Mar 31, 2010

Brief look at the life and influences of Oskar Fischinger

It was difficult to find any films of Oskar Fischinger, since the Fischinger Trust seems to have removed most of them. Among the exceptions, you can see his influence as it appears in the opening sequence of Disney's Fantasia. After his decision to part ways with Disney the abstraction in his work was altered to more representational and illustrative of classical music in the works: the bows of the string section and the strings dance with the music in certain parts of the film excerpt.

He was introduced to art at a very early age when living in Gelnhausen, Germany. As the middle child in his family he was less pressured to follow up the the work of maintaining the household and the family drugstore and so he was able to dedicate more time to his education and to enjoy leisure activities. One such activity was guiding the painters which came into his town on the train, to the most picturesque locations where they would be able to paint. In this way Fischinger was able to earn some pocket money and sketch in the company of artists. When he eventually moved out of Gelnhause, he apprenticed worked in the business of organ making and later in design. He was deemed undernourished to fight in the 1st world war and landed a job working in the drafting of tools.
His work in animation must have begun early in his life as he had an animation studio by the age of 22. At the age of 35 he was screening in cinemas and posing a threat to the Nazi's concept of pure art. His work shows his familiarity to experimental animator Walter Ruttmann, who preceeded him in his abstract shapes and dancing geometric forms. Ruttmann, however, was ready and willing to transform his work to promote the Nazi ideology. He became the assistant to the director Leni Riefenstahl in the propagandistic film "The Triumph of the Will" (1935). Fischinger's expressions of life through the relationship of music and colorful shapes became unacceptable under that regime, and so, Fischinger eventually moved to America and built a work relationship with Paramount Pictures and Disney. He also released his film "An Optical Poem" through MGM. Despite the rather unfair agreements he had with the American studios (The contract that Fischinger signed with MGM called for him to deliver a completed negative, and he was to bear all of the production costs out of his agreed upon fee, which was only $11,000.) he still remained in America until his death in 1967.


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