On the anniversary of his 117th birthday, animator and filmmaker Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) is receiving the ultimate contemporary tribute: his very own Google Doodle.

Oskar Fischinger.
Oskar Fischinger.

Fischinger, the influential German-born pioneer of abstract animation and a forefather of the music video, is being celebrated on Google with an interactive app that allows the user to compose a song, which is then complemented by abstract visuals.

“In the world of design, Fischinger is a towering figure, especially in the areas of motion graphics and animation,” said Leon Hong, the creative lead for this Google Doodle. “He is best known for his ability to combine impeccably synchronized abstract visuals with musical accompaniment, each frame carefully drawn or photographed by hand. A master of motion and color, Fischinger spent months — sometimes years — planning and handcrafting his animations.”

“I feel incredibly proud of my family and am delighted to be the daughter of Oskar and Elfriede Fischinger,” added Angie Fischinger, his youngest child. “It means so much to me to see this celebration of my father’s art. It’s wonderful to know that his work, which has been steadily praised since the 1920s, will continue to receive worldwide recognition.”

Fischinger had made dozens of films and was a respected member of the European avant-garde when he fled Germany in 1936 and moved to Los Angeles. He tried working in Hollywood, at MGM, Paramount, and most famously, Disney (on the “Toccata and Fugue” sequence of Fantasia), but his abstract approach clashed with the literalism of Hollywood’s approach to filmmaking. He described the finished sequence he worked on for Fantasia as “the most inartistic product of a factory” and said that “no true work of art can be made with that procedure used in the Disney Studio.”

When the United States entered World War II, Fischinger and his family were classified as “enemy aliens” and he was forbidden to work in media, including the film industry. Filmmaker Orson Welles, who had hired Fischinger to work on a jazz-themed film, continued to financially support Fischinger out of his own pocket when he became unable to work. Most of the nearly 50 film projects that Fischinger completed were made before WWII, and in his later years, he focused primarily on painting. He created 800 oil paintings until his death in 1967.

Below is an example of the creative ways that people are using today’s Google Doodle, followed by a few clips from Fischinger’s own work.

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