Saturday, 7 March 2020

Whatever Happened To Dave Fleischer

What does Betty Boop have to do with Tasty Taco?

They’re both in cartoons involving Dave Fleischer.

Tasty Taco came around long after the Fleischer studio in Miami financially collapsed and Fleischer headed to the West Coast. And despite newspaper stories stating Tasty Taco would be appearing in theatres, there’s nothing I can find to show the films were ever screened.

When I came across the Fleischer story involving the Li’l Pedro/Tasty Taco cartoons, I decided to plunge through various trade papers and elsewhere to find out exactly what Fleischer did when he was no longer running the Screen Gems studio for Columbia. Fleischer’s departure was awfully quiet and the only indications I’ve found in the trade press that he was no longer there was when he turned up elsewhere. (Li’l Pedro was strip cartoon in newspapers drawn by William de la Torre, who died in 1955 at the age of 40).

Like huge numbers of stillborn projects, a number of Fleischer’s announced intentions never got off the ground. Companies formed and dissolved. Fleischer never did make the feature films he planned. He did, however, find employment with Universal where, among other things, he oversaw animated inserts for sing-along shorts. He also worked for the Filmack Corporation of Chicago, best known for the “Let’s All Go To the Lobby” cartoon played at theatres, where animated food enticed you to buy overpriced eats during intermission. And his kid records did come to fruition for a brief time.

When the old Fleischer studios shorts started making huge amounts for syndicators and TV stations, Fleischer decided to sue. It came way too late.

This isn’t a complete biography of Fleischer. These are merely squibs in the trades. His departure from Columbia more or less ended his career as a player in the cartoon world. However, we can still watch and laugh at those great cartoons he “directed” at the Fleischer New York studio and be reminded of the large role he played in animation.

November 23, 1943, The Film Daily
At Republic: “Trocadero,” musical, with Rosemary Lane and Bob Rochester and his orchestra, Eddie LeBaron, Gus Arnheim and Matty Malneck and their Orchestras, columnist Erskine Johnson playing himself, Cliff Nazarro, in a comedy part, and cartoonist Dave Fleischer will have a trick role in the film.

December 17, 1943, Hollywood Reporter
“Animations, Inc.,” new corporation to make animated and trick inserts for live action feature films, has been founded with Dave Fleischer as president and Walter Colmes as vice-president. Company will operate at PRC studios.

April 26, 1944, Variety
Fleischer plays himself in the Republic musical “Trocadero,” starring Rosemary Lane and Johnny Downs, with Sheldon Leonard. Fleischer does some drawing. Walter Colmes production.

May 4, 1944, Hollywood Reporter
Dave Fleischer, for many years a producer of Paramount cartoons with Max Fleischer, and who has been at Columbia in charge of its cartoon output since completion of “Mr. Bug Goes to Town,” was signed to a ticket yesterday by Walter Colmes, under which he will function as associate producer on the features Colmes is making for his Republic release.

May 11, 1944, Miami Herald
Alleging that Dave Fleischer, movie producer and head of the former Fleischer Animated Cartoon studios, is $6,600 in arrears in separate maintenance payments his wife, Mrs. Ida Fleischer, 4459 Sheridan ave., Miami Beach, filed a motion for contempt of circuit court Wednesday. She says that a court decree of Dec. 29, 1939 for $250 a week was reduced to $100 a week when Fleischer represented considerable shrinkage of his former $50,000 annual income and that up to April 14 when he sent $100 he was behind $6,200. Since that date $400 more became due, according to the motion. They were married 21 years.

June 1, 1944, Hollywood Reporter
Dave Fleischer is drawing a special cartoon character known as “Baby” for the Walter Colmes production, “Anything for a Laugh,” which will be released by Republic. The character is part of the basis of the story. Fleischer is associate producer of the picture.

[The feature was released later in the year as “That’s My Baby” starring Richard Arlen and Ellen Drew. Variety, Oct. 25: “Dave Fleischer, vet of the animated cartoon field, worked on this pic, and it is his cartoon handiwork which is a key to the yarn.” It ran only 68 minutes.]

July 14, 1944, Hollywood Reporter
Dave Fleischer will start producing early this Fall a cartoon feature based on Greek mythology, depicting the adventures of Ulysses from the classical Odyssey. It will be in color. Walter Colmes will be associated with Fleischer.

