Superman series and on the character for Filmation (The 1968 Batman/Superman Hour) and Hanna-Barbera (The 1977 All New Superfriends Hour, the 1978 Challenge of the Superfriends and the 1979 The World’s Greatest Superfriends).
The following remarks by the animator were culled from a series of interviews he did between 1989 and 1992 with writer Jay Sumsion.
Dave Tendlar: I started at Flesicher as a painter. It was opaqueing, but now they call it painting. I was there a very short time but they reorganized Flesichers so I went to Krazy Kat for a couple of years. And then I went back to Fleischer as an animator.
When they went to Miami in 1938, I was a Head Animator. Head Animator at Fleischer’s was actually the director. But, of course, we never got direction credit. Dave Fleischer took all of that at the Fleischer Studios but he wasn’t director, really.
The Head Animator did all the work for creating the mood of the picture, did all of the poses, the animation poses, the rough sketch background and stuff like that, interpreting the script as to where the scene cuts were. I did all that.
I worked with the background painter and I’d do background sketches, location shots and stuff like that. Then the background guy would design and paint backgrounds to match my sketches. Mainly I concentrated on animation poses and expressions for the characters.
I did all the timing, all of the exposure sheets and I also did bar sheets for the musicians. I spelled the whole thing out on music sheets, all the action, and the beats and that was given to a musician to score the picture.
I worked with a team of anywhere between three to seven animators. The major project was Gulliver’s Travels but I also worked on Betty Boop and Popeye. Superman didn’t start until almost three years after we got there.
We were all very excited about it but it turned out to be so expensive, too expensive to continue so Paramount decided to stop it. I didn’t follow the comic books very closely but everyone knew about Superman. He could use incredible force to move an object, that sort of thing.
We just knew he was really super. Dave Fleischer got direction credit on all of them. He wouldn’t give that up for anything. The Head Animator and the animators did all the work but Dave always took direction credits.
I laid out one called Destruction Inc. (1942) and there was another one I can’t remember right now. I think Lois Lane was kidnapped by the bad guys and they were in a submarine. They stuffed Lois into a torpedo and they were going to fire the torpedo out of the submarine underwater. Of course, Superman became aware of all this and went underwater, grabbed the torpedo and rescued Lois Lane.
Working on the Superman cartoons was very different than Popeye. Superman was very realistic. You had to have perfect anatomy drawing and the characters were very realistic. We had model sheets that were done in an illustrative style. They were very fine illustrations but they were not very cartoony. They were done in a very straight style.
There was more preparation than for a Popeye cartoon. They planned a lot of effects. They were all really full of effects and that made them very expensive among other reasons. It took much longer to work on them. One drawing might take an animator several hours to do because it had to be so realistic. Today, they are classics.
On Gulliver we used a lot of rotoscope but I can’t remember using rotoscope on Superman, certainly not to the same extent. In the picture I worked on we were going to have one scene that we photographed with a lot of people. It was a scene where Lois was being chased by a bad guy and we photographed that. They just used that as a guide. We didn’t actually rotoscope that.
We had very good artists working on them. They were very good at doing layouts and doing realistic types of things like buildings, scenes, weapons, and things like that. Very fine art work went into it as opposed to some of the crude stuff that we did on the Popeyes.
I can’t remember us being told to make an effort to make them look like the comic books. The scripts described the settings, the locations and stuff like that and the story/sketch men would follow the script. They made the drawings and the locations just as the scripts would describe and that’s why it all seems to work.
I think many of the animators were interested in the work because it was so very different from what they were normally working on. It was so different than the usual stuff, the usual Popeye type of slam bang slapstick stuff. It was just so interesting to work on.
I don’t recall going to a theater to see them. We used to see them at the studio. When they were finished they used to project them. Paramount decided that they didn’t want any more while we were still in Florida.
I went to Filmation around 1968 and worked on The Batman/Superman Hour. I worked mostly on Batman, Robin and the incidental characters Catwoman, The Joker and characters like that. I did work on some Superman but mostly Batman.
I didn’t want to do any direction anymore. It was too much work. I just wanted to animate. For me, directing took all the fun out of cartoon making. There was just too much pressure and I was much happier just being left alone to animate.
Then after a couple of years I moved over to Hanna-Barbera and wouldn’t you know it, I was working on Superman again. By that time I was familiar with the requirements of drawing Superman.
There was really no comparison between the Fleischer Superman and those other studios. The Fleischer stuff had so many effects in it, so many different angles and very interesting scenes, explosions and that type of thing. You couldn’t do that kind of stuff at Filmation or Hanna-Barbera. It was much more of a cut-and-dried type of thing.
The Superman they did at Filmation and Hanna-Barbera was very crude compared to the Fleischer stuff which is very obvious when you see it on the screen.
Superman has always been very popular. I think that he will always remain popular. He has always been a very valuable property.