14. Invisible Ink – Dave Fleischer

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SUMMARY: Cartoonist Max Fleischer starts a battle with Koko the Clown, the animated trickster who emerges from his inkwell.

WHY IT’S HERE: The Fleischer brothers contribution to animation is too often overlooked in favour of Disney and Warner Bros. and I’ve always thought that their brilliant ‘Out of the Inkwell’ series was massively underappreciated. Mixing live-action and animation, the ‘Out of the Inkwell’ cartoons star Koko the Clown (who I always thought was one of the Fleischers’ coolest creations), a cartoon who comes to life on his cartoonist’s drawing board. The live action cartoonist, played by Max Fleischer himself, then interacts with Koko, in a precursor to such animator-vs-creation shorts as ‘Duck Amuck’ or Daniel Greaves’ ‘Manipulation’. The mix of live action and animation still looks fantastic today. ‘Invisible Ink’s chase through the city, which has Koko peeping out from behind buildings in a mocking fashion, is a great sequence which really opens the cartoon world out. The ‘Out of the Inkwell’ series was originally an experiment to showcase the Fleischers’ new animation invention, Rotoscoping. This process of tracing real life movements to create realistic motion (clearly visible in Koko) would eventually become one of my least favourite animation techniques but the Fleischers used it brilliantly, first to bring together the real and cartoon worlds with seamless flair and later, in their first feature ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, to differentiate between the exaggeratedly cartoony and the realisitically human within a completely animated world.

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