October 2, 1944, Hollywood Reporter
Walter Colmes is organizing Film Education, Inc., as a post-war activity for the purpose of making educational films in 16 mm. The company will function with an advisory board of heads of departments of various universities who will set the program of subjects to be taught and plan general treatment.
Cartoon technique, under Dave Fleischer, will be used extensively.

March 3, 1945, Louella Parsons column
Well, flip my lid, as the jive kids say, they are going to swing a $500,000 technicolor version of “Cinderella,” and by “they” I mean Lou Levy, manager of the Andrews sisters, the gals themselves, and Dave Fleischer, who made “Gulliver’s Travels” for Paramount. Not only will the Andrews jive the vocals but Count Basie will furnish the boogie-woogie for the big ball scene when Cinderella meets the Prince.

March 23, 1945
Los Angeles, March 22 (AP)—Dave Fleischer, 49, producer of animated cartoons, and his secretary, Mae Miriam Schwartz, 32, obtained a marriage license today. It is Fleischer’s second marriage and Miss Schwartz’s first.

June 14, 1945, Hollywood Reporter
Dave Fleischer has purchased a financial interest in the recently formed Sebastian Productions, Inc., it was announced yesterday by Dave Sebastian, head of the new company.
Details of the transaction were handled by attorney Nathan L. Freedman, who is also negotiating a release for the proposed “Simon Lash” pictures.
Exact amount of Fleischer’s interest was not disclosed. It is believed he will not take an active part in the organization.

August 30, 1945, Hollywood Reporter
Financed by Harold A. Baker, of Chicago, Peter Tinturin, song writer, and Dave Fleischer have merged their film companies into one organization, Advanced Pictures, Inc., to produce two musical films. Fleischer is the cartoon producer whose Popeye and Superman shorts and the feature-length “Gulliver’s Travels,” have been released by Paramount.
The Tinturin-Fleischer product will start with the film of two musicals, one of which is “Heaven Only Knows,” recently purchased from David Boehm for $60,000.
The second Tinturin-Fleischer production will be based on the life of Paganini.

December 17, 1945, Variety
DEVICE to be known as the Fleischergraph has been patented in Washington by Dave Fleischer, who, with Peter Tinturin, will produce “Heaven Only Knows” for Advanced Pictures. It is described as a scientific story plan in chart form. Basis of plan is a large graph, divided into 85 minutes of running time and broken down into fractions of seconds, designed to take guesswork out of producing motion pictures Fleischer, who has already invented and patented number of mediums for accelerating efficiency in making pictures, originated graph from a study of hundreds of best pictures used as samples of motion picture art, and is a means whereby it is possible to tell if screenplay has any empty spots. “Heaven Only Knows” will be first picture on which Fleischergraph will be tried.

December 26, 1945, Variety
Hollywood Dec. 25.
Peter Tinturin and Dave Fleischer plan a music publishing firm with eight songs from the score of “Heaven Only Knows.” Tinturin wrote the score and will co-produce the film with Fleischer. Harold A. Baker, who is backing the film, will also put up the coin for the music house.

Jan. 3, 1946 Hollywood Reporter says director Lewis Milestone signs three picture deal with Universal. Requested release from “Heaven Only Knows.”

July 9, 1946, Hollywood Reporter
Dave Fleischer, the former Paramount cartoon maker, and Dave Victor have set up Cartoon Records as a corporation to put out disks for small children. The recordings will retail at $2.50 per set and will combine education with entertainment. They will be marketed through department stores.
Fleischer recently was associated with Peter Tinturin in the ill-fated Advanced Pictures Corp.

Dec. 5, 1946, Hollywood Reporter
Jack Schwarz will produce “Jack and the Beanstalk,” color feature based upon the famous children’s story, in association with Dave Fleischer, cartoonist. The picture will combine “live action” with cartoon.

Feb 1, 1947, Billboard
Burke Meyer & Associates, Inc., has purchased masters for six kiddie albums from Cartoon Records. The Dave Fleischer wax production will be released retaining the Cartoon label.

February 7, 1947, Variety
Dave Fleischer reviving “bouncing ball” musical film shorts.

