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Useful Notes / The Golden Age of Animation

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A shot from Who Framed Roger Rabbit showcasing the many, many characters of the day, circa 1947. note 

"We didn't make them for anybody, we made them for ourselves, which was probably the most sensible way to do it anyway."
Chuck Jones, Looney Tunes director.

The Golden Age of Animation is a period in the History of Animation that is generally agreed to have begun on November 18th, 1928, with the release of Steamboat Willie, and cemented with Fleischer's, Warner's and MGM's rise to prominence in the years following. It gradually faded out from the early 50s to late 60s note  when theatrical animated shorts lost ground to the new (and far lower budget) medium of television animation.

Many memorable characters emerged from this period, including Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Goofy, Porky Pig, Pluto, Sylvester and Tweety, Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Popeye, Betty Boop, Woody Woodpecker, Mighty Mouse, Mr. Magoo, Tom and Jerry, Droopy, Rocky and Bullwinkle and a popular adaptation of Superman, 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, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.

Prior to 1928, animation was a dying novelty – less than 23% of theaters carried animated short subjects, and demand wasn't increasing. Felix the Cat and Out of the Inkwell were the only series of prominence during this period, and even these were starting to lose steam by the end of the 1920s. Inkwell series creator Max Fleischer was a principal investor in Red Seal Pictures, which was a distribution company producing a variety of films, not limited to animation, before its demise in 1927. This came shortly after Fleischer had been experimenting with animated lip-sync through his groundbreaking animation series Song Car-Tunes, namely with the company's final effort By The Light of the Silvery Moon. The series, which lasted from 1924 to 1927, is argued by many to be the bearer of the first sound animationnote , although that distinction could arguably be credited to the Princeton Sound Test of 1925 and some of Edison's obscure animation experiments with cut-out animation, which had sound incorporated into them.

Despite the company's collapse, Max Fleischer's work was an important success, as it pioneered the use of the bouncing ball. Ironically, Lee de Forest's sound on film process, which Fleischer used, had been patent-infringed by Pat Powers, who supplied Disney with the Cinephone sound system. After the Song Car-Tunes and the Red Seal Distribution company went under, Fleischer lacked the necessary funds to pay back the film labs to have the negatives returned, so Alfred Weiss took care of the payments and helped establish a deal with Paramount Pictures, which lasted until Fleischer Studios was acquired by them in 1942. Felix the Cat's producer Pat Sullivan's increasingly chronic alcoholism made it difficult to discuss business matters with him; this played a role in his failure to see the potential of sound. A handful of Felix cartoons were made with sound in 1930, but failed to save the series. Sullivan then planned to move to California to start from scratch before the mysterious death of his wife led to his intensified mental degradation and later demise.

Paul Terry incorporated sound in the release of Dinner Time, a month before the release of Steamboat Willie. However, it lacked the appeal and immersion of the latter film due to its being post-synchronized, meaning the sound was synchronized after the animation had been completed. This disconnect had the harmful effect of making 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 a certain Walt Disney the leverage he needed to progress in the industry. Charles Mintz rejected his proposal to raise the budget on his Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons, and in fact threatened to lower the budget- as well as recruit Disney's staff for himself, including Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising and Friz Freleng. Walt persevered, and managed to have Ub Iwerks provide him with drawings which would serve as the groundwork for Mickey Mouse. They had produced Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Gaucho without much fanfare or praise when doing a silent release for Steamboat Willie, and 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 as well as 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 by studio owner Carl Laemmle (the urban legend that he won contract in a poker game against Laemmle is a myth; Lantz didn't even play poker; in reality, Lantz had been schmoozing with Laemmle at various functions for years, even serving as the studio boss's designated driver at parties). Lantz, who started his animation career with William Randolph Hearst's "International Film Service", collaborated with J.R. Bray on his later series such as Dinky Doodle and Unnatural History, and was a gag writer for Mack Sennett. Lantz, in collaboration with Bill Nolan, produced Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts beginning in 1929 and lasting into 1937note . It was around this time when Tex Avery began making his earliest creative contributions to the field of animation; his absurdist comic sensibilities and distinct balloon animal-esque drawing style are easily noticeable in such entries as Grandma's Pet and Towne Hall Follies, the latter Avery's (albeit uncredited) directorial debut. As his seniority increased, Avery increasingly filled in for Bill Nolan when it came to directing duties and eventually fully directed two Oswald shorts (the aforementioned Follies and The Hillbilly) months before departing for Schlesinger in 1935. Nolan departed Lantz in 1935, later resurfacing in 1938 as an animator for MGM's The Captain and the Kids and subsequently at Max Fleischer's Miami venture in the late 30's, where he was credited as an animator for Gulliver's Travels and served as a de facto director on several shorts.

