Today’s Jewish Heritage Month post is on animation legend Max Fleischer. Max is one of the most famous animators in history, being the artist behind a number of famous characters and shorts.

Max was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1883. He was the second oldest of six children. His family immigrated to New York City four years later, and went on to receive art training at the Cooper Union school. He worked for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle as an errand boy and later a cartoonist, and met fellow cartoonist John Randolph Bray. Bray was an early participant in the animation industry.

He married in 1905, and went on to do illustration work for a number of catalogs and magazines. In 1915, he patented the Rotoscope, which revolutionized animation. He made his first cartoon with the method a year earlier, with his brother Dave. He began to make animations for the Out of the Inkwell series with a number of popular characters, such as Koko the Clown and Felix the dog.  Out of the Inkwell films became Fleischer Studios, which came about in 1929. 

Fleischer also invented the “follow the bouncing ball” method for sing-alongs, with his Song Car-Tunes series. His films were known for having a degree of artistic and technical sophistication in a young film industry. In the 1930s, a female poodle character (the girlfriend of Fitz–now called Bimbo) debuted. Soon enough, she lost her canine features and became the character we know today as Betty Boop. Betty helped bring further fame to Max, who became one of the two animation giants at the time–the other being Walt Disney.

Max’s cartoons were known for being a bit more on the adult or even surrealist side than others in the industry. He would go on to secure the rights to comic strip character Popeye the Sailor Man, and was actually introduced in a Betty Boop short.

Fleischer produced for his studio under Paramount Studio. The studio initially vetoed the use of technicolor, but later cleared it for Fleischer. He began to produce color cartoons with a process he patented, known as the stereotipical process, involving placing cels in a three-dimensional diorama. 

After dealing with a number of personal and professional issues, Dave Fleischer was contacted to work on making the relatively young superhero Superman into a cartoon. It went on to become one of the studio’s more popular later cartoons. The studio then attempted its foray into the brand-new genre of animated features with Gulliver’s Travels. The film was a moderate success, but didn’t make its high budget back. 

After his studio was taken over by Paramount, Max became the head of animation for Jam Handy. He supervised a number of films before returning to Bray Studios. He went on to revive Out of the Inkwell in 1958, producing a large number of color cartoons. 

Max passed away in 1972 from heart failure, at the age of 89.

His son Richard spent much of his own life in the film industry as a director. The characters that Fleischer created live on to this day in the pop culture consciousness. 

Three years ago, Animal Place undertook the largest rescue of farmed animals in California history – saving  4,460 hens from a Turlock farm that had left the hens without food for more than two weeks. Of the birds saved, we took in 4,100 at our rescue and adoption center.  

Yesterday, testimony was heard in a preliminary hearing to determine if there is probable cause to hold the two defendants over for a felony animal cruelty trial.

Edward Saidi Tingatinga (1932–1972) was a Tanzanian painter, who invented the eponymous painting style. Tingatinga was born in 1932 in a village called Namochelia, near the border with Mozambique. The village no longer exists – it is remembered only as his birthplace. (In a related note, I may have a new goal in life…)  Because his mother was Christian and his father was Muslim, he was two names, one from each tradition. Read more at

Some scientists have speculated that snakes first evolved in water and that their long, slithery bodies were streamlined for swimming. But a new analysis suggests that the most recent common ancestor of all snakes actually lived on land.

This ancestral protosnake probably was a nocturnal hunter that slithered across the forest floor about 120 million years ago. And it likely had tiny hind limbs, left over from an even earlier ancestor, says Allison Hsiang, a researcher at Yale University.

“They probably weren’t using them in locomotion in any way, but they did probably still have vestigial hind limbs stuck on the back of their bodies,” Hsiang says.

The evolutionary origin of snakes has been a bit of a mystery for scientists, because the fossil record has an unfortunate dearth of snakes. “For a long time there weren’t very good snake fossils,” says Hsiang, who explains that researchers had not found “things that sort of told us what snakes looked like early on, or transitional fossils between snakes and their closest ancestors.”

Earth’s First Snake Likely Evolved On Land, Not In Water

Illustration: Julius Csotonyi/BMC Evolutionary Biology