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!