Tuesday 24 January 2017

Disney's Out of the Inkwell

What happens when you take Felix the Cat and an Out of the Inkwell cartoon? You get Walt Disney. Well, you get 1925 Walt Disney. Here’s a frame from the opening of Alice Chops the Suey.

Things get a little more original after that. Alice (Margie Gay) jumps out of the inkwell and shakes off the ink. The animator’s hand draws a pagoda backdrop. Suddenly a scary, enlarged Oriental rat grabs the fur off the Felix substitute (named Julius) and uses it as a bag to capture Alice before running off to sell her into white slavery.

The cartoon ends with Julius and Alice in the safety of the inkwell, pulled off screen by the hand.

There’s plenty of animation and little live action. I suspect Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising and Ub Iwerks were among the animators on this one.


  1. Disney's earliest cartoons sometimes seem derived from other cartoon studios of the day, especially those of Fleischer and Terrytoons. This continues into the earliest Silly Symphonies, which contain some very Fleischer-esque bits. But by the time of "Flowers and Trees" and "Three Little Pigs", the Disney cartoons were setting the trends rather than following them. Some of the Fleischer cartoons from the mid-30's onward seem imitative of Disney!

    1. While it is clear that Max Fleischer was a Role Model for Walt Disney--something that was never really admitted, but quite obvious, the Fleischer cartoons were not really trying to purposely imitate Disney, and did not do that as much as Harmon-Ising and Screen Gems did, and succeeded in doing. The efforts to make "cute" cartoons as perceived to be a Disney forte', this is far more simplistic than accurate. First, the Fleischer animation and character design was not up to the Disney standards, and ceased to develop on the level that Disney was reaching. But the impression of the Disney emulation is more of an impression based on the change in content of Paramount's films under the leadership of Barney Balaban, who took control following Paramount's third Bankruptcy. Balaban's plan was to abandon the sophisticated adult-oriented films that suffered under The Production Code, and cater to general audiences in the manner of MGM, but on a lower budget. Since MGM was the standard for live action films, Disney was the standard for animation, which Balaban encouraged the Fleischers to follow. The fact that they later entered the animated feature arena to compete with Disney is another area assumed to be in imitation of Disney. But internal communications at Paramount were not supportive of the idea, which had been proposed by Max Fleischer for four years. It was only after the New York release of SNOW WHITE in February 1938 that Paramount changed its sentiments once they learned of the box office that SNOW WHITE earned in the first month. So following the Disney lead came from the front office more than from Fleischer.