Saturday, July 21, 2012


Seymour’s granddaughter, Karin Kneitel, has offered to share some of the personal family items that she owns. Her father, Tommy Kneitel, was Seymour and Ruth’s first child. Tommy was born Jan. 28,1933, and is the infant/young child in these drawings.

Click on any item to enlarge
At the time of Tommy’s birth Seymour was an animator for Fleischer Studios in New York City. 

Not sure why Seymour is staying at this Brooklyn Hotel (see below). I’m speculating that since Tommy was born in a Brooklyn hospital Seymour might have moved temporarily into the Hotel St. George to be closer. In the 1930’s women had longer maternity hospital stays then they do today.  

Wow—stockings!!!  These were probably made of silk or rayon (then called ‘artificial silk’) since Nylon had not yet been invented!

Stockings still seem to be the gift of choice. Tommy looks maybe 4 or 5 years old, so these stockings are likely still made of silk or rayon. It will be a couple more years--- 1940—before Dupont makes nylon stockings commercially available.

In 1933 Fleischer Studios signed a five year contract with King Features to make Popeye films. This pencil drawing that Seymour made for Tommy probably a few years later is curious in that Popeye wears a sailor tie (not used in the comic book or film drawings of Popeye) and he has a slightly different collar treatment. 

Done in 1938 or ’39, this is a drawing by Tommy himself! Seymour writes: “I showed Tommy a pencil-test of Gulliver- where a derrick was trying to lift his foot- he didn’t say anything but drew this picture and showed me it- Good isn’t it—Seymour.” Note that this drawing is on Fleischer Studios animation paper that uses the Fleischers distinctive hole punch system at the top.

Since this letter mentions visiting the Worlds Fair it must date from either 1939 or 1940. As I’d mentioned in an earlier post- Seymour and family were often separated with one in New York and the other in Florida (or vice versa)—with Seymour often traveling between the two locations. At this time the Studio was in Florida and a number of filmmaking activities that were not supported in that Miami location had to be carried out in New York.

A cute drawing by Seymour showing Tommy thanking ‘Max’ for a check. ‘Max’ is Tommy’s grandfather, Max Fleischer. 

Here’s a letter from Max Fleischer to grandson Tommy dated Jan. 1944. Max by this time was commuting between New York and Detroit while directing animation for the Jam Handy Organization. Here Max draws himself as a ghost carrying a corned beef sandwich!

Thanks for sharing these Karin!


  1. Seymour Kneitel is really one of the great artist who ever lived on this earth. His work is still famous and known especially the Popeye.

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  2. Nice pieces of animation history -- I know the baby design showed up in several of the early 1930s Fleischer cartoons, while the Popeye sailor suit one seems to be from 1941's "The Mighty Navy", which came out two months prior to Pearl Harbor.

    1. Thanks so much for writing and solving the mystery of Popeye's sailor suit! After reading your comments I took a look at Popeye's clothes over time... and indeed in the film "The Mighty Navy" he changed from his earlier sailor suit (with a dark sailor shirt and NO tie) to this new all white sailor suit with tie. Starting with this 1941 film he thereafter wore the white suit in films that followed. Also, Seymour Kneitel was a head animator on "The Mighty Navy."
      Thanks for writing....

    2. Thanks. It looks like going by the production numbers on the cartoons, they really rushed "The Mighty Navy" through the system with war already on the horizon by mid-1941, and the honor the studio and the sailor were given in becomming the symbol of the Navy's bomber squad (your dad's first cartoon with Popeye's nephews was released after this one, but seems to have been put in production first, which would explain why he's wearing his old-style uniform in the latter cartoon).

    3. Thanks again--- you have such great information that adds to the history behind these things-- really appreciate the comments.