August 4, 1948, Hollywood Reporter
Dave Fleischer, who for many years did the “Bouncing Ball” shorts at Paramount, has been commissioned by Universal-International to do the cartoon sequences for a series of eight “Sing and Be Happy” community-sign short subjects. The group, all to be made here under U-I’s new shorts program, will be produced-directed by Will Cowan.
Formerly made by U-I’s Eastern office, it was announced recently that production of the series had been transferred to Hollywood, along with the production of Cowan’s regular two-reel musical western miniatures. Another single-reel series titled “It’s Your Life,” featuring astrology, is also on Cowan’s plate. Fleischer’s first chore at U-I, under his new deal there, is “Choo Choo Swing,” which has just been completed.

August 4, 1948, Variety
Hollywood, Aug. 3.
New video firm, “Television Clearing House,” has been formed by Dave Fleischer, Lou Notarius and Walter Bowman.
Firm will make animated telepix, the first of which will be “This Amazing World,” and will employ the old motion picture bouncing ball in filming commercials. Fleischer asserted that company will make TV reels on order only.

Jan. 14, 1950, Boxoffice
NEW YORK—Universal International has introduced something new into a trailer—a cartoon character called Preview Pete. The animated figure will be used in the “Francis” trailer for the first time and will be introduced into trailers for future features.
Arthur Lubin, director of “Francis,” directed the trailer sequence, in which Don Wilson and a cast of 28 appear. Voices of two announcers, Art Gilmore and Frank Graham, are head.
Dave Fleischer created the cartoon character and the animated cartoon sequence.
U-I used animated cartoon teaser trailers for “The Egg and I” and “Family Honeymoon” and decided they were successful, but this will be the first use of an animated sequence along with live talent.

August 18, 1950, Hollywood Reporter
Preview Pete, cartoon character employed with good results in the trailer on Universal-International’s “Francis” and “Louisa,” appears again in the animated cartoon sequence made by Dave Fleischer for the trailer on “The Milkman.” Other promotional uses of the Fleischer character are now being planned.

September 8, 1951, Boxoffice
CHICAGO—A new one-minute cartoon film, publicizing Fire Prevention week, is now available from Filmack Trailers. The trailer, produced for the National Board of Fire Underwriters by Dave Fleischer studios in Hollywood, points at all of the fire hazards in the home and how to correct them.

February 17, 1951, Boxoffice
HOLLYWOOD—Dave Fleischer, who formerly produced cartoons for Paramount release, has been booked to supervise the art work and animation on a new series of eight one-reel “Cartoon Melody” shorts being produced by U-I.

November 15, 1952, Boxoffice
Toasts of Song
Univ.-Int’l (Carto[o]n Melody) 10 Mins.
Good. This is the last in the series offering popular oldtime songs for audience participation. The selections are “After the Ball,” “My Gal Sal” and “Little Annie Rooney.” The Kings Men are again featured. Will Cowan directed and the humorous animation was supervised by Dave Fleischer. The distributing company did not know if the series will be resumed.

October 17, 1957, Hollywood Reporter
New York.—Paramount and others are named as defendants in a suit for an injunction filed in Federal Court yesterday by Dave Fleischer, individually and as co-trustee of the Fleischer Studios of Florida, a dissolved corporation, to restrain selling, leasing or booking the new “Popeye” and “Superman” series to TV. Other defendants are AAP, PRM Productions, UM&M TV, WPIX, Flamingo Films, DuMont Broadcasting, Fleischer Studios of New York, and Max Fleischer, individually and as trustee of the dissolved corporation.

December 25, 1957,
Variety quotes Don Hillary of Local 839, Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, IATSE, as signing with “new Dave Fleischer tele-blurbery, engaged in making Chevy commercials.”

May 9, 1958, Hollywood Reporter
Lil' Pedro, newspaper cartoon character, will be heard for the first time in a promotional short for the Mental Health Month campaign which is being chaired locally by Jack M. Warner. Animated cartoon subject in the new three-D process of Stereo Toons will be available for both theatrical and TV distribution. Muzzy Marcellino will be musical director and do the Pedro voice on the soundtrack. Partners Don Hillary, Dave Fleisher and Jack Parr of Stereo Toons are readying TV and theatrical shorts and a cartoon feature as initial ventures of the new company.
,br> June 2, 1958, Broadcasting
Stereotoons, a new company specializing in the production of three-dimensional animated motion pictures for tv and theatres, has been formed by Don Hillary, retiring business agent for Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, IATSE Local 839, Hollywood. Stereotoons is at 1546 No. Highland Ave., Hollywood; telephone: Hollywoood 3-2326.
Associated with Mr. Hillary in the new company are Dave Fleischer, veteran producer-director of such animated films as the Betty Boop and Popeye series, and Jack Paar [Parr], a Disney animator for 19 years.
The company’s first production, a 20-second public service tv film, is now being distributed to tv stations by mental health groups across the country. A theatrical short film, “Li’l Pedro and Tasty Taco,” will be premiered in June in 36 Arizona theatres.

