We’re heading over to Miami at Max Fleischer’s animation studio. Today’s entry is a 1939 Color Classic, populated by humanoid produce! (This draft is extracted from Leslie Carbaga’s The Fleischer Story.)
In some aspects, the low reputation of the Miami-made Fleischer cartoons is valid point. Their first feature, Gulliver’s Travels meant to bank on Disney’s Snow White triumph. The Betty Boop series was a shadow of its former self and the hopes of successful new series (Gabby, Stone Age, Animated Antics) were dashed, though the Superman series proved sensational with audiences.
Titles such as Cops Is Always Right, Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, Wotta Nitemare, Hello-How Am I, It’s the Natural Thing to Do, and With Poopdeck Pappy, among others, prove that the Popeye series was still in top form.
The Color Classics were still consistently Disney-esque, often instigated by the unit headed by Myron Waldman, who later confessed that the Fleischer cartoons’ refinement was a mistake. However, The Fresh Vegetable Mystery is one Color Classic that is Disney-esque but with a darker tone.
In terms of credit, directing in East Coast animation studios was much different from the West Coast. It’s obviously impossible for credited director Dave Fleischer to have directed every cartoon released. He supervised the soundtracks and was heavily involved in the story sessions, at least during the first half of the 1930s. Almost always, the ‘head animator’ (the first credited animator) was the de-facto director. Fleischer/Famous expert Bob Jaques has said the amount of animation a head animator would be able to handle in a particular title would be minimal or none at all. In this case, time permitted for Tendlar to animate at least two shots. This misnomer has since left many head animators with an undeservedly low reputation, but we know better.
Dave Tendlar, the de-facto director of Vegetable Mystery, was a brilliant character designer for Fleischer, crafting characters that often veered on the grotesque (the main characters in The Cobweb Hotel and Greedy Humpty Dumpty are prime examples). Tendlar also had a keen eye for filmmaking when he started his own unit, no doubt inherited from his former protégé (and arguably the studio’s true auteur) Willard Bowsky. Note Tendlar’s use of dramatic angles/ composition and handling of transitions that amplify the tension (examples: scenes 9A-10 and scene 33).
It’s wonderful to find out from the draft that Jack Ward and Bill Turner were responsible for the story, since they are uncredited in the final cartoon. The same goes for the uncredited animators, which included Eli Brucker (more info on him here), Irv Spector (later renowned for his story work at Famous), Bob Bentley, Nelson Demorest (both former Schlesinger animators for Tashlin), Tom Golden, John Walworth (two later Famous animators that drew a number of “funny animal” stories) and Edith Vernick – head of the inbetween department – who is credited for only one scene.
Fortunately, this (below) is the best looking copy of this cartoon I’ve ever seen. Hope you all enjoy this latest breakdown video!
The Draft (click each page to enlarge)