Early sound 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 distributed as quickly as possible, with little time for refinement. The use of 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, meanwhile, got off to a slow start; while cartoons were occasionally hand-colored in the past (e.g. in the works of Winsor McCay), it wasn't until 1930 when the first cartoons to make use of the (two-strip) Technicolor process appeared. First came the prologue segment on the Universal film King of Jazz, produced by Lantz and Nolan. That year, Ub Iwerks (who followed Powers after falling out with Disney) produced the Flip the Frog cartoon "Fiddlesticks" for MGM, becoming the first cartoon short in color. A few years later, Disney followed suit with its lushly colored Silly Symphonies short "Flowers and Trees" (using the improved three-strip Technicolor process), switching to full-color production by 1935. However, studios such as Warner Bros., Fleischer, and 20th Century Fox's Terrytoons would stick to black & white until many years later.

Despite the rising quality of cartoons, they were still relegated to the role of mere filler material, played before the main attractions of feature length films, and as such animation wasn't getting the treatment it needed in order to shine. Walt Disney went out of his way to break this mold, constantly pushing technical boundaries with his cartoons in an attempt to be the best studio out there. He quickly sought to abandon the slow, metronomic timing and simplistic 'rubberhose' designs and motion indigenous to most animation of the period, supplanting held poses with overlapping action (a technique developed in 1930 by Norm Ferguson to accentuate, instead of hindering, smoother, more expressive motion through posing), revamping the animation production system by introducing the 'animator-assistant-inbetweener' workflow used for decades afterwards, hiring highly-trained concept artists such as Albert Hurter to provide more reprsentational and detailed character designs than permitted by the conventional rubberhose aesthetic (a style Disney's output would shed almost entirely by 1935), revamping animation's ability to convey more expressive and realistic physical parameters via the introduction of the 'squash-and-stretch' principle and installing a rigorous training system for newfound animators conducted by art professor Don Graham. While these measures opened the Disney shorts of the thirties to a more character-centered form of storytelling and a more purposeful set of visual sensibilities (thus granting them a significant technical and critical advantage over many of their contemporaries), Disney nonetheless came to realize that no matter how much effort he put into these shorts, they would never be particularly profitable, since the shorts' earnings depended on the length of the film, rather than popularity. This principle had been previously observed with his Silly Symphony cartoon The Three Little Pigs, which reaped little due to its run time. Thus came Disney's next big step for animation: America's first feature length animated motion picture, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which he began to work on in 1934.

While the idea of a feature length animated film was nothing new to foreign countries, this was the first anywhere to have both sound and color. On top of that, Snow White had shockingly high quality animation and art production which blew competition away, and manages to hold up to this day. Another factor attributed to its standing out was Disney's simple yet effective story formula: use the characters, not the plot, to define the movie. While Snow White was derided during production, vilified as "Disney's Folly"- even by Disney's own wife- the film was an instant success when it released in theaters on December 21, 1937, receiving universal praise from critics and audiences and becoming the most financially successful motion picture of its time.

Nonetheless, all was still not well, for Disney's influence was a very mixed blessing upon the industry. On one hand, it began building on the once-unthinkable idea that animation could compete with live action, while on the other hand it led the animation industry to become much, much more expensive, requiring much more funding and far more skilled draftsmen. This demand robbed many established animators of their jobs, as they could no longer keep up with the wishes of their studios. In addition, almost every studio from the time period – sans Terrytoons – began copying Disney's works. Soon enough, everybody from the high-budget Fleischer brothers and MGM, led by former Disney veterans Harman and Ising, to low budget outlets including Walter Lantz, Van Beuren Studios, and the Ub Iwerks studio, were trying to imitate Disney. All of these attempts led to dead ends, however, as those studios only copied the superficial aspects of Disney cartoons- the fairy-tale-like settings, with their color and lush animation- while failing to import any of Disney's character or storytelling skills, which were just as crucial in helping Disney's works find their success.

In tune with the continuing evolution of animation, the Fleischer brothers found themselves making longer works, starting with three Popeye the Sailor two-reel cartoons- the first two releasing even before Snow White. Unfortunately, the success of these works, alongside that of the Popeye series as a whole, forced a major increase in the studio's already-voluminous workload, sparking tensions among lower-ranking staff members which, when compounded by the studio's rigid hierarchy system (in which full animators often received disproportionately higher pay than lower rungs on the workforce, such as assistant animators or inbetweeners), culminated in the animation industry's first large-scale strike in 1937. Owing to his paternalistic mentality, Max Fleischer was shaken by the protests of his staff, which he perceived as a 'betrayal', and opted to transfer the studio's premises to Miami to avoid further union action, despite the location's lack of filmmaking facilities or trained animation talent (which the Fleischers attempted to circumvent by hiring a number of animators and storymen from west-coast studios, including the rehiring of early Fleischer stalwarts Grim Natwick, Al Eugster and Shamus Culhane). Such inconveniences further complicated the production of the Fleischers' first feature film, Gulliver's Travels, which underwent at least one major narrative overhaul and, despite its relative financial success, suffered from creative conflicts between the Fleischer veterans and west-coast arrivals comprising the studio at the time. Subsequent attempts at creating new recurring characters and short series proved disastrous, placing the studio into a vulnerable state accentuated by the increased estrangement between Max and Dave Fleischer. Following the financial failure of the Fleischers' second feature, Mr. Bug Goes to Town (largely due to nonexistent marketing), the studio's fate was sealed: the Fleischers agreed to relinquish control fully to Paramount, who restructured it into the more creatively-conservative "Famous Studios", reduced the staff and, within a year, moved operations back to New York. The dark final years of the Fleischer studio did have at least one light among them, however, these being the first Superman cartoons, noted for their lavish aesthetic qualities and unusually-bombastic effects animation.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.' Leon Schlesinger Productions saw the arrival of Tex Avery, whose gag cartoons broke with the "Disney-aping" formula imposed by Harman and Ising there. The success of Daffy Duck led to the rise of other "screwball" characters such as Goofy, in contrast to the "everyman" characters embodied by Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig.

The tables finally turned on Disney with the disastrous failures of Pinocchio and Fantasia in 1940, the same year Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry made their debuts and unleashed a wave of zany characters such as Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker, Columbia Cartoons' The Fox and the Crow, and Famous Studios' Herman and Katnip, among many other imitators. Shortly thereafter, Tex Avery left Warner Bros. for MGM, where some of the wildest animation ever produced was made, as well as his character Droopy. Despite the limitations in budget, resources and manpower due to the war effort, many animation connoisseurs consider the 1940s to be the peak of this era, where comedic timing and fluid animation were easily at their highest point in animation history.

The postwar era radically changed things once again, as television became America's entertainment medium of choice. As if this wasn't enough for the movie industry, the 1948 "Paramount case" separated studios from their theater chains, leading to the Fall of the Studio System. This slew of travesties made it increasingly difficult to sell cartoons to theaters, which preferred to go with the more cost-efficient double feature route. As such, animators were forced to cut more and more corners in their work. UPA got around this with its use of Limited Animation, which received high regard during The '50s, but not even this second air was enough to keep the medium afloat, particularly as an increasing number of animation producers exploited UPA's influence merely to reduce production costs, increasingly characterizing Limited Animation, particularly by the late fifties, as synonymous with the cheapening motion and aesthetics of much of the period's output more than the stylistic technique envisioned by UPA. By the end of the decade, only a handful of studios were still producing theatrical work, effectively dismantling during The '60s (even though a new studio, DFE, sprung up, mainly to produce a series of shorts featuring a certain neon-hued feline). Banished to television, they looked like mere shadows of their former glory, fading fast under the glow of the boob tube's glassy screen. However, help was on the way.

For a more comprehensive history of the era, visit The Other Wiki's take on it here.

For this era's precursor, go to The Silent Age of Animation. For its successor, check out The Dark Age of Animation. For the live action film equivalent of this era, visit The Golden Age of Hollywood.

