Here’s an odd bit of film history! When sound first came to film, it was such a novelty that some companies believed the audience needed an explanation about how the magic happened. Western Electric was one of those companies.
For about a year in 1928-29, Max Fleischer's animation studio was housed in the Carpenter-Goldman Film Laboratories in Long Island City, NY. Max and Frank Goldman teamed up to create Finding His Voice, an educational film for Western Electric, that explained how a film could ‘talk.’
In an interview fifty years later for Cinegram Magazine, Frank Goldman looked back at the making of Finding His Voice:
“Western Electric developed a new sound system that was sound on a record. They had a deal with Warner Brothers for The Jazz Singer (1927). Shortly after that Western Electric produced sound on film and all the theaters were desperate to obtain sound equipment. To get it they had to agree to run a film explaining the process the week before they started the regular run. This was a single reel Max Fleischer and I made. I got the contract and Max and I worked together on it. The film was to explain to the public how film got its voice. We showed a little roll of film- a character with sprocket holes, legs and what not. He’s sent into a Dr. Western who examines him and looks in his mouth. No cords, he can’t talk. The doctor takes his pulse. I’ll never forget. Fleischer put in a little jumping pulse as a sight gag. The doctor puts his finger on it and it moves away. He puts his finger on it again and it jumps back. Then he takes the character into a sound studio where he sings “Just a Song at Twilight” into a microphone. We showed how the sound waves went into the mike and were carried along the wires to the sound track stripe. It was simplified and the audience caught on right away.” Kirkpatrick, Diane. "Animation Gold." Cinegram Magazine 1978: 30. Print. Reprinted by permission of Diane Kirkpatrick.
Luckily, the film has survived the ages. Check it out in our Theater!
For more on the Carpenter-Goldman Film Laboratories - and how the Fleischers came to be in the same space - see the previous blog post. It's a story you won't want to miss!
It's All Relative(s)! - a young journalist writes about animation history and discovers she is a part of the story!
In the Small World Department, Fleischer Studios’ historian Ginny Mahoney was recently contacted by high school sophomore Louisa Goldman. A budding young journalist, Louisa was working on an article about Lucas Gray, an animator living in Santa Monica, who was heavily influenced by the work of early pioneering animators, including Max Fleischer and Fleischer Studios.
Ginny and Louisa had a lovely long conversation about Max and the history of Fleischer Studios, and Louisa wrote up her article. It wasn’t until her family read the article that Louisa found out she was not only writing about Fleischer Studios, she was related to it! And in some very important and foundational ways.
As it turns out, Louisa is related to Roger Goldman, who’s related to Frank Goldman. Frank Goldman is credited with making a huge difference in the survival of Max and Dave's fledgling animation business back in the 1920s. Here’s an excerpt from Out of the Inkwell, Richard Fleischer’s biography about his father, Max Fleischer:
"To cut a long and depressing story short, Max and Dave found it impossible to work for Weiss and quit the company. Shortly after they resigned, Weiss declared bankruptcy and disappeared.
And if that’s not enough, it appears Louisa is also related to J.F. Leventhal. Mr. Leventhal was a very early partner of Max’s and together they created the very first military training films – for WWI.
So, relatively speaking, this was a fabulous connection for both Louisa – and Fleischer Studios!
You can read Louisa’s article, Behind the scenes of Jewish Animation, here.
Richard Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell is available here.
Photo of Fleischer Studios staff, taken outside Goldman-Carpenter Labs, Long Island City, where the studio was located for about a year in 1929. Front row l. to r.: possibly Sid Wallick, Edith Vernick, George Cannata, Seymour Kneitel, Max Fleischer, Charles Shettler, Sid Marcus. Al Eugster behind Vernick (with hat and cigar). Behind Cannata and S. Kneitel is Abner Kneitel. Wearing a white hat (on left) is Rudy Zamora. In distance behind Seymour is Joe Fleischer (wearing suspenders), William Henning is man with his hand on the window. 1929.