Working for the Fleischers (continued)
An Interview with Dick Huemer by Joe Adamson
(page 2 of 3 pages)

  Adamson: McCay was a sober, timid
sort of person, wasn't he?
  Huemer: Well, he wasn't sober this
night. Who was? He got up and he said,
"Now I'm going to put you fellows wise
to something that I've just discovered.
Instead of working straight ahead,
which makes it hard to know where
you're going in animation, why don't
you take drawing No. 1, and then look
ahead and make drawing No. 5; and
now look, you can put drawings No. 2,
3, and 4 right in between!" He was tell-
ing us about the in-between system! Of
course, we respected him so much that
nobody said, "Aw, come off it, we've
been doing it since 1915." So that's how
we know that he must have animated
straight ahead.
  Adamson: So you were doing the in-
between system from the time you
  Huemer: Oh, sure. And we wouldn't
let anybody touch our in-betweens. We
had no in-betweeners. It was pretty im-
portant that we did all this ourselves. It
was too precious to let some jerk come
in who maybe didn't know how to
draw, and monkey with your stuff. As a
matter of fact, for the record, in all
modesty, I'm the first one to use in-be-
tweeners. And it came about when I
was working for the Fleischers. They --
poor fellows -- liked my work so well
that they said, "Why don't you do more
of it? 1 mean by having someone do the
in-betweens?" And my first impulse
was "Oh, yeah? I will, like hell!" Then,
being basically a very lazy fellow, I
thought, "Why not?" So, Art Davis was
assigned to me.
  Adamson: Is in-betweening invaria-
bly tedious?
  Huemer: Well, it's not the least crea-
tive. You don't dare be creative about
in-betweening. The extremes create the
action, the mood, or whatever you want
to put over the point.
  Adamson: Were you satisfied with
Davis' work?
  Huemer: Oh, fine. Didn't know the
difference when the scene was run! In-
betweening had been born!! Ta-dee-
  Adamson: What percentage of the
drawings did he end up doing?
  Huemer: About 75. In those days, we
exposed our own animation, right on
the paper. We didn't even have ex-
posure sheets. Made notations down in
the corner. Suppose you had somebody
repeating an action, you'd write, "R and
R" -- repeat and reverse -- "five times
stopping on 8," then you go ahead. Of
course when sound came along, you had
to have exposure sheets to give you the
exact locations of sounds and notes, etc.
  There is an amusing incident that ex-
plains how careful we were in drawing
our things when we worked in pen and
ink with Gillott pen points -- they had
to be Gillott's 290s, the famous English
pen points, the kind Charles Dana Gib-
son used. Some guy was animating an
explosion and he noodled up this draw-
ing of smoke and things breaking, and
all hell breaking loose, and he made
such a beautiful drawing of one of these
gorgeous in-betweens that he held it for
five exposures, or six, a definite stop.
He couldn't stand having the thing go
through in one exposure, as it should
have, jesus! His work of art might have
been missed! I could tell you his name,
but he's a friend of mine.
  Our inking techniques were very in-
teresting, some guys were very good.
You'd put shading on whatever didn't
move too much, if you wanted to. In
preparation for photographing, we did
the clown in the rip and slash system,
which means cutting the papers out to
fit over each other -- like a puzzle. We
used to noodle up closeups of the
clown's head with shading all around
the eyes, and everything. We used a
very heavy outline in those days; very,
very thick outline, all around the figure.
That was because in the printing and
developing of the film if we didn't have
a heavy outline, it would very often
bleed out. So it wasn't just an affecta-
tion, it was necessary to do it.
  The Fleischers only used opaqued
cels when the clown worked over a
photograph. Say he was on the desk.
Then he would be -- as we do today --
on an opaque cel. Of course, then he
was just black and white; white-faced,
black suit. Didn't use any grays that I
can remember. Rotoscope was how
they combined the cartoon w'ith live ac-
tion. First, they had a camera above and
below a glass plate, with pegs; a projec-
tor was below that shooting up, and a
camera was shooting down. First they
made a matte of the clown. This was
used for putting cartoon with live ac-
tion, putting them on the same film.







