Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Cover of "The Standard Production Reference," missing front label.
Collection of Virginia Mahoney
Cover label: Collection of J.J. Sedelmaier.
THIS JUST IN! J.J. Sedelmaier noticed I was missing the label on the cover – and sent me a scan of his label. What a gift! Now I know for certain the year it was first officially distributed…1940. Thanks J.J.!

This document, ‘The Standard Production Reference,’ often referred to as ‘The Bible’ was in use at Fleischer Studios by 1940. It was developed by Seymour Kneitel and Izzy Sparber for the use of “animator’s and their assistants.” Originally intended for Fleischer Studios staff it continued in use as the official manual for Famous Studios as well. The need for such a document shows how complex the industry had become since the animated films of the early 1900’s.

In a 1935 article published in Fleischer Animated News and written by animator Bill Turner, he reflected on the earlier less complex days of a fledgling animation industry…..

“All that was needed to go into business in those days was a Parker pen and pencil set. There were no separate departments, everyone working in one room about as large as a good sized doll house. Such departments as Music, Story, Timing and Background were unheard of....... The pictures were run on a portable projector against a wall. In place of a dark room, the camera magazines were loaded in a black bag or overcoat.”

By 1935 when Bill Turner wrote the above, the animation industry had evolved to a much higher level of complexity with separate departments for such functions as story, animation, inking, paint mixing, opaquing, background, timing and music. In addition the increasing popularity of animated films led to increases in staff size (when Fleischer Studios moved to Florida to make Gulliver’s Travels in 1938 their staff grew to over 700 employees). All this growth created a need to formalize procedures to insure an orderly flow of work within a studio.

Several studios developed some form of in house ‘manual’ to answer this need. The Fleischer Studios manual, ‘The Bible,’ is sixty-one pages long. In addition to detailing procedures, it provides sample jobsheets to accompany work as it moves through departments, includes guidelines for dealing with special effects, and information on the use and limitations of various special animation cameras (Approach, Large Field, Set-Back etc.), plus a myriad of other issues that are reflected in the index (below). Since ‘The Bible’ was such an excellent guide to animation production in general it was often used as a reference by other animation studios.

Animation historian Mark Langer notes that “… the Standard Production Reference later became a guide by which other animation companies were organized or by which they regularized production….. For at least thirty seven years after the demise of the Fleischer Studios, “The Bible” was the most commonly used reference work within New York animation studios.”

This is the first of two posts containing selected pages from that document.  These pages show how complex the animation field had become by 1940, and the broad knowledge now required of an animator. Next week I’ll post more pages … check the index (below) and if there’s a particular area not included here you would like to see let me know and I will oblige……. BTW: you can click on individual pages to enlarge for ease of reading.

Reference material:
Article: “The Good Old Bad Days” by Bill Turner - Fleischer Animated News,  Vol. 1 No.3, February 1935
Article: “Institutional Power and the Fleischer Studios: The Standard Production Reference,“by Mark Langer: Cinema Journal, University of Texas Press, Vol. 30, No.2 (Winter, 1991)