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     Characters, Series, Films and Their Studios 

Walt Disney Productions

  • 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 ("The Wise Little Hen"), 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 ("Mickey's Revue"), 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 ("The Chain Gang"), 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 '50s 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 Robin Hood (1973) (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 Fox Film 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)
    • Mary Poppins (1964): This was supervised by Walt Disney who saw it's release.

Leon Schlesinger Cartoon Studio/Warner Bros Cartoon Studio:

MGM Cartoons

  • 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 disastrous series of short subjects adapted from Rudolph Dirks' comic strip. 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 strip characters Count Screwloose of Tooloose and his dog Iggy (renamed as "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, George and Junior, 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.

Fleischer Studios:

  • 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 character Bimbo the dog. 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 (1933-1942): An acclaimed adaptation of E.C. Segar's beloved comic strip, the Popeye shorts were the studio's 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.
  • Gulliver's 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 Three Stooges-esque monkeys, who initially appeared in four Oswald shorts.
  • Baby-Face Mouse
  • Snuffy Skunk
  • Doxie
  • 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 Prankster 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 swing and 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.

Famous Studios / Paramount Cartoon Studios

  • 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 spiritual successor to Screen Songs.
  • Modern Madcaps: Initially appeared in 1958, right in the twilight years of this era, but lasted to 1967.

Columbia Cartoons from Columbia Pictures (i.e. Charles Mintz, Screen Gems and UPA):

  • Winkler Productions
    • Krazy Kat: An In Name Only adaptation of the classic comic strip.
    • Toby The Pup: A short lived series produced by Mintz's studio for RKO Radio. 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 Heumor. Columbia's Most Successful Cartoon of the 1930's. 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 this popular comic strip of the time in an attempt to duplicate the success of Popeye at Fleischer. However, it was a flop and only four films were made.
  • Screen Gems
    • 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 besides Scrappy.
    • Pete Pelican: Another attempt at a series by Tashlin, but only lasted for two shorts.
    • Li'l 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.
    • 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.
  • United Productions of America
    • Mr. Magoo: The world's most famous short sighted old man. He got his start in 1949 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".

The Works of Terrytoons:

  • 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)
  • Hashimoto-san (1959-1963)
  • 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
  • Luno

The Ub Iwerks Studio

  • Flip the Frog (1930-1933): 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 (1933-1934): 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.

The Works of Van Beuren Studios

  • Aesop's Sound Fables, AKA "Aesop's Film Fables" (1929-1933) inherited from Van Beuren's Fables Studio, which was led 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 Otto Soglow's classic comic strip character, 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 newspaper 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 (Otto Messmer) (1936 revival) While Felix the Cat 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 Beurens 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 (except for the fact Joe Barbera worked in both series), 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, not to mention 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 Don’t" (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. One of the studio's more notable shorts was an animated adatpation of The Wizard of Oz.
  • 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.: A little-known 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 made-for-TV revival of Felix the Cat. This studio became a hang-out for many ex-Famous Studios staffers.
  • Hanna-Barbera: The studio started in 1957, a year after MGM's animation department closed. First TV cartoon made was the esoteric Ruff and Reddy, followed by the enormously successful The Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958
  • 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 undoubtedly 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 originated in Europe in the early 30s. Bugs Bunny would make a cameo in one of them. Notable Puppetoons include "Tulips Shall Grow", "John Henry and the Inky-Poo", "Date With Duke" (featuring Duke Ellington) and "Tubby the Tuba".
  • 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.
  • Animaland: A series of British Disney-esque shorts, produced by David Hand, a former Disney associate. Only lasted for nine shorts, as they were unable to find distribution in the US.
  • Music Paintbox: Another series of British 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 colour 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 Pictures (first incarnation), featuring a brief animated segment contributed by artist Les Elton.
  • Monkeydoodle: An outlandish cartoon series by Les Elton for Monogram. Two are known to exist, but is likely that more were made.
  • 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.
  • "Abandoned Cat Little Tora" (1947)
  • 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 (1943)
  • 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 Germany in 1937, and France in 1940.
  • Nadezhda Privalova, a notable Russian animator and art director, whose film work includes:
    • A Story About A White Bull-calf (1933)
    • The Blot in Arctic (1934)
    • A Returned Son (1936)
    • 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)
    • 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)

     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 Scribner Project: A blog dedicated to tracking down scenes of animation done by famous Looney Tunes animator Rod Scribner. 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

Tropes associated with this era include: