Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Otto Messmer Cartoon Genius

There were some animators before Otto Messmer, but I can't think of one person who had more influence on the rest of animation history.

Messmer 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".

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".

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.

Steve has put up a bunch of pages of Messmer's classic 30s Felix comic strip.


Take a look at some other great strips from early days of our history.


Buy a compilation of the Felix strips:

For more history, John Canemaker wrote a gripping book detailing the turgid story of Felix, Messmer, Sullivan and the rest: