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Bray Productions

smith productions, bray productions
Bray Productions was the dominant animation studio based in the United States during the years of World War I123


  • 1 History
  • 2 Series produced by Bray Productions
  • 3 Staff
  • 4 Distributors
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


The studio was founded sometime before December 1914 by John R Bray, perhaps was one of the first studios entirely devoted to series animation at the time Its first series was Bray's Colonel Heeza Liar, but from the beginning, the studio brought in outsiders to direct promising new series Carl Anderson, later known for the comic strip Henry, directed The Police Dog from the beginning of the company The year 1915 brought Earl Hurd and Paul Terry; the former became J R Bray's business partner and directed Bobby Bumps, the latter was employed under duress and directed Farmer Al Falfa The Fleischer brothers joined in 1916 In 1919, the rival International Film Service studio folded and owner William Randolph Hearst licensed Bray to continue the IFS series, which included Jerry on the Job films adapted from Walter Hoban's comic strip Many staff members of the former studio transferred to Bray, and most of the new cartoons were directed by the same man who directed them for IFS, Gregory La Cava

Bray's goal was to have four units working on four cartoons at any one time; since it took a month to complete a film, four units with staggered schedules produced one cartoon a week for use of the "screen magazines" a one-reel collection of live-action didactic pieces and travelogs in addition to the cartoon, that was played before the feature Bray started with Pathé as his distributor, switched to Paramount in 1916, and then switched to Goldwyn Pictures in 1919 Of the units, one produced his Colonel Heeza Liar, one produced Hurd's Bobby Bumps, and one produced non-series cartoons, usually topical commentaries on the news directed by Leighton Budd, J D Leventhal, and others The fourth unit was the one that kept changing hands It produced Terry's Farmer Al Falfa in 1916, until Terry left a year later, and the Farmer went with him It then produced Max Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell until 1921, when Fleischer left, taking Koko the Clown with him The influx of IFS series at the same time broke up the four-unit system—in 1920 there were ten series going simultaneously, with Heeza Liar in hiatus from 1917

Bray was constantly looking to expand his studio He financed the semi-independent studio of C Allen Gilbert to create a series of serious Silhouette Fantasies on classical themes he actually did some of the animation work for this series In 1917 he bought out his distributor's screen magazine to produce one of his own, moving him into the realm of live-action shorts producer During World War I, he assigned Leventhal and Max Fleischer's units to create training and educational cartoons for the US Army These did so well that after the war Bray was swamped with orders from the government and big business to make films for them Over a period of years, Bray moved the focus of his company from entertainment to education, putting Leventhal and E Dean Parmelee in charge of the technical department Dr Rowland Rogers became educational director, while Jamison "Jam" Handy was put in charge of a Chicago–Detroit branch for creating films for the auto industry, Bray's largest private client

Poster for a 1926 Bray Studios film short, Monkeys Prefer Blondes

The 1919 move from Paramount to Goldwyn also included a re-incorporation of the studio, now called Bray Pictures Corporation The studio was putting out more than three reels of screen magazines, the educational and training films, and experimental films such as an unnamed sound-on-film cartoon by Walt Lantz co-producer/director and Hugo Riesenfeld composer in 1927 for Movietone, in between the releases of Don Juan and The Jazz Singer and coincidentally shortly before Bray Pictures' demise The Debut of Thomas Cat, the first cartoon made in color although some claim the first animated short was made by Natural Colour Kinematograph Company, which was In Gollywog Land 1912, UK, a stop motion film in Kinemacolor who also contained live action 1—Brewster Color, invented by Percy Brewster of Newark, New Jersey—was released on February 8, 1920

The expenses quickly outweighed the revenue, and in January 1920, Samuel Goldwyn bought a controlling interest in Bray Pictures and ordered a massive reorganization Max Fleischer and J D Leventhal's positions as executive producers of the entertainment and technical branches of the studio were greatly strengthened, and the company was streamlined to work more like Goldwyn Picture Corporation, with two cartoons released a week The result was a massive exodus of talent, including Max Fleischer and even Earl Hurd Goldwyn dropped Bray Pictures like a hot potato In the wake of this disaster, first Vernon Stallings, then Lantz, were put in charge of Bray's entertainment cartoons, both acting as "co-producers" Stallings directed Krazy Kat and the revival of Heeza Liar, while Lantz directed Dinky Doodle Among the big names who passed through the studio were Wallace Carlson, Milt Gross, Frank Moser, Burt Gillett, Grim Natwick, Raoul Barré, Pat Sullivan, Jack King, David Hand, Clyde Geronimi and Shamus Culhane

