"We didn't make them for anybody, we made them for ourselves, which was probably the most sensible way to do it anyway."
The Golden Age Of Animation
is a period in animation history
that began with the advent of Steamboat Willie on November 18th 1928 also with Fleischer's, Warner's and MGM's rise to prominence in the years following. It faded out in the late 1950s
/ early 1960s
when theatrical animated shorts slowly began losing ground to the new medium of television animation.
Many memorable characters emerged from this period, including Mickey Mouse
, Bugs Bunny
, Donald Duck
, Daffy Duck
, Betty Boop
, Woody Woodpecker
, Mighty Mouse
, Mr. Magoo
, Tom and Jerry
and a popular adaptation
, among many others that haven't survived along the way. Feature length animation also began during this period, most notably with Walt Disney
's first films: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
, and Bambi
Prior to 1928, animation was a dying novelty; less than 23% of theaters carried animated short subjects, and the demand wasn't high for them; Felix the Cat
and Out of the Inkwell
were the only series of prominence during this period, and even they were starting to lose steam by the closing of the twenties. Max Fleischer
, creator the Inkwell
series, was a principal investor in Red Seal Pictures which was a distribution company that produced a variety of films not limited to animation, until it went defunct in 1927. This came shortly after Max was experimenting with animated lip-synch through his groundbreaking animation series Song Cartunes
— namely with their final effort By The Light of the Silvery Moon
. The series, which lasted from 1924 - 1927 although synchronized sound wasn't incorporated until 1926, is argued by many to be the first sound animation, although that distinction could arguably be credited to Princeton Sound Test of 1925 and some of Edison's obscure animation experiments with cut-out animation
which had sound incorporated into it.
Regardless Max's series pioneered the use of the bouncing ball
. Ironically, Lee Dee Forrest's sound on film process which Fleischer used had been patent infringed by Pat Power's (this is how the cinephone came to be) and sold to Disney. After Song-Cartunes
and Red Seal Distribution
company went under, Max didn't have the necessary funds to pay back the film labs to have the negatives returned, so Alfred Weiss took care of the payments and help establish a deal with Paramount
Pictures, which lasted until the Fleischer's company was acquired by them in 1942. Pat Sullivan, owner of the Felix cartoons, was mourning the death of his wife, and his addiction to booze made it increasingly difficult to discuss business matters with him, even moreso after his subsequent mental degeneration, and death. So in all likelihood this played a role in him not seeing the potential of sound.
Paul Terry incorporated sound within the release of Dinner Time
, a month before the release of Steamboat Willie
. However, it lacked the appeal and believability of the latter film due to it being post-synchronized, meaning the sound was synchronized after the animation had been completed, making the characters feel out of place. Paul Terry was encouraged by Amadee Van Beuren
to continue producing sound animation, but he rejected the offer and was fired on the spot. He then decided to start a business partnership with Frank Moser, noted for being an exceedingly fast animator with a huge output, leaving John Foster to lead Amadee's department.
This gave Walt Disney
the leverage he needed to progress within the industry. Charles Mintz rejected his proposal to raise the budget on his Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
cartoons, and threatened to lower the budget and recruit his staff including Harman and Ising
and Friz Freleng
. Walt persevered, and managed to have Ub Iwerks provide him drawings that would serve as the groundwork for Mickey Mouse. They had produced Plane Crazy
and Gallopin Gaucho
without much praise or reception, when doing a silent release for Steamboat Willie
. They came to the conclusion that the only way to have Mickey ever be marketable was to exploit the profitability of sound film. Steamboat Willie was derived from Steamboat Bill Jr
, a Buster Keaton
feature of the day also the title of a novelty song by Arthur Collins.
Meanwhile, Charles Mintz was not fulfilling his promise to improve the state of Oswald for Universal
, and thus had the carpet pulled out from under him. The series was given to Walter Lantz
after he won a poker game against owner Carl Leammel. Lantz, who started his animation career at the International Film Service at Hearst
, collaborated with J.R. Bray
on such series such as Dinky Doodle
and Unnatural History
, and was a gag writer for Mack Sennett. Lantz in collaboration with Bill Nolan
produced the remaining Oswald Rabbit
shorts beginning in 1929 and lasting into 1937note
, around this point Tex Avery
began making his earliest creative contributions to the field of animation; His work is easily noticeable through such entries like Grandma's Pet
and Towne Hall Follies
. In many instances Avery filled in for Bill Nolan when it came to directing duties. Bill Nolan departed Lantz in 1935, he later resurfaced in Max Fleischer's Miami venture in the late thirties where he was credited as an animator for Gullivers Travels
Early cartoons were very musically oriented and simply drawn, for obvious reasons—animation was an expensive medium and in order to remain profitable, the cartoons had to be produced and rushed out as quickly as possible, with little time for refinement—using public domain music (or in Harman and Ising's case, the entire Warner Bros. music library) solved the music problem, allowing song snippets to be quickly added and timed to the animation. Color got off to a slow start: while cartoons were initially hand-colored on occasion in the past (e.g. in the works of Winsor McCay), it wasn't until the appearance of the animated segment of the 1930 Universal
film The King of Jazz
, that the first cartoon to make use of the (two-strip) Technicolor process appeared. Then in 1930, former Disney veteran Ub Iwerks
brought color to standalone sound cartoons via the first Flip The Frog
cartoon "Fiddlesticks." for MGM
studios. A few years later, Disney followed suit with its lushly colored Silly Symphonies
short "Flowers and Trees
"—however, studios like Warner Bros.
, Fleischer and 20th Century Fox
would stick to black & white until many years later.