Max Fleischer
by RMH

  They were a pretty inventive bunch,
the Fleischers. The bouncing ball thing
was invented by Max, that is, the idea
of bouncing a ball on words. They got
an old-fashioned washing machine, and
lettered the lines of the song, white let-
ters on black, and then tacked it on this
round drum. Then they covered the
whole thing in black, and when they
turned the drum a line would come into
the opening of a slit and go up, and then
the next line would come. Then, they
had a black pointer with a white dot on
the end, so that when the line moved in
-- you never saw where it came from
-- then the pointer would go, dee-dee-
dee-dee-dee-dee. You didn't see the
pointer because it was black against
black. You saw only the white ball; it
looked as though the white ball was
jumping from word to word.
  Adamson: This wasn't an animated
white ball?
  Huemer: No, no! It was done this
way, with a black pointer and a white
ball on the bottom of it. Filmed in live
action. The pointer doesn't photograph
because it's black. They never let the
pointer go in front of the letters. It was
always above the letters. They'd knock
it off in no time at all. The first one they
made was called Oh, Mabel, which I
animated. It was a song slightly popular
at the time, it went: "'Neath your win-
dow I am waiting. Oh, Mabel!"
something to that effect. I would pan
the line in, and then there was a little
figure jumping to accent each word to
the end of the line and the figure would
jump to the next line as it panned in.
We'd turn words into funny appropriate
objects or we'd explode words. Letters
would drift down, grow, shrink, other
characters would come in and chase
them off. Anything. I didn't do the
bouncing ball with the pointer gimmick.
That was always the chorus. I just did
the verse. The verse, as I told you, was
always some animated figure that was
appropriate, like "In the shade of the
old apple tree," where the word might
animate up into a tree. Everything was
white on black, since they used nega-
tive prints. We'd have to draw a black
face so that when it was reversed it
would be a white face. Then the letters,
also being black, would also, of course,
come out white. It was all so successful
that when they ran Oh, Mabel at the
Circle Theater, in Columbus Circle,
New York, it brought down the house, it
stopped the show. They applauded and
stamped and whistled into the follow-
ing picture, which they finally stopped,
and ran Oh, Mabel again, to the delight
of the audience. I always say that was
an indication of what sound would
someday do for the animated cartoon,
because it was basically a "sound" idea.
The use of sound combined with action
even though the audience supplied the
sound, nevertheless, it partook of that
feeling. They sang their little hearts out.
It was very successful. With Mutt and
Jeff we did something called Sound
Your A, in which Mutt and Jeff ap-
peared on the screen, and seemed to
talk to Max Manny, the drummer of the
Strand Theater, whose idea it was. He
stood up in a spotlight in the orchestra,
and he'd say, "Well, Mutt, how are
things today?" And then the character
would seem to look down at him, and a
balloon would come up and say, "Fine."
They played back and forth, and this,
again, was, in a sense foreshadowing
what sound would do someday. It was
very, very successful. This was proba-
bly the most successful Mutt and leff·
  Adamson: This was something like
what McCay did with Gertie the
Dinosaur, wasn't it?
  Huemer: Exactly.
 The Fleischers naturally joined the
gold rush after Disney's stunning suc-
cess with his first sound cartoons.Their
own original method of synchronizing
cartoon and sound was the invention of
George Rufle, one of their animators. It
consisted of photographing a bouncing
ball, attached to the bottom of a baton
which occupied the space at the left
side of the film reserved normally for
the sound track. In effect, this acted as a
metronome and could be photographed
to provide any desired beat, more par-
ticularly, the ones established and
determined in advance by the anima-
tion itself. At the recording session, the
musical director had only to watch the
baton going up and down in the pre-
empted sound track space and guide his
orchestra accordingly. Musicians and
vocalists also carefully watched the car-
toon to add their sound effects and
dialogues. It was the answer to previous
and haphazard methods of synchroniza-
tion such as having a flower which had
nothing whatever to do with the action
wag back and forth in the corner of the
scene for the musical director to watch.
  Adamson: Was there great similarity
between your work and other anima-
tors' work? Or was the difference im-
perceptible enough, since they were
using the same techniques?
  Huemer: Within a picture, say there
were three animators doing it, you
would have to look very closely indeed
to tell the difference in animators'
drawings. But you could tell, instantly,
whether it was a Terrytoon, or a
Fleischer, or a Mutt and Jeff, or a Felix
the Cat. At least I could. I imagine au-
diences could too, if they cared. Each
series was stamped. They were in-
dividual. Always the same way of
doing it.
  Adamson: So that your work took on
a different look when you changed
  Huemer: That's right. Even though
you retained a little; you couldn't help
doing things certain ways. But au-
diences were never aware of anything
like that. Even to us there wasn't much.
Of course, I knew my own work. I could
tell mine in a minute. I saw an old Mutt
and Jeff cartoon that I'd worked on, and
I could readily recognize my own work.
This short was one that was done when
we had a little outfit called the Associ-
ated Animators. We were self-sustain-
ing. All we would need would be the in-
kers and the painters of the cels -- by
this time most cartoons were done in
the opaque system. We were the first
cooperative in the animation business.
There was myself, Burt Gillett, Ben
Harrison, Manny Gould -- and we
decided to be both the owners and
animators; we wouldn't need much of a
staff; we would save all that money.
  Finally we went to Bud Fisher's at-
torney and secured the rights to do the
Mutt and Jeffs again. They had lapsed
for quite a while. We did a number of
these. I saw one just the other day; it
wasn't too bad. Incidentally, we
couldn't make any money out of it. It
wasn't a successful operation. Besides, I
think Mutt and Jeff was fading away,
and when Bud Fisher finally withdrew
his financial support, that ended it. That
was the finish of Mutt and Jeff. R.I.P. As
for the associated animators, they each
went their separate ways.
  I went straight back to Fleischer's
from there. Gillett went with Bowers,
and Harrison and Gould went with
  Soon the animation business began
looking very shaky to me, and I decided
to get out of it. I drew a comic strip
called Good-Time Guy for the
Metropolitan Newspaper service,
which ran for about a year or two. It
was a people-type strip. The guy who
did Ella Cinders, Bill Conselman, wrote
it, and I drew it. Well, that folded, too.
Then I went back to the Fleischers once
more. I was with them in 1929 when the
stock market crash occurred. I can still
hear it, crashing.

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