Cartoons of the Jazz Era

On Tuesday, November 27 I went to a lecture and film showing by Jeremy Speed Schwartz in the Wellsville Library Nancy Howe Auditorium. It was about animation during the late 1920s to 1930s and how it evolved. The Jazz Era during the time when prohibitoin existed, the Great Depression was in place, and the radio and silent movies were popular. The first cartoon star was Felix the cat, created by Pat Sullivan and otto Mesmer. Merchandise and music was produced about him, even art movements at the time were inspired by him. But the studio had problems switching over to sound film. In some of their clips, they wrote the music and added it after the animation was created. Felix Gets The Can is an example of this. 

With sync sound, problems with timing and loud cameras caused issues. It was resolved by the recording after it was filmed. But with animation, one didn’t have to worry about cameras and microphones. The Jazz singer 1927; which was about a son with a dream of being a jazz singer against his parents wishes, was an example of this. 

Disney started in the animation industry making silent films, there was a pressure to create the new Felix the Cat. Disney created Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but his studio sold it to another company. Upset, he left to create his own studio that would be unlike the rest. He experimented with new technology and refused to use Jazz music like all the other studios. Steamboat Willie 1928 was the first sync cartoon, it introduced Mickey Mouse. The music is more tight and goes better along with the clip. He stuck to fold and classical music. 

Ub Iwerks was the head animator in Disney but left to create his own. Though he did return in 1940, he created Flip the Frog, which was more slapstick than Disney’s style. He broke the rules, everything had music and the characters didn’t talk much. 

Disney’s biggest competitor was the Fleischer Studio, created by Max and Dave Fleischer. They created characters like Betty Boop, Koko the Clown, and Bimbo. They had Jazz musicians like Cab Calloway come in and play and sing, referencing his movements for characters. This was done with rotoscoping; tracing over his dance moves. Minnie the Moocher and  Snow White were examples of this. Many of the films during this time contained a theme of youth verses parents in the 20s. 

The Warner Bros was another studio created during this time. Their cartoons were used to sell the song. Boston the Talk-ink Kid and I haven’t got a Hat used a song as an intro. I love to Singa continued to have a similar storyline to those created about youth with a different ideals than their parents. 


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