But regardless of the rising quality of cartoons, they were still relegated to be merely filler material that played before the main attractions of feature length films, however, and animation wasn't getting the treatment it truly deserved. Walt Disney
went out of his way to put a stop to that notion—he was constantly pushing technical boundaries in his cartoons, in an attempt to be the best studio out there-he quickly abandoned the old fashioned weightless rubberhose cartoons and began integrating more naturalistic techniques into his works, which contributed to his wide success. However, Walt soon came to realize that no matter how much effort he put into these shorts, they would never be particularly profitable—this was because the shorts' wages depended on the length of the film, rather than popularity. Thus came Walt's next big step for animation—in 1934, he began work on America's first feature length animated motion picture and finished it just in time for Christmas 1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
While the idea of a feature length animated film was nothing new to foreign countries
, and the Fleischers made their own 20 minute short feature the year before
, this was the first one to have both sound and color, and had shockingly high quality animation and art productions which blew all of the competition away and still
manages to hold up to this day. That and Walt's simple yet effective story formula—use the characters
to define the movie, and not have the plot
define the movie. While Snow White was originally derided during production as Disney's Folly
, even by his own wife, when the film unspooled in theaters, it was an instant success, receiving universal praise from critics and audiences and for its time was the most financially successful motion picture ever made.
But all was not well, for Disney's influence was a very mixed blessing for the whole industry. On one hand, it began building on the idea that animation could compete with live action in a way that earlier cartoons could not, but on the other hand, the animation became much, much more expensive and also required much more skilled draftsmen, robbing many animators from previous years of their jobs, due to no longer being able to keep up with the high demands of their studios. Also, almost every studio from the time period—sans Terrytoons
—began copying Disney's works
. Soon, everybody, from the Fleischer brothers
's big budget studio led by former Disney veterans Harman and Ising
, to even low budget outlets like Walter Lantz
, Van Beuren Studios
and the Ub Iwerks
studio were trying to ape Disney. Nonetheless, all of these attempts led to dead ends, as those studios only copied the superficial aspects of Disney cartoons—the fairytale-like settings, color and lush animation, but none of Disney's character or storytelling skills which helped make them such a hit to begin with.
Fortunately for the other studios, the tables were turned on Disney when rising star Bugs Bunny
made his debut in 1940, incidentally the same year when Disney experienced the disastrous failures of Pinocchio
. Soon, Looney Tunes
became the prime cartoon series of the era, complete with other studios trying to cash in on this new breed of gag cartoons
, including the then struggling Disney, among them being Walter Lantz
's Woody Woodpecker
, Tex Avery
's MGM shorts
with his main star Droopy
, Tom and Jerry
, Columbia Cartoons
' The Fox And The Crow
, Herman And Katnip
, among many other imitators. Despite the limitations in budget, resources and manpower due to the War effort of the time
, many animation connoisseurs consider the 1940s to be the peak of this era, where comedic timing and fluid animation
was easily at its highest point in animation history.
To some, the decline of this era began at some point in the early 1950s. Due to rising production costs and changing tastes, animators were forced to cut more and more corners in their work and gradually adjust to the newer styles coming out at the time. UPA
's excessive use of Limited Animation
in The Fifties
actually rose to popularity. The rise of television didn't appear to help matters either. Eventually, with the inevitable Fall of the Studio System
that had managed cartoons before, cartoons gradually declined in quality, and as a result began to fall out of popularity in theaters. Banished to television, they looked like mere shadows of their former glory. But help was on the way.
For a more comprehensive history of the era, visit The Other Wiki
's take of it here.
For this era's precursor, go to The Silent Age of Animation
. For its successor, check out The Dark Age of Animation
. And for a taste of some of the best cartoons this era has to offer, take a gander at The 50 Greatest Cartoons
and The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes
lists. For the live action film equivalent of this era, visit The Golden Age of Hollywood
open/close all folders
Characters, Series, Films and Their Studios
- Classic Disney Shorts:
- Mickey Mouse (1928-1953): Appeared in 125 short subjects from 1928 to 1953, made four feature length film appearances note and was the initial big star of Disney.
- Donald Duck: Appeared in 1934, graduated to his own series in the late 1930s, and starred in approx. 166 shorts, and made five feature animated film appearances.
- Goofy: Appeared in 1932, starring in many Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons prior to getting his own series in 1939, which lasted for 50 shorts.
- Pluto the Pup: Appeared in 1930, starring in many Mickey Mouse cartoons and even one standalone short in 1937 until he graduated to his own series in 1940, which lasted for 44 shorts, ending in 1951.
- Silly Symphonies (1929-1939): A pioneering series of color cartoons, generally centered around synchronized music, and used to experiment with animation techniques. Lasted from 1929 to 1939 for 75 shorts. Inspired many knockoffs and imitations in the 30s.
- Figaro: A very short-lived spinoff of Pinocchio, lasting for three shorts, and the character guest starred in four Pluto cartoons.
- Chip 'n Dale: Recurring characters that debuted in 1943 and lasted up till 1956, making appearances in Pluto and Donald Duck cartoons, and even starred in three of their own short subjects.
- Humphrey The Bear: Guest starred in Donald Duck cartoons in The Fifties and starred in a few shorts of his own.
- Misc. Disney Shorts: This includes shorts that weren't branded under a specific series name, such as some of the Wartime Cartoons, Ferdinand The Bull, and the Adventures in Music Duology.
- Disney Animated Canon: Everything listed before 101 Dalmatians (and below) is Golden Age Disney material:
- Non-Canon Works: Other Disney films partially featuring their animation. On sporadic occasions, Disney would even contribute animation for films by other studios.
- Around The World In Eighty Minutes (1931): Contains a brief animated sequence featuring Mickey Mouse.
- My Lips Betray (1933): Disney provided an animated sequence for this 20th Century Fox picture.
- Servants Entrance (1934): Another Fox feature that Disney provided an animated sequence for.
- Hollywood Party (1934): While this is actually an MGM film, the bulk of which is live action, one segment featured animation done entirely by Disney in the vein of their Silly Symphonies—and a brief sequence of Mickey Mouse interacting with Jimmy Durante.
- The Reluctant Dragon (1941): A feature made prior to Dumbo in an attempt to make some quick cash for Disney, the bulk of it is centered around journalist Robert Benchley, who is touring Disney's then-new Burbank studio in an attempt to sell the story "The Reluctant Dragon" as a movie, all while getting a humorous behind-the-scenes look at the animation process, complete with a few animated segments, the most noteworthy being the "Baby Weems" segment, told entirely through storyboards with almost no animation.
