Fleischer’s Bell Telephone films

Okay, here’s another post for the animation historians.

Animation pioneer Max Fleischer was an inventor and he was passionate about science and modern technology. When his cartoon studio became established in the 1920s he created several educational films for various clients – not to mention extra-length films devoted to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (both in 1923). Many of these industrial films are lost.

AT&T has dug into its archives an unearthed a pair of sponsored films Bell Telephone commissioned from the Fleischer studio. Fleischer actually produced four nontheatrical titles for the phone company (How the Telephone Talks, 1924; That Little Big Fellow, 1927; Now You’re Talking, 1927 and Finding His Voice in 1929), but AT&T has posted two. Both are pretty rare – I’d never seen That Little Big Fellow myself. They are meant to educate and inform, and are not as inventive (or comedic) as the Koko the Clown theatrical shorts, but are fascinating nonetheless.

So, if you want to learn a little about the science of telecommunications in the 1920s, here are two of Fleischer’s finest. Thank you AT&T.



  • http://classiccartoonreviews.blogspot.com/ Nicholas Pozega

    Cool! It’s always a treat to see some unearthed Fleischer goodies! If only someone could make a list of all of Max’s industrial films…

    Btw, if Ray Pointer hangs around these comments, how much of the Fleischer’s Jam Handy studio work is still surviving? Kudos to any help i can get!

    • Ray Pointer

      I”m still finding out. It’s not easy.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

    A much cleaner copy of FINDING HIS VOICE has been at archive.org since 2003:
    http://www.archive.org/details/FindingH1929

    It’s available as a DVD-quality MPEG2, in addition to other codecs.

  • xevo

    AT&T could put out some entertaining and informative films back when they were THE phone company, and they took their status as a utility/public service seriously. How many of us have seen the Frank Capra-produced “Bell Science” films in school?

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Needless to say I miss those days fondly. :-(

  • http://www.itsthecat.com Mark Kausler

    Thanks, Jerry, for posting these two Bell/Fleischer films. They are both principally the work of Dick Huemer, you can’t mistake his two drawing cycles and beautiful ink line. The messenger boy in THAT LITTLE BIG FELLOW looks like Scrappy’s older cousin! This must be one of the earlier versions of demonstrating an electric current by showing a little character traveling quickly along electric wires. “Reddy Made Magic” by Walter Lantz studio was another example of this type of concept. Many little Reddy Killowatts traveling along a network of electric wires.

  • JB Kaufman

    Jerry, thank you for posting these. I share your excitement at seeing “That Little Big Fellow” for the first time. For the record (no pun intended), a nice transfer of “Now You’re Talking” was included in “More Treasures from American Film Archives,” one of the wonderful DVD collections produced by the National Film Preservation Foundation. Very highly recommended, as is Warner Home Video’s deluxe 3-disc set of “The Jazz Singer,” which includes a wealth of early-talkie-related bonus extras — among them “Finding His Voice.”