November 20, 1959
The Hollywood Reporter revealed Fleischer was the technical supervisor of “The Snow Queen,” a Russian film dubbed into English and released by Universal-International.

June 3, 1960, Hollywood Reporter
Dave Fleischer, who supervised the synchronization of the English dialogue to the lip movements of the animated characters in U-I’s “Snow Queen,” leaves this weekend for a two-week Pacific Northwest tour to take part on local level campaigns for the picture.

June 19, 1960, from Sacramento Bee article
Dave Fleischer’s eyes really light up when he talks about an idea he has for a new cartoon character. His name will be Mr Hugger-Mugger and he will represent sort of the general public. When he faces a tough situation he’ll press a button on his head. There’s an IBM machine inside that solves everything.

December 16, 1960, Variety
New York, Dec. 15. — N.Y. Supreme Court Justice Harold Baer yesterday reserved decision following two-week trial on two separate suits brought by film pioneer Dave Fleischer. He seeks to test whether tv stations have the right to use his name for advertising purposes. One action names WPIX, Inc., while defendant in the other case is NTA Pictures, Inc.
Both suits were consolidated for purposes trial. Fleischer wants injunction to restrain WPIX from using his name as director “Out of the Inkwell,” “Popeye,” “Betty Boop” and other animated cartoons. He contends use of his name for ad purposes violates his civil rights. Stations throughout the country, all sponsors, according complaint, liable for damages.
Fleischer’s suit against NTA also asks damages on similar basis. Involved in this case is cartoon tagged “Hoppity Goes To Town.” Paramount formed Rainbow Productions to sell cartoon to tv, but later sold firm to NTA, which dissolved Rainbow, but absorbed its assets.
In reserving decision, Justice Baer directed attorneys of both sides to submit additional briefs by Dec. 19. Meantime, Fleischer has similar suits pending Federal Court here. His State Supreme Court actions filed about four years ago.

July 8, 1963, Boxoffice
ENCHANTED WORLD OF MOTHER GOOSE. A full animation feature-length color cartoon will be produced by Dave Fleischer, famous pioneer cartoonist of “Out of the Inkwell” and “Betty Boop” fame. R.T.G. Burdge, Trend International, wrote the story with Fleischer.

October 13, 1964, Variety
Dave Fleischer vs. AAP Inc., Associated Artists Productions and Others. — Fleischer, trustee and receiver of the dissolved Fleischer Studios Inc., which once filmed cartoons, was seeking review of a lower court decision dismissing his anti-trust charges against Paramount Pictures.
Though the ruling by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals was pegged to Florida laws on dissolved corporations, Fleischer wanted a review of his charges that Paramount kept his cartoons, such as Popeye and Superman, off the tv market from 1941 to 1956.

August 24, 1964, Los Angeles Times, Philip K. Scheuer
Remember the bouncing-ball, sing-along cartoons? Remember Pop-eye, Betty Boop and Superman? Remember “Gulliver’s Travels”? Dave Fleischer was the creator of them all—and the bouncing ball dates back as far as 1920. What is amazing is that Dave Fleischer is still at it. He is producing cartoon features in color for General Animation, which is a division of Trend International and is located at 6618 Sunset Blvd.
First Fleischer spectacular is “Enchanted World of Mother Goose.” The second, “Buzzard’s Bait and Blithe Spirits,” will be “deliberately aimed at the grownups,” though “kids will like it, too.” Trend International is also going ahead immediately on a series of two-reel comedies—these in live action.

August 22, 1965, Los Angeles Times
Utilizing controlled data processing, the Apartment Information Bureau is helping valley residents by the thousands to scientifically locate the apartment which best fits their needs.
Dan Diana, director of the bureau, announced that more than 10,000 [V]alley families have used this new method in the last 12 months.
The idea for a data processing method for finding apartments originated with Dave Fleischer, nationally known cartoonist, film producer and real estate executive. Fleischer, whose film credits include such outstanding accomplishments as “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Popeye,” and scores of others, explained that the Apartment Information Bureau was developed to save tired shoppers from six to seven weeks of unnecessary looking.