- Victory Through Air Power (1943)
- Song of the South (1946)
- So Dear to My Heart (1948)
Leon Schlesinger Cartoon Studio/Warner Bros Cartoon Studio:
- Looney Tunes: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird, Pepe Le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, etc. The best-known and best-loved non-Disney cartoons of the Golden Age. Started as a series of Silly Symphonies clones until the studio began Growing the Beard and both titles wound up just being umbrella titles for all of their cartoons.
- Merrie Melodies: Same as above.
- The bulk of the Looney Tunes And Merrie Melodies Filmography was made during this time period. Check them below to see how much work was done during the time.
- The Censored Eleven
- Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid (1929-1933): The recurring star of the original Looney Tunes shorts.
- Private Snafu: A Cult Classic Wartime Cartoon series made by this studio.
- Seaman Hook: Another series made by the studio that lasted for four shorts—three of them were made by Leon's studio, while one was outsourced to the Walter Lantz studio. The main character was also designed by Dennis the Menace (US) creator Hank Ketcham.
- Whens Your Birthday (1937): A live action film with an animated sequence in the opening, which was directed by Bob Clampett.
- She Married A Cop (1939): Features a trip through an animation studio (undoubtably Termite Terrace, although the story claims it is a New York Cartoon Studio) complete with an animated cartoon featuring ersatzes of Porky and Petunia Pig.
- Two Guys From Texas (1948): Features an animated segment, where Bugs Bunny makes a cameo.
- My Dream is Yours (1949): While the bulk of it is a live action feature film, it has a live action / animation segment starring Bugs Bunny.
- Happy Harmonies: A series of Silly Symphonies clones made by Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising. This series also features appearances from Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid, in both his original inkblot design, as well as a full on blackface kid redesign.
- The Captain And The Kids: The first series of cartoons produced by the new in-house MGM cartoon studio. This was a disasterous series of short subjects adapted from the Katzenjammer Kids comics. Friz Freleng directed some of these during his brief tenure at MGM, and could attest that they warranted failure.
- Count Screwloose: A very short lived series based on Milt Gross's classic comic characters "Count Screwloose of Tooloose and J.R. The Wonder Dog" made in an attempt to make up for the failure of The Captain And The Kids. Milt himself was hired to direct both shorts.
- Tom and Jerry: MGM's most popular shorts, created by Will Hanna and Joseph Barbera.
- Anchors Aweigh (1945): A mostly live action film, most notable for the famous sequence of Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse.
- Dangerous When Wet (1953): Another live action film featuring a Roger Rabbit Effect sequence, featuring Esther Williams alongside Tom and Jerry underwater.
- Invitation to the Dance (1956): A Gene Kelly film featuring several very well done Roger Rabbit Effect sequences.
- MGM Oneshot Cartoons: MGM also made many unsorted shorts that were not part of any running series, even before Tex Avery arrived at the studio, works such as "Officer Pooch", "The Homeless Flea", "Little Buck Cheeser", "The Mad Maestro", "The Stork's Holiday", "Peace on Earth" and so on.
- Barney Bear: An unfortunate Chew Toy character created by Rudolph Ising at MGM, right around the time the studio began to make its cartoons more comical and less cutesy. Barney Bear starred in several shorts between 1939 and 1954, but these shorts are often overshadowed by Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery's MGM shorts.
- Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: This includes Screwy Squirrel, Droopy, and a LOT of oneshots.
- Forbidden Planet (1956): Notable for the live action/animation scene of the ID Monster, made by Disney animator Joshua Meador, who was loaned out to MGM by Disney.
- Out of the Inkwell / Inkwell Imps (1918-1929): Series ended just as the era began.
- Talkartoons (1929-1932): A series of sound cartoons initially starring recurring dog character Bimbo. Eventually evolved into the Betty Boop series.
- Screen Songs (1929-1938): A series of early sound cartoons that used Max's bouncing ball. Screen Songs would later be revived by Famous Studios.
- Betty Boop (1932-1939): One of the Fleischer brothers' most popular characters, and the first sex symbol of animation. Betty was also one of the favorite characters of anime legend Osamu Tezuka. The Fleischers' original Silent Age cartoon star, Koko the Clown, would also make frequent appearances in her early shorts.
- Popeye the Sailor (1933-1942): An acclaimed adaptation of E.C. Segar's beloved comic strip, the Popeye shorts were the studios biggest breadwinner, lasting 106 B&W shorts (and three color two-reelers) during the studios lifetime.
- Color Classics (1934-1941): A series of 36 Silly Symphonies clones made by the Fleischers.
- These shorts also feature a 7 short sub-series called "Hunky and Spunky", starring the eponymous mother donkey and her kid. Betty Boop also made an appearance in the first one (in her sole theatrical appearance in color), and her grandfather, Grampy, would headline a short of his own in the series.
- Gullivers Travels (1939): The Fleischers' first stab at a feature length film in an attempt to cash in on Snow White's success. The film was a modest success at the box office.
- Gabby (1940-1941): An 8 short series based on the town crier from Gulliver's Travels.
- Animated Antics (1940-1941): 11 short cartoons, six of which of oneshot shorts (and one of them notably eschews hand-drawn animation for a stop motion approach). Five of them would feature characters from Gulliver's Travels; two on the spies Sneak, Snoop and Snitch, and three on Twinkletoes the Carrier Pigeon.
- Stone Age (1940): A 12 short series of Caveman themed cartoons.
- Superman Theatrical Cartoons (1941-1942): A series of big budget, rotoscoped short subjects which helped cement The Man Of Steel as a pop culture icon, as well as influence the entire DCAU and film-makers like Hayao Miyazaki. The first 9 shorts were handled by the Fleischers, while the other 8 were made by Famous Studios.
- Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941): The Fleischers' second—and last—animated film, which had the misfortune of being released just when Pearl Harbor was around the corner (two days to be exact), not to mention the lack of promotion from Paramount. As a result, the film tanked at the box office and was part of what brought Fleischer Studios to its demise.
- Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy (1941): A two-reeler short subject centered on Johnny Gruelle's beloved characters.
- The Raven (1942): A two-reeler, color cartoon, which is an In Name Only adaptation of "The Raven".
