Archive for March, 2010


Out of the Rotoscope…uh…Inkwell

In my last entry, I mentioned that Walt Disney envisioned “The Alice Comedies”, with their depiction of a live person in an animated world, as a reversal of the Fleischer Studios “Koko the Clown” in the sense that “Koko” featured an animated character in a real-life setting.   This entry is a more in-depth discussion of the two lives of Koko.

Legendary animator Max Fleischer, whose creations for the big screen include the likes of Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman, created Koko with the help of his brother, Dave, and a device called a rotoscope. describes rotoscoping as “a technique where animators trace live action movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films.”  The device used in this process is, therefore, a rotoscope. 

Max Fleischer is credited as the inventor of the rotoscope. says that Dave Fleischer assisted his brother in the creation of Koko the Clown by dressing as a clown.  Max would record Dave’s movements in the clown outfit with the rotoscope., using a “frosted glass panel” to capture the movements.

Nationmaster further states the Fleischers began creating their “Out of the Inkwell” series featuring Koko as the main character “around 1914.”  The Fleischer brothers secured a contract from John Bray Studios in 1919 to begin producing their “Out of the Inkwell” series.   Nationmaster points out that Max Fleischer’s creation usually went off on “an adventure of some sort” or would “pull a prank on his human superior” in the animated features.

Nationaster points out that, eventually, the Fleischers introduced a canine sidekick for Koko named Fitz the Dog.  Fitz later assumed the name of “Bimbo.”  After the creation of Fitz/Bimbo, the series took on the new name of “Inkwell Imps.”  The “Inkwell Imps” series, Nationmastet writes, continued from 1927 until 1929.

Koko would periodically come out of retirement until his last public appearance in 1962 in a series titled, “Out of the Inkwell.”  Ron Kurer, on his Toon Tracker web site,  points out that Hal Seeger–the creator of, among other cartoons, “Batfink” and “Milton the Monster” and a former Fleischer Studios  employee–created the 1962 version of “Out of the Inkwell.”   The characters besides Koko in the 1962 version, according to Kurer, were “Koko’s girlfriend, Kokette, his dog, Kookie, his friend Koko-Nut, his nephew Yo-Yo and his arch rival Mean Moe.”  Larry Storch, who is best known for playing Corporal Agarn on the series “F Troop”, was, Kurer says,, the voice of Koko and Mean Moe.    Beverly Arnold,  Hal Seeger’s wife, was the voice of Kokette.   Kurer goes on to say that Norma MacMillan–best known for proving the voice of Sweet Polly Purebred on “Underdog”–provided other voices for the small screen adaption of “Out of the Inkwell.”

I was unable to find a clip of the Hal Seeger version of “Koko the Clown”, but I have attached a clip from YouTube of the Fleischer Koko short, “Koko’s Earth Control”, from 1928.


March 2010
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