Tuesday, May 6, 2008


OTTO MESSMER(AUGUST 16,1892 -October 28,1983) was an american animator, best known for his work on the Felix the cat cartoons and comics strip produced by the Pat Sullivan Studio.Messmer was born in West Hoboken, New Jersey (now Union City, New Jersey). He attended Holy Family Parochial School. He had a love of vaudeville and the entertainment industry instilled in him by his parents and teachers beginning at a young age. He attended the Thomas School of Art in New York City from 1911-1913, and participated in a work-study program with the Acme Agency, where he did illustrations for fashion catalogues.
Messmer's first love, however, was cartooning. Inspired by Winsor McCay's animated films, such as How a Mosquito Operates, Messmer began creating his own comics for local newspapers in 1912, the same year he met Anne Mason, who would later become his wife in 1934. One of his comics, Fun, ran as part of the Sunday comics' page for New York World.

He is the founding father of the American style of animation - which in turn influenced the rest of the world.
He created the basic shapes and spongy substance that animated cartoon characters are made of.
Cartoon characters to this day don't have skeletons stuffed with guts and stringy muscles hanging off them. They are instead, made of tight skin wrapped around shell like membranes filled with soft sponge.
I'm willing to bet Messmer also created and developed much of our cartoon film language.
The Disney animators spent years trying to excise the abstract physics and cartoon logic that Messmer innovated, but they hung on to the sponginess and construction ideas even as they tried to make their cartoons more "realistic".
Messmer's style is the ultimate in simple and pure appealing cartooniness.

Look how much more stylish this is than the general rubber hose style of cartoons that imitated him.

These fabulous scans of original Sunday pages were provided to the Archive by Jonathan Barli of Digital Funnies. Jonathan is hard at work on an important project- documenting and restoring early cartoons and comics in digital form.

It is amusing and somewhat touching to note that in 1937, while Messmer was enjoying a giant leap backward in animation technique and aesthetics, Walt Disney was premiering his first feature-length cartoon Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
Some critics say that Snow White is not made from observation of a real girl. It's an evolved design made up of Messmer type animation shapes and forms -with all the quirks and fun taken out. Taking out the fun and the style is what many animators call "realism".

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