Universal Cartoons/The Walter Lantz Studio:
- Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (1929-1938, 1943): Initially made as a Silent Age cartoon star by Walt Disney, when his creator left he fell into the hands of Walter Lantz, the head of Universal's animation department, after Oswald had been taken from Charles Mintz's studio "Winkler Pictures" at that time, after Mintz had taken Oswald from Disney beforehand. While he would continue making appearances throughout the thirties, he never regained his original popularity he earned under Disney's watch. The character was fairly popular early on, but was gradually phased out by 1938, with an ill-fated revival attempt circa 1943 (with the exception of a brief cameo in The Woody Woodpecker Polka during the early 50's).
- The King of Jazz (1930): Not the whole film, but the opening animated technicolor segment, the very first use of Technicolor in a cartoon, in fact.
- Pooch the Pup (1932-1933): 13 short comedies that were probably meant to give Lantz another star besides Oswald.
- Peterkin: A oneshot short starring a character created by William Pogony, an attempt to launch a new star for Lantz.
- Meany, Miny and Moe (1936-1937): A series of 13 shorts centered around a trio of monkeys, who initially appeared in four Oswald shorts.
- Baby-Face Mouse
- Snuffy Skunk
- Jock and Jill
- Andy Panda (1939-1949): Universal and Walter Lantz's second major cartoon star after the Oswald series ran out of gas. Initially popular when he debuted in 1939, the cub almost as quickly fell out of popularity when Woody Woodpecker made his debut in one of his shorts. He would still pop up in the occasional short afterwards until he was completely phased out by 1949 (with the exception of a non-speaking cameo in The Woody Woodpecker Polka along with Oswald during the 50s, as well as an appearance in the Woody Woodpecker show special Spook-a-Nanny).
- Woody Woodpecker (1941-1972): Lantz's attempt at cashing in on the Screwy Squirrel craze of the early 40's, which resulted in a beloved series of short subjects, making Woody a huge star and the official mascot of Universal Studios. He starred in 195 shorts.
- Chilly Willy (1953-1972): Another popular Universal cartoon character that debuted in the 50s. While this cute lil' penguin never reached the popularity of Woody Woodpecker, he did last long enough to get 50 shorts. Tex Avery (after he left MGM) also directed two of his early cartoons, helping establish an identity for the series.
- Cartune Classics (1934-1942, 1953-1957): An on-and-off series of oneshot cartoons. Lasted for 51 shorts.
- Swing Symphonies (1941-1945): A 14 short series of musically oriented cartoons, often themed around top boogie woogie songs.
- Musical Miniatures (1946-1948: A short lived offshoot of Swing Symphonies, but themed around classical music. Only lasted for six shorts.
- Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein: The studio animated the opening cartoon sequence for the film.
- Sioux City Sue (1947): A B-Western with a brief animated sequence done by Lantz.
- Destination Moon (1950): Woody Woodpecker makes a brief appearance, in his newly redesigned form, via an animated sequence explaining rocket propulsion.
- Popeye the Sailor (inherited from Fleischer Studios, 1942 1957)
- Superman (inherited from Fleischer Studios, 1942 1943)
- Noveltoons (1943 1967)
- Little Lulu (1943 1948)
- Little Audrey (1947-1958)
- Raggedy Ann: Appeared in two shorts made by the studio: "Suddenly It's Spring" (1944), and "The Enchanted Square" (1947).
- Screen Songs (1947 1951; a revival of the original Fleischer Studios series)
- Herman And Katnip (1949 1959)
- Casper the Friendly Ghost (Initially appeared in three Noveltoons short subjects, graduated to a standalone series from 1950 1959)
- Baby Huey (1950-1959)
- Kartunes (1951 1953): The spirtiual successor to Screen Songs.
- Modern Madcaps: Initially appeared in 1958, right in the twilight years of this era, but lasted to 1967.
- Krazy Kat: An In Name Only adaptation of the classic comic strip.
- Toby The Pup: A short lived series produced by Mintz's studio. 12 were made, and only 7 are known to still exist.
- Scrappy: An interesting anti-Mickey Mouse series of shorts created by Fleischer veteran Dick Heumer. Not to be confused with that other scrappy.
- Color Rhapsodies: A series of color Silly Symphonies clones.
- Barney Google: A very short lived series based on the Newspaper comics of the same name—was a flop and only lasted four films.
- Phantasies: A series of B&W cartoons released to replace the Scrappy series.
- Fables: Another series of B&W cartoons released to replace the Krazy Kat series.
- The Fox And The Crow: A 20 short series created by Warner Bros. veteran Frank Tashlin. Arguably the most successful of Columbia's cartoons.
- Pete Pelican: Another attempt at a series by Tashlin, but only lasted for two shorts.
- Lil Abner: A brief attempt at an adaptation of this comic was attempted in 1944, but was ultimately a failure.
- The 40s Columbia studio also made many other oneshots or short lived attempts at launching potential new series, far too many to list here individually. One of them, "Leave Us Chase It", included an adaptation of the comic series "Superkatt" circa 1947.
- In the late 40s, in Columbia's live action Superman serials, there would be a bizarre use of the Roger Rabbit Effect, that when Superman takes flight, he turns into an animated version of himself (done due to budget constraints). These animated bits were done by ex-Disney veteran Howard Swift.
- Mr. Magoo of UPA-The most famous short sighted old person. He got his start in short animated films towards the tail end of the Golden Age.
- Gerald McBoing-Boing
- UPA also made many oneshot cartoons not part of any recurring series, such as "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Unicorn in the Garden".
- Mighty Mouse (1942-1954, 1959, 1961): The cartoon star of Paul Terry for 20th Century Fox.
- Heckle and Jeckle (1946-1955, 1957, 1959-1961, 1966): Another beloved series of shorts made by Paul Terry.
- Tom Terrific (1957-1958)
- Sidney The Elephant (1958-1963)
- Gandy Goose and Sourpuss
- Farmer Alfalfa: Terry's original silent star who lasted all the way up to the late 50s!
- Dinky Duck
- Nancy: The studio made two cartoon shorts adapting the classic comic strip during the 40's.
- Little Roguefort
- Kiko the Kangaroo
- Puddy the Pup
- The Terry Bears
- Hector Heathnote
- Flip The Frog: A series of animated shorts made by Ub Iwerks after he left Disney to make his own animation studio. Distributed, but not made, by MGM.
- Willie Whopper: Another series made by Ub Iwerks, starring a young little boy. Also distributed by MGM.
- Comi Color Cartoons (1933-1936): A 25 short series made by Ub Iwerks after he lost MGM as his cartoon distributor in favor of Harman and Ising's shorts. These cartoons being distributed through Pat Powers's "Celebrity Pictures." Predictably, the series was Iwerks' answer to Disney's Silly Symphonies shorts.
- Aesop's Fables, AKA "Aesop's Film Fables" (1929-1933) inherited from the Fables Studio, which was formerly run by Paul Terry. Originally a long running silent cartoon series, it now became a series of sound cartoons which introduced one of the earliest sound cartoons, "Dinnertime". It lasted around 120 shorts, including its sub-series.
- The Fables had its own sub-series, "Cubby Bear" (1933-1934), which ran for 16 shorts, with a 17th one being finished, but unreleased until it resurfaced on a Cubby Bear DVD collection decades later. Notably, two shorts in the series, "Gay Gaucho" (1933) and the unreleased "Mischievous Mice" (1934) were outsourced to the Harman and Ising cartoon studio, and they heavily resemble the Bosko cartoons they made.
- Amos N' Andy: A short lived attempt at adapting the popular radio show of the 30s. It notably featured their original radio actors reprising their roles, but it only lasted for two shorts.
- The Little King (1933-1934). An animated adaptation of the classic Newspaper Comic strip, lasting 10 shorts.
- Toddle Tales (1934); A very short lived Roger Rabbit Effect-based series of cartoons made by Burt Gillett to help beef up the quality of Van Beuren's product.
- Rainbow Parade (1934-1936); A series of color cartoons that lasted 27 shorts, which include some oneshots, and several sub-series, including an adaptation of the Toonerville Trolley comics, and their own in-house creations such as Molly Moo Cow and Parrotville Old Folks. Many of the non-series Rainbow Parades are obvious knockoffs of Disney's Silly Symphonies, typical of the 1930s.
- Felix the Cat (1936) While Felix was very prominent in the silent era, the rise of sound film ultimately proved to be his downfall. However, he survived as a popular newspaper comic, and did receive a very brief three-cartoon revival via Van Beuren Studios' "Rainbow Parade" series during the 1930s, with a fourth short in the planning stages before the Van Beuren Studio abruptly went belly-up In 1936.
- Van Beuren's Tom and Jerry (1931-1933) Two bungling young men, one short, one tall, which ran for 26 shorts. Absolutely no relation to MGM's Tom and Jerry shorts, but when reissued as home movies, the characters were renamed "Dick & Larry" to prevent confusion.
Other Studios And Their Works:
- King Kong (1933): An iconic RKO live action feature, which features the stop motion work of pioneering animator Willis O'Brian. It is considered one of the most important films in the history of cinema, much less stop motion.
- Mich Mich Effendi: Egypt's very first cartoon series, which started around 1935.
- Charles Bowers: A veteran of the silent age of animation, Bowers continued making stop motion films during the sound era, of which five are known to exist; "It's A Bird" (1930), "Believe It Or Dont" (1935), "Pete Roleum And His Cousins" (1939), "Wild Oysters" (1940) and "A Sleepless Night" (1940).
- The Romer Grey Studio: A very short lived studio, notable for being the first studio Robert McKimson worked at. Only two films were completed by it, and both are lost for years, until a print of "Hot Toe Molly" surfaced In 2014. More info about this esoteric studio can be found in this article.
- The Ted Eshbaugh Studio: A very obscure, short lived early 30s California-based studio. Notable for producing some of the earliest color cartoons, such as "Goofy Goat Antics"— Stillborn Franchise that never went beyond one short.
- The John Sutherland Studio: An obscure industrial film producing animation studio.
- Bray Studios: Continued to produce industrial films during this era.
- The Jam Handy Studio, an industrial film company located in Detroit. In 1948, it would make the first animated adaptation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. During the 40s to the 60's, the studio provided work for Max Fleischer, after he was booted out of his own studio.
- Alexander Film Co.: An esoteric colorado-based animation studio that produced many theatrical advertisements. Info on this studio can be found here.
- Bob Clampett Productions: A studio started up by the ex-Looney Tunes director in the late 40s. It only managed to produce one short, "It's A Grand Old Nag", for Republic Pictures.
- Shamus Culhane Productions: A TV studio started by the veteran that produced thousands of TV spots and commercials.
- Joe Oriolo Productions: A TV studio started by ex-Fleischer/Famous animator Joe Oriolo in the very late 50s. Most notable work was the TV revival of Felix the Cat. This studio became a hang-out for many ex-Famous Studios staffers.
- Hanna-Barbera: The studio started in 1958, a year after MGM's animation department closed. First TV cartoon made was the esoteric Ruff and Ready.
- The Tinderbox (1946): The first Belgian animated feature.
- The Golden Antelope (1954)
- The Snow Queen (1957): A russian animated adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story. Was dubbed in english in 1959, during the twilight years of this era. Its lush art and animation were undoubtably a standout from the more stylized animation of the time period, almost being a throwback to 1930s Disney animation and its followers.
- The Banyan Deer (1957); The first animated feature made in India. It was notably helmed by Disney artist Clair Weeks.
- The King and the Mockingbird: The film started production during this time period, but was not finished until the 1980's.
- The National Film Board Of Canada: Got its start in this era, producing counter-mainstream animation shorts.
- George Pal's Puppetoons: A series of Stop Motion short subjects. Bugs Bunny would make a cameo in one of them.
- Grampaw Pettibone: An ultra rare series of Wartime Cartoons. At least two of these shorts still survive, one made by Warner Bros., the other made by UPA. See them here.
- David Hand's Animaland: A series of British Disney-esque shorts. Only lasted for nine shorts, as they were unable to find distribution in the US.
- Music Paintbox: Another series of foreign David Hand shorts.
- Alice in Wonderland (1933): This live action Paramount Pictures film contains a brief animated segment adapting the tale of "The Walrus and the Carpenter", directed by Harman and Ising, and animated by Friz Freleng.
- In 1949, a live action/stop motion adaptation of the Alice stories was made by Lou Bunin.
- The Air Force Base Unit AKA First Motion Picture Unit: A military based animation studio lead by Rudy Ising, usually consisting of oneshot cartoons, although they did have a "star" character called Trigger Joe. The studio produced loads of films, but unfortunately due to them believing their films only had ephemeral value, little of their work has survived to this day.
- Audio Productions: A little-known animation studio that produced the short "Once Upon a Time", which is an advertisement for Metropolitan Life insurance.
- Crusader Rabbit: The first animated TV series, and the first from Jay Ward, who later became prominent during The Dark Age of Animation (particularly thanks to Rocky and Bullwinkle).
- Bubble & Squeek (1948); Britain's first technicolor cartoon.
- Animal Farm: The 1952 Animated Adaptation of the book, as well as the first widely released animated film from the United Kingdom.note
- Joy of Living (1934): A French independent short subject, featuring very stylized but graceful animation.
- The Little Island (1958): The first animated film made by Richard Williams.
- Winky Dink and You (1953): One of the earliest made for tv cartoons, and one of first to allow an audience to "interact" with it.
- Night on Bald Mountain (1933): An early french stop motion short created by Alexandre Alexeieff.
- Mole (1957-2002): A Czech cartoon series created by Zdenek Miler, with the first one released in the late 50's. The series notably had new cartoons made for it all the way to 2002!
- King Kelly of the USA (1934): A live-action movie released by Monogram, featuring a brief animated segment contributed by artist Les Elton.
- The Adventures of Pinocchio (1936); A tragically unfinished italian animated feature. Sadly, it is considered a lost film—only a handful of frames from the film survive.
- "Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka" (Within the World of Power, and Women or The World of Power and Women, 1933) An anime short film by Kenzō Masaoka, and the first Japanese sound cartoon. It is considered a lost film.
- The Dance of the Chagamas (1934)
- The Camel Presentation Dance (1935): The first sound cartoon made by the Wan Brothers animation studio.
- Princess Iron Fan (1941): The first animated feature made by the Wan Brothers.
- Momotaro's Sea Eagles (1942)
- Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors (1945)
- Spider and Tulip (1943): A short animated Japanese film made by Kenzo Masaoka.
- The Tale of the White Serpent (1958)
- Kitten's Studio (1959); An early cartoon short produced by Toei.
- The Chinese Nightingale (1948): A Czech animated feature by Jiri Trnka.
- Tale of a Fox (1931): A Ladislas Starewich film. It was also released in German in 1937, and France in 1940.
- Privalova Nadezhda M., a notable russian animator and art director, whose film work includes:
- THE CAT'S HOUSE╩ (1958)
- THREE WOODCUTTERS╩ (1959)
- A SOBER SPARROW. A Tale for grown-ups╩ (1960)
- DIFFERENT WHEELS╩ (1960)
- FAMILY CHRONICLE╩ (1961)
- TWO TALES╩ (1962)
- GRANDMOTHER'S KID. A TALE FOR GROWN-UPS╩ (1963)
- INCHGIRL╩ (1964)
- ABOUT THE HIPPOPOTAMUS WHO WAS AFRAID OF INOCULATIONS╩ (1966)
- TALES FOR GROWN-UPS AND KIDS╩ (1967)
- HARE THE MALINGERER╩ (1967)
- I WANT TO BUTT╩ (1968)
- THE GIRL AND THE ELEPHANT╩ (1969)
- TEREM-TEREMOK╩ (1971)
- A RETURNED SON╩ (1936)
- A STORY ABOUT A WHITE BULL-CALF╩ (1933)
- THE BLOT IN ARCTIC╩ (1934)
- A MAGIC FLUTE╩ (1937)
- KOTOFEI KOTOFEEVICH╩ (1937)
- A NEGRO TALE╩ (1937)
- A NOISY VOYAGE╩ (1937)
- THE DILIGENT COCK AND CARELESS MICE╩ (1938)
- IVASHKA AND BABA-YAGA╩ (1938)
- THE CAT IN BOOTS╩ (1938)
- A LITTLE LIAR╩ (1938)
- FEDOR THE HANTER╩ (1938)
- WHY RHINOCEROS HAS SKIN WITH WRINKLES╩ (1938)
- A TALE ABOUT KIND UMAR╩ (1938)
- UNCLE STEPA╩ (1938)
- CINEMA-CIRCUS╩ (1942)
- THE WINTER TALE╩ (1945)
- A DISAPPEARED DIPLOMA╩ (1945)
- TEREMOK╩ (1945)
- A PEACOCK'S TAIL╩ (1946)
- KONEK-GORBUNOK╩ (1947)
- THE LITTLE GREY NECK╩ (1948)
- THE TALE ABOUT THE SOLDIER╩ (1948)
- THE FIRST LESSON╩ (1948)
- THE COCKOO AND THE STARLING╩ (1949)
- MASHENKA'S CONCERT╩ (1949)
- STRANGE VOICE╩ (1949)
- WHEN THE NEW YEAR TREES LIGHTS UP╩ (1950)
- THE STURDY FELLOW╩ (1950)
- THE DEER AND THE WOLF╩ (1950)
- A HIGH HILL╩ (1951)
- FOREST ADVENTURERS╩ (1951)
- THE TALE ABOUT THE DEAD TSAREVNA AND THE SEVEN BOGATYRS╩ (1951)
- OAK-TREE THROWER╩ (1952)
- THE SNOW-MAIDEN╩ (1952)
- THE MAGIC SHOP╩ (1953)
- A FOREST CONCERT╩ (1953)
- THE DESOBEDIENT KITTEN (1953)
- SISTER ALENUSHKA AND BROTHER IVANUSHKA (1953)
- THE ARROW FLIES IN THE TALE (1954)
- AN EXTRAORDINARY MATCH (1955)
- THE DOG AND THE CAT (1955)
- THE SNOW POSTMAN (A New Year Tale) (1955)
- STEPA, THE SAILOR (1955)
- A LITTLE SHIP (1956)
- THE OLD FRIENDS (1956)
Blogs and Websites Dedicated To This Era Of Animation
- Animation Resources: A large, open to public animation museum, filled with juicy info and instructional materials from this era. You can find it here.
- Classic Cartoons: A site full of frame grabs and old comics based on classic cartoon characters. Full of juicy, obscure stuff. See it here.
- Deja View: A blog ran by Disney animator Andreas Deja. Dedicated mostly to classic Disney, particularly the work of Disney's Nine Old Men. See it here.
- Duck Walk: A website with observations of old cartoons. See it here.
- Inkwell Images: A classic cartoon DVD company founded by animator and historian Ray Pointer, its main claim to fame being its Out of the Inkwell collections. You can find it here.
- Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research: A classic cartoon website run by animation historian and Cartoon Brew founder Jerry Beck. Also has a section where you can aquire thousands of rare, but unrestored cartoons on research DVDs—but not for cheap! See it here.
- John K. Stuff: A controversial and subjective blog (not surprising; John Kricfalusi is a very polarising cartoonist), but chock full of info and frame grabs on old cartoons and comics all the same. See it here.
- Mayerson On Animation: An ideal blog for fans of Classic Disney. See it here.
- Micheal Barrier.Com: An acclaimed animation historian's website, full of rare historial stuff and interesting observations of old and new cartoons. See it here.
- Shane Gline's Cartoon Retro: Another classic cartoon dedicated blog. See it here.
- The Blackwing Diaries: A blog made by a Cal Arts animator, with, take a guess, stuff centered on old cartoons. See it here.
- The Rod Scriber Project: A blog dedicated to tracking down scenes of animation done by famous Looney Tunes animator Rod Scriber. See it here.
- The Sacred Tree Of The Aracuan Bird: Another ideal blog for fans of Classic Disney. See it here.
- This Blog's A LOAD Of Cartoons: Another blog full of stuff related to classic cartoons and comics. See it here.
- Thunderbean: A classic cartoon DVD company that has released many superb collections of rare cartoon matierial, some of which can be found on their website. The rest can be found listed under their works on Amazon.com.
Tropes associated with this era include:
- Acme Products
- All Animation Is Disney: The trope got its start here. And it only got worse from then on.
- All Balloons Have Helium
- Alliterative Name: The vast majority of the characters from this era had names like this.
- Amusing Injuries
- And Call Him George
- Animation Bump
- Art Evolution: Animation as a whole slowly went through this phase from The Silent Age of Animation to The Golden Age of Animation. Early cartoons were very crudely made-they were very stiff, rigid and mechanical in appearance and movement, had no construction, no line of action, lots of symmetry (which made them look flat) and the body parts were piled onto each other, rather than being directly connected by form. This began changing when Disney began forming and refining The Twelve Principles of Animation, as well as animators like Fred Moore altering Mickey's design to become more pear-like and organic, allowing it to not only be three-dimensional, but also be more pliable and organic than the earlier, rigid designs from shorts like Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie. Disney immediately adapted this to their other characters, and everyone else in the animation industry (sans Max and Dave Fleischer) copied this immediately, sending classic rubberhose animation to its grave within a few years.
- Ash Face
- Ass in a Lion Skin
- Big Ball of Violence
- Bloodless Carnage
- Born in the Theatre
- Buzzsaw Jaw
- Cartoon Bomb
- Cartoon Cheese
- The Cat Came Back
- Catch That Pigeon
- Cat Concerto
- Censored Eleven: Created and released during this era, although the "censored" part wouldn't come until the '60s.
- Chaste Toons: Main characters of several cartoon series were inexplicably forced to take care of their mysterious nephews quite often during this era. The nephews tended to be triplets.
- Circling Birdies
- Clip Show: Started appearing increasingly more often in the 50s, signaling the twilight of the Golden Age in some ways.
- Conspicuously Light Patch: AKA The Fudd Flag. Very, very prominent in this era of cartoons. Justified in that the coloring done by cel artists is meant to keep the movable objects from blending into the backgrounds.
- Cranial Eruption
- Daffy Duck
- Deranged Animation: Just watch some of the old Fleischer cartoons. Also, Warner's "Porky in Wackyland".
- Disney School of Acting and Mime
- Doing It for the Art: In full swing during this era, especially in the case of the Looney Tunes staff and Hanna-Barbera's work at MGM.
- Duck Season, Rabbit Season
- Eek, a Mouse!!
- End of an Age: By the '60s these sort of cartoons gradually went out of style, and even with attempted revivals of some of it's most successful franchises, like Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, no ones ever really been able to truly capture it's style of comedy (mainly due to humor changing through the years and Values Dissonance making the revivals Lighter and Softer).
- Episode Title Card
- Era-Specific Personality
- Eye Pop
- Fleeting Demographic Rule: This was partly why a lot of series rehashed plots after enough years had gone by (most notably Popeye). Another reason was that theaters didn't often rerun old shorts, especially after color became widely used.
- Follow the Leader: Even back then. In the 1930s everyone wanted to be like Disney, with their popular and successful Silly Symphonies shorts. But by the 1940s when Bugs Bunny and Screwy Squirrel-type characters became more popular than Ridiculously Cute Critters, everyone wanted to be like Looney Tunes, even Disney.
- Funny Animal
- Genre Throwback: Don Bluth's early films were intended as throwbacks to the older, more emotionally powerful Disney films, right down to only using traditional animation techniques in his works.
- Epic Mickey also appears to have many homages and shout outs to Mickey's early cartoons, and even older, forgotten/scrapped Disney characters. Mickey even has his old dot eyes, Disney's original cartoon star Oswald is making his official comeback in this game, and Warren Spector even said the game is meant to be heavily influenced by Fantasia. Kingdom Hearts, this is not.
- Speaking of Kingdom Hearts, one entire level of Kingdom Hearts II called Timeless River is meant to be one big throwback to the early Black and White Disney shorts, right down to being in black and white and even having grainy, mono-track sound! Even the heartless of this level are given a cartoony Golden Age-esque makeover.
- Also, the entirety of the video game Mickey Mania is made as one big throwback to several of Mickey's adventures over the years, including Steamboat Willie, The Mad Doctor, Moose Hunt, Lonesome Ghosts, Mickey And The Beanstalk, The Prince and the Pauper, and in the Genesis/Sega CD versions, a homage to The Band Concert is included as a bonus level.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit is also a heavy throwback to Golden Age Animation, right down to the movie being set during this era. Many, many Golden Age cartoon stars also make cameos in this movie.
- Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures are also intended as throwbacks to the Golden Age Warner Bros cartoons.
- While not a total throwback, Word of God has stated that Batman: The Animated Series intentionally draws many of its elements, aesthetically and story-wise, from the Fleischer Superman theatrical shorts. One episode in particular, Christmas With The Joker even has a few clever shout outs to those shorts.
- John Lasseter has said that The Princess and the Frog is intended as a throwback to the early Disney films.
- Tangled, at least the art of it and how it uses its CGI, draws an astounding amount of influence from the early Disney films as well. Or at least, it did.
- The Fairly Oddparents had one episode which served as a throwback to golden age animation. (specifically, the early black and white toons of Ub Iwerks-even using a similar art style)
- Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat is one huge throwback to this era, as well as The Silent Age of Animation, mainly the surreal works of Max Fleischer.
- The Spongebob Squarepants episode "Truth or Square" did a bizarre late 20s cartoon style throwback, complete with being filmed in black and white, and every single thing has a face.
- The first part of the Futurama episode Reincarnation is an obvious homage to Fleischer Studios.
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress
- Impact Silhouette
- Instant Bandages
- Iron Buttmonkey: Common character type for antagonists.
- Karmic Trickster
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Usually averted with most collections of toons from this era—many Public Domain cartoons can be found readily available on budget DVDs for dirt cheap. Although more popular stuff like the Warner Home Video DVD sets (i.e. Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 1-6, Popeye the Sailor Vol. 1-3) plays this a bit more straight (although they're still very common and readily available to the public) this trope is played perfectly straight with the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and the rereleases of Disney's Golden Age films.
- Literal Ass Kicking
- Missing Episode: While this era of animation doesn't have it anywhere near as bad as the films of the silent era, there's still some problems with it occasionally popping up. The good news is that the bulk of the publicly screened theatrical cartoons of the day still exist in some form, and several companies such as Disney, MGM, Warner Bros. and even the Columbia Cartoon library have had their libraries restored, with only a handful if any flat out missing episodes. Even the Van Beuren studio and Terry Toons have virtually all of their sound films still existing in some way. The bad news is that this is definetely not the case with industrial films and commercials of the era, such as the films of the Jam Handy Studio and the shorts of the army based First Motion Picture Unit. On that note, many of the big studio cartoons have had their original titles removed in reissues, even having new titles spliced into the original negatives—this is the case with many of the Betty Boop and Looney Tunes shorts.
- Mouse Hole
- Most Writers Are Male
- Negative Continuity
- Non-Fatal Explosions
- Pepper Sneeze
- Pie-Eyed: Earlier on for the most part.
- Pie in the Face
- Plunger Detonator
- Public Domain Animation: A whole bunch of cartoons from this era wind up falling into the Public Domain.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: They ran rampant during a period in the 30s when almost all of the cartoon studios were trying to emulate Disney's successful Silly Symphonies series. Some might mark the infamous moment in the short Screwball Squirrel beats up a cute squirrel as the final nail in the coffin of this trend.
- Road Runner vs. Coyote
- Roger Rabbit Effect: Was actually being done going back into The Silent Age of Animation. Many of Betty Boop's and Koko the Clown's old cartoons incorporated live action footage. There was also the Looney Tunes short "You Oughtta Be In Pictures", Tom and Jerry's cameo appearance in Gene Kelly's Anchors Aweigh, and Donald Duck lusting after human ladies in The Three Caballeros.
- Rotoscoping: An animation technique involving drawing over live-action film, this was developed during the Silent Age and perfected during the Golden Age. Notable uses of it include Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the Betty Boop cartoon "Minnie The Moocher" in which the dance moves of Cab Calloway were traced onto a singing walrus.
- Rubber Hose Limbs: Especially in the 30s.
- Rule of Animation Conservation: Was initially very common thanks to the efficiency of rubber hose characters...until Disney began demanding more realistic, dynamic and natural animation in his works-his imitators promptly followed suit (especially MGM). Studios like Universal, Fleischer and Warner Bros. usually stuck by this trope all the way however, as they had to cope with generally low budgets that would have made it impossible to reach the level of quality the works of Disney and MGM reached. This trope became increasingly more common during the twilight years of this era, however, even with big budget studios like Disney and even MGM. Naturally, this trope and it's sister trope Limited Animation would grow and spin completely out of control by the dawn of the next era.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: Got it's start during the golden age. Tex Avery was fond of these.
- Screwy Squirrel: Both a breed of character that spawned during this era and a short-lived character himself.
- Seen-It-All Suicide
- Shadow of Impending Doom
- Shout-Out: Son of the Mask is loaded with shout outs/cameos of characters from this era, and even its cartoon violence is reminiscent of this era.
- Simpleton Voice: "Duh, which way did he go George?"
- Slap Stick
- Sweeping Ashes
- Talking Animal
- Toon Physics
- Vindicated by Cable: After movie theaters stopped running cartoon shorts, series such as Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry went on to become Saturday morning staples and rose to even higher popularity than in their heyday, to the point where many people will be surprised when you tell them the cartoons came out in the 1940s.
- Vindicated by History: Many of Disney's films from the 40s post Snow White were actually financial flops, and it wasn't until later theatrical re-releases of these films that the studio was able to make a profit off of them.
- Wartime Cartoon: Each one full of examples of politically incorrect material as well, in the way the Japanese were represented. Bugs Bunny and Popeye have some of the most infamous examples. However, one must keep in mind that this was still an age in which a character left wearing Blackface after Non-Fatal Explosions was practically a trope all on its own.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Where to even start? Betty Boop in particular refuged in this until the Hays Office finally cracked down on her in 1934. The Hanna-Barbera duo, Tex Avery, and Chuck Jones stated explicitly that Tom and Jerry and the Looney Tunes series were cartoons that were made for an adult audience.
- Ironically, the children of that same adult demographic would become its single most important audience.
- White Gloves
- Wild Take: Codified by Tex Avery.
- Wish Fulfillment: For some of the shorts of the era, it certainly seemed that way.