I have friends in the stock footage business. They buy large libraries of old 16mm movies by the ton (usually home movies, travelogues and educational films) and every once in a while, while digitizing and archiving their latest acquisitions, they come across an animated film they cannot quite identify. When that happens they usually send it to me to examine.
This past weekend I screened one of those films and it’s a real mystery. It’s not a particularly great cartoon, but its quite an exciting find. Watching it conjured more questions than answers. But one thing’s for sure: It’s an undocumented product of the Miami Fleischer studio. I’m posting an excerpt below (the first 90 seconds) in hopes that others may have more clues to explain its existence – and its 70 year absence from any animation reference.
The Vacationer’s Paradise is apparently part of a proposed series called Traveltoons. It’s sort of an animated travelogue – not unlike what Famous Studios would base their later 1940s series of Screen Songs (like The Sunshine State or The Golden State).
First off, notice the title lettering done by that mysterious Fleischer/Famous studio calligrapher, whom I’m a big fan of. Next note “Mrs. Doe” – a character design that answers the burning question of what happened to Betty Boop after she retired and moved to Miami.
Could this have been a pilot for a new series of Fleischer cartoons? Was material created for this series later recycled in the Famous Screen Songs? Could this possibly be the first Famous Studios cartoon? A “blackout” reference certainly places it in either late 1941 or 1942. Note it’s really more of a film about Florida etiquette than Florida tourism. Perhaps it was created for a Miami Visitor’s Bureau?
Was the film perhaps a contractual obligation of the studio, produced for the Miami Chamber of Commerce, as part of Fleischer’s deal to re-locate to Miami? Why does the film feel so cheap? Why the absence of music in the main body of the film? Why are their no credits whatsoever? Note the voice of Jack Mercer among the background voices. Note the narrator may be Charles Irving, who voiced many of the later travelogue Screen Songs.
Bob Jaques believes that the man in the live action footage to be animator Tom Johnson. Did Johnson direct the film? Was this done by a group of ex-Fleischer artists as a sample film, perhaps to start their own Miami studio after Paramount took over Fleischers? And yet, there is a fair amount of live action and animation material, which leads me to believe this was done under Max or Dave Fleischer’s watch.
Lots of questions, no answers… but we have the film.
What do you think?
UPDATE: We got a few answers! See the bottom of the comments section below.