Tuesday, May 22, 2012


My dad was always in an animation state of mind. He didn’t turn it off when he came home at night.  He would get hysterical over a good ‘gag’ or joke  (before the days of e-mail good jokes were widely shared in person with the re-telling of it a craft in itself). Sitting at the dinner table was an occasion for dad to gather input from the family for anything he might use at work. In fact, if we suggested a corny cartoon title that was used, we could earn five dollars!  This generated a lot of hackneyed one-ups-manship between my two brothers, mother and myself. My brother Tommy swore he came up with the idea for the character ‘Goodie the Gremlin’ and he never got paid!! (Goodie starred in four Noveltoons, the first appeared in 1961.)

In addition, all kinds of life events were acknowledged with  one of a kind creations.  Here’s a selection of some of these unique drawings made by my dad, Seymour Kneitel. 
I especially like the one above made for my mother… it shows that humor at our house was neither high-class nor subtle.

A Valentine for my mother has a bit of a spelling problem, but love the sentiment.  In 1937, while Seymour was working for Fleischer Studios, the studio relocated to Florida. During and after that re-location there were many times when one of my parents might be in New York and the other in Florida.  Besides several separations during the complex New York to Florida move, there were a number of film production activities not supported in Florida that required Fleischer staff traveling to New York.

Envelopes and letters were great places for a drawing...

The P.S. in the letter “Give my regards to Bimbo” is a reference to a real life dog they had called Bimbo.

These last three drawings are all on Fleischer Studios animation paper.  When these drawings were done, animation studios each had their own preference as to the size of the paper, the type of paper, and the system of holes at the top that held the paper in place.  Details such as these can be useful in identifying from which studio a drawing might have originated.  The drawings below were made between 1931 and about 1938 during the time Fleischer Studios used this distinctive paper... 8.5” x 11” sheets punched with three holes at the top that fit their unique animation peg system. This paper was made specifically for them by Hammermill and is watermarked ‘Management Bond.’

This drawing on Fleischer animation paper looks like they’re temporarily separated again!

This must refer to changes around the house after the birth of first son, Tommy… which would date this and the drawing below about Feb. 1934.

Here's a sketch made about the same time.. interesting to speculate on where he was going with this...

I back-lit and enlarged one of the drawings (below) to show the ‘Management Bond’ watermark.  The Fleischer’s continued to use this type of paper until about 1938 during the making of Gulliver’s Travels.

All items, letters, envelopes, drawing in this section: Collection of V. Mahoney

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


In 1933 Lillian Friedman, while working at Fleischer Studios, became the first woman EVER to work as an animator at any studio.

From the early days of animation—and up until 1933—women were generally hired only in the lowly role of inker or opaquer. If talented and lucky they might advance to the position of inbetweener. But they NEVER worked as animators.

It was accepted thinking in the industry that women were not capable of the creativity required to be an animator, plus there was resistance to women entering this male dominated field. The article below from a Paramount 1936 promotional booklet includes the statement “Nobody knows just why, but women generally are not successful as cartoon animators.”

There’s also a telling 1938 letter that can be found online, typed on beautiful Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs stationary. It’s a response to Miss Mary V. Ford who wrote Walt Disney Productions concerning a job… the reply states “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school....The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with paint according to directions."

(click to enlarge for viewing)
Article from Paramount promotional booklet for "Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor"  1936     Collection: Virginia Mahoney       
Popeye copyright 2011 King Features Syndicate, Inc. TM Hearst Holdings, Inc.

In 1933 Lillian Friedman, an employee of Fleischer Studios, became the very first female to be hired as a commercial animator at any animation studio. She had joined Fleischer Studios as an inbetweener in 1931 at the age of nineteen. Animator Shamus Culhane recognized that she was highly talented and advocated for her advancement to animator. It was no easy job to convince the other animators to accept a woman working in that position. In addition, Shamus points out in his book Talking Animals and Other People, he had to devise tricks to make her accepted in the all male environment… and even though Lillian achieved animator status she was paid considerably less then her male counterparts.  

The film below, Pudgy and the Lost Kitten, gives screen credit for animation to Myron Waldman and Lillian Friedman. This copy of the film has German sub-titles which I always thought reflected how popular these films were overseas- but 'The Crazy HR' has corrected me... "This was for many years a 'lost film,' meaning nobody knew about the existence of any copy of the cartoon. This has subtitles because it aired on the Channel ARTE during their show "Cartoon Factory." (ARTE is a German Channel)

                            Film: Pudgy and the Lost Kitten  

                                     Betty Boop and Pudgy copyright Fleischer Studios, Inc.

The Internet Movie Database (online) credits Lillian with animation work on 11 films made with Fleischer Studios between 1934 and 1938—and shows she received screen credit on seven of these films, and was uncredited for her work on the other four. However,  IMDb did not include her animation on Sindbad the Sailor which the above article attests to—or a reference elsewhere to her animation on Betty Boop’s A Language All Her Own.  So Lillian animated on a total of at least thirteen films, with six of them uncredited. The lack of screen credit is not unusual since generally, although several animators may work on a film, no more than two animators received  on-screen credit. Lillian remained at Fleischer’s until 1939 when she resigned to be with her family full time.

For work purposes animators at the time were assigned to ‘units,’ each unit run by a head animator. While working as an animator at Fleischer Studios Lillian worked in three different units, each headed by a different animator… Shamus Culhane, Myron Waldman, and my dad… Seymour Kneitel.

(When giving credit to trailblazing women  animators I should also mention Laverne Harding who in 1934 went to work for another famous studio, Walter Lantz, becoming only the second women animator in the industry.)


Book: Talking Animals and Other People by Shamus Culhane
Popeye Paramount Promotional brochure for Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor 1936
Ray Pointer online comments
Disney rejection letter:
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) 
Book: Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons by Jeff Lenburg