May 24, 1967
Fleischer attends luncheon marking Walter Lantz’s 50th anniversary in the cartoon business.

August 13, 1967
Homage to Dave and Max Fleischer at Montreal International Film Festival at Expo ’67.

June 24-24, 1972
First Zagreb International Animation Film Fest. Dave Fleischer accepts invitation to attend.

November 30, 1972
First Annie Award given to Dave and the late Max Fleischer.

July 14, 1975, Boxoffice
Animation pioneer Dave Fleischer has begun preparation of a new musical film, “Pandora’s Odyssey,” in association with Jerry Merton. The film will combine live characters with animated cartoon figures.

June 27, 1979, Variety
Funeral services will be held this morning at 11 a.m. at the Mount Sinai Mortuary in Hollywood for animation pioneer Dave Fleischer, who died of a stroke Monday at the Motion Picture and Television Country Hospital in Woodland Hills. He was 84.
Fleischer had a history of circulatory problems and had been admitted to the hospital on Saturday. He died at about 1 p.m., after having slipped into a coma.
Fleischer and his late brother Max were for many years considered the chief competition for Disney in the field of Hollywood animation, and there are many viewers who rate the Fleischers first for their constantly witty, imaginative and at times surreal work on the “Betty Boop” and “Popeye” cartoons.
Fleischer was born on July 14, 1894, on the site where Radio City Music Hall now stands in Manhattan. Five years younger than Max, the brothers began in the Industry at the Bray Studios in 1920. Their first cartoon was “Out Of The Inkwell,” which featured their creation KoKo the Clown, who appeared in many subsequent shorts.
In Hollywood [sic], the brothers opened their own studio and, in association with Paramount, produced a remarkable body of work, which not only encompassed “Betty Boop” and “Popeye” but the “Bouncing Ball,” “Bimbo” and the features, “Gulliver's Travels” and “Mr. Bug Goes To Town.” They also did the original “Superman” cartoons for King Features.
In 1942 Dave Fleischer took charge of the cartoon production unit at Columbia and supervised the series “Color Rhapsodies” and “Phantasies.”
In later years, Fleischer did a number of animated tv commercials and motion picture trailers and also worked on the animation sequences of Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds.”
In 1969 Fleischer traveled to Israel to teach and help launch an animation industry in that country. At the first awards presentation of the Animation Society of America in 1972, he was honored with an “Annie.” He was twice nominated for an Academy Award.
He is survived by his widow, Mae; a brother, Lou; two daughters from a previous marriage; five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, a niece and a nephew, Richard Fleischer, the film director.


  1. Interesting that Dave's efforts to pitch Universal to revive the Bouncing Ball feature came about 18 months after his old studio started releasing cartoons in the Noveltoons series using the Bouncing Ball, but without any live-action footage. The Universal efforts may have been nudged into being by that, and the ability to mix animation with live action, as the 30s Bouncing Ball cartoons had done.

  2. Dave's "old studios" was defunct when the SCREEN SONGS were revived by Famous Studios. Regardless, the sing-along format was popular. Warner's had its version, too.

  3. Excellent post! Here is a variant that I did in 2013:

    I've added a link to your post to my 2013 piece.

  4. The "Sing and Be Happy" sing-along shorts that Universal-International distributed, in 35 to theaters and in 16mm for home use through United World Films and then Castle Films, still turn up on Ebay from time to time. It's interesting that "Choo Choo Swing" was the first one. The animation in it is very simple, just outline cartoon drawings with very little tone in the figures. Made in black and white. The Fleischergraph story device from 1945, is just a recobbled Story Chart from the Fleischer studio days. The Fleischers had a patent on the Story Chart. Dave thought that he could chart any story idea on this device and fix it's defects. Of course this only works if all stories fit the same melodramatic tension and release that the chart called for. I met Dave briefly at the first Annie Awards at the Sportsmen's Lodge in 1972. A bunch of us "kids" all approached Dave at once, loaded with questions for him. He looked a bit frightened of us, and just said, "Let me get back to the OLD people now.".

    1. Mark, Back in the early to mid 70s, we had a Shakey's Pizza that ran the Castle Films digest movies on 16mm. Not only did they run the " Sing and be Happy " shorts, but the entire Universal Horror films series cut down to seven minutes on optical sound. Of course, so many of us in that era had the catalogs and ordered those digests for home viewing.