Saturday, 21 September 2013

To Make a Terrytoon

Frank Moser may be known for two things in the animation world—he was an incredibly fast drawer and he lost a lawsuit against former partner Paul Terry after leaving their studio in 1936. At the time of the split, he said he wanted to spend his time painting, but then accused Terry and others of screwing him out of the partnership.

He had been a newspaper cartoonist whose career in animation went back to the teens; he was working for Raoul Barré in 1916 and a few years later was making cartoons for Hearst under license before hooking up with Terry.

Here’s Moser speaking to his hometown newspaper, the Hastings News, about his studio and its cartoons. It appeared December 15, 1933.

Hastings Man Tells How He Turns Out Terrytoons And "Oilcan Mystery" Series
Every moving picture fan studies the life and habits of his particular idol of the screen. Magazines and newspapers keep him supplied with the information he so avidly seeks. But what of the ardent followers of the "Oilcan Mystery Series," or the admirers of the well-known farmer and his little white dog who appear in the Terrytoon cartoons? Frank Moser, of Hollywood Drive, Hastings, and his partner, Paul Terry, have been making these Terrytoons for five years.
Mr. Moser has explained something of the work and method that goes into making these short, bright little bits of entertainment. From his studios and offices in the Consolidated Films Laboratories on 146th Street, New York City, twenty-six pictures are turned out every year at the rate of one every two weeks.
Twenty-eight people are necessary to the making of one picture. The story, or script, is written first, as in the making of a legitimate moving picture. The 15-piece orchestra is then called in under the direction of an accomplished musician, Philip A. Scheib, and the music is composed and played for the story. With the music as a pattern and with the aid of a stop watch for timing and synchronization, the artists, assisted and directed by Mr. Moser, draw the four thousand pictures necessary for a six minute picture. Every movement in the action must be a separate picture.
The finished drawings are given to assistants to trace on transparent celluloid, and when the films are ready to be shown, the artists are called In for a three-hour "session" to make the sound effects. One radio quartet is engaged regular for almost every picture, and actors and actresses are brought in from their work on Broadway to insure the dramatic success of the little cartoons. From such sources the funny little characters derive their genuine talent. Mr. Scheib, the musical director, has had four years' training in Germany, and played in eleven different theaters in New York before sound took the place of theater orchestras.
Mr. Moser has a great fondness for the amusing little people that characterize his pictures. They grow, he says, from just an idea into living characters. In the case of such public favorites of the animated cartoon as the immortal Mickey Mouse, new ideas have been added continually until the star has achieved a real screen career.
Terrytoons, however like Silly Symphonies, seldom carry on a series except in a few cases such as the Oil-Can Mysteries which appeared in six sequels in which the courageous hero rescued the beauteous heroine from the wicked situations devised by the villain.
Mr. Moser prefers his animal characters, mice, rabbits, cats, and such to human characters. He believes that animals doing the funny things expected of human beings are funnier than people can be under the same circumstances. Cats and mice are the most adaptable of the cartoon characters, although the farmer is an old favorite with his producers.
The Fox Film Corporation handles the actual production of Terrytoons, relieving Mr. Moser and his partner of the true and worry of financial arrangement. The films are sent, through Fox, to all parts of the world from the Hastings Theatre, which is running them at present for the space of six months, to South Africa and the Orient. Pictures for European countries are selected and foreign titles added by Fox. The first 26 Terrytoons produced were shown in Australia.
One of the most enthusiastic markets for Terrytoons is the U.S. Navy, which buys the films outright and shows them on ships for the sailors after dinner show. The Boy Scouts of Hastings have also shown their appreciation of Mr. Moser's work by having one of his cartoons as a part of their benefit show Friday evening. The cartoon will be an Indian story entitled "Old Suzzanna."
Mr. Moser, unlike the average conception of a moving picture director, is calm and placid in his enjoyment of his work. His characters, from stars to mere extras, indulge in no fits of temperament, and are affected not at all in their work by the recent repeal of prohibition.
Mr. Moser did his earliest work as a cartoonist in newspaperdom, his first job being on the Des Moines Register and Leader. Political cartoons and illustrations of a daily story were his regular job on that paper, although he accompanied the photographer to make pictures for important news stories.
He remembers with amusement some of his earliest assignments, even to his first pictures that he drew of three Senators after timidly entering the Senate hall with a letter of introduction. In his efforts to be as unobtrusive as possible, he seated himself in a Senators chair, and then withdrawing to a remote corner made the sketches that pleased his editor and subjects so well that his successful start was assured.
On another occasion, he and the photographer located a tramp who prided himself on his methods of free railroad transportation, and, with a freight car at a background made pictures of that traveled gentleman in every angle and position he could assume on the train. The tramp later published a book on his experiences.
His first experience with human nature on the newspapers came from two men, one of whom refused absolutely to have his picture done, and the other, a less important person who was so insistent that Mr. Moser consented to do the picture to save himself from further annoyance. When that picture appeared in the paper, contrary to the editor's intentions, the man bought a thousand copies to send to his friends.
From Des Moines, Mr. Moser came to New York to work on the old New York Globe. He began his human interest work there with comic strips and pictures of news value. He found his newspaper work, he said, more absorbing than moving pictures, but the growth of the huge newspaper syndicates has killed the held for individual newspaper cartoonists.
Mr. Moser and his partner, Mr. Terry, were among the pioneers in the field of animated cartoons. Mr. Moser began his moving picture work in 1915. In 1916 he produced the first Krazy Kat picture on the screen. At different times he has worked with Edison Pathe, Famous Players, Educational, and Fox. In 1918. he joined the company that produced Aesop's Fables for moving pictures, and remained there until five years ago when he and Mr. Terry started the independent company of Terrytoon cartoons.
The animated cartoon had little difficulty beyond that of synchronisation when the moving pictures went "talkie." The ever adaptable character of the cartoon did not change in the least. Actors from the stage already trained vocally and in diction were available, and the characters went on acting as usual. Cartoons with sound effects appeared shortly after Warner Bros. began using the new style in pictures.
Mr. Moser, whose cartoons have appeared in Life and Judge, is also an artist of merit. He paints, he says, for the pleasure of painting, and in his spare time. His home is hung with oil paintings. He has done from time to time, which strangely enough, take for their subjects, outdoor scenes and inanimate objects. A beautiful view of the Hudson in the snow which Mr. Moser painted from his own upstairs window hangs over the mantel.
Through his painting, Mr. Moser has become well known in art circles in Hastings and Westchester. He is treasurer of the Hudson Valley Art Association, and hopes, at some future date, to exhibit with Mrs. Moser who is, herself, a talented artist. Mr. and Mrs. Moser spend many enjoyable hours on their joint excursions to paint the beautiful spots which interest them. Mrs. Moser in water colors, and Mr. Moser in oils. They worked together at one time in Famous Players, producing moving picture cartoons, and Mrs. Moser was at one time his assistant in producing his pictures.
Mr. Moser states that he expects to continue in his moving picture work, and to keep abreast of any new changes and developments in the future of the industry.

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