JR Bray paid little attention to the animation side of things during the 1920s, focusing instead on beating Hal Roach as the king of two-reel comedy, with the disastrous series "The McDougall Alley Kids" When this adventure failed, he slipped out of the business The entertainment branch of Bray Pictures Corporation closed The educational/commercial branch, Brayco, made mostly filmstrips from the 1920s until it closed in 1963 Jam Handy's offshoot company The Jam Handy Organization made several thousand industrial and sponsored films and tens of thousands of filmstrips, many for the automobile industry, until it closed in 1983

In evaluating the quality of the Bray product, there is a strong conflict between the cheap cost-cutting exemplified in the business practices of J R Bray contrasted with the equally strong artistic sensibilities of the directors Bray hired, most of whom quit rather than bend to the pressure to cheapen their product The success of Bray Productions, driven entirely on assembly-line methods, simultaneously guaranteed the survival of animated films in general and at the same time doomed them to near-extinction by the end of the silent film era

Series produced by Bray Productionsedit

  • Colonel Heeza Liar 1913–1917, 1922–1924: directed by J R Bray 1913–1917; Vernon Stallings 1922–1924
  • The Police Dog 1914–1916, 1918: directed by C T Anderson
  • The Trick Kids 1916: director unknown
  • Plastiques 1916: directed by Ashley Miller
  • Bobby Bumps 1916–1922: directed by Earl Hurd
  • Farmer Al Falfa 1916–1917: directed by Paul Terry
  • Silhouette Fantasies 1916: directed by C Allen Gilbert
  • Miss Nanny Goat 1916–1917: directed by Clarence Rigby
  • Out of the Inkwell 1916, 1918–1919: directed by Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer
  • Quacky Doodles 1917: directed by FM Follett
  • Picto Puzzles 1917: Sam Lloyd
  • Otto Luck 1917: directed by Wallace A Carlson
  • Goodrich Dirt 1917–1919: directed by Wallace A Carlson
  • Hardrock Dome 1919: directed by Pat Sullivan
  • Us Fellers 1919–1920: directed by Wallace A Carlson
  • Jerry on the Job 1919–1920: directed by Gregory La Cava, Vernon Stallings, Inherited from International Film Service
  • Lampoons 1920: directed by Burt Gillett
  • Ginger Snaps 1920: directed by Milt Gross
  • Shenanigan Kids 1920: directed by Gregory La Cava, Burt Gillett, and Grim Natwick Inherited from International Film Service
  • Krazy Kat 1920–1921: directed by Vernon Stallings Inherited from International Film Service
  • Happy Hooligan 1920–1921: directed by Gregory La Cava, Bill Nolan Inherited from International Film Service
  • Judge Rummy 1920–21: directed by Gregory La Cava Inherited from International Film Service
  • Technical Romances 1922–1923: directed by JA Norling, Ashley Miller, and F Lyle Goldman
  • Ink Ravings 1922–1923: directed by Milt Gross
  • Bray Magazine 1922–1923: directed by Milt Gross
  • Dinky Doodle 1924–1926: directed by Walter Lantz
  • Un-Natural History 1925–1927: directed by Walter Lantz and Clyde Geronimi
  • Hot Dog Cartoons 1926–1927: directed by Walter Lantz and Clyde Geronimi
  • A McDougall Alley Comedy 1926–1928: directed by Joe Rock, Stan DeLay and Robert Wilcox


  • Producers: J R Bray, Walter Lantz 1924-27
  • Directors: J R Bray, Earl Hurd 1915–1922, Max Fleischer 1916–1921, J D Leventhal 1916–1921, Vernon "George" Stallings 1919–1924, Jamison "Jam" Handy 1919–, Carl Anderson 1914–1918, LM Glackens 1915–1919, Leighton Budd 1916–1919, Leslie Elton 1916–1919, Wallace A Carlson 1917–1920, Milt Gross 1919–1920, 1922–1923, Frank Moser 1916, 1920–1921, Ashley Miller 1916, 1922–1923, Gregory La Cava 1919–1921, F Lyle Goldman 1920, 1922–1923, W C Morris 1915–1916, Paul Terry 1915–1916, Clarence Rigby 1916–1917, E Dean Parmelee 1918–1919, Dave Fleischer 1920–1921, Jean Gic 1920–1921, Burt Gillett 1920–1921, Grim Natwick 1920–1921, Bill Nolan 1920–21, J A Norling 1922–1923, Walter Lantz 1924–1925, Vincent Colby 1915, Flohri 1915, C Allen Gilbert 1916, H C Greening 1916, A D Reed 1916, Hugh M Shields 1916, John C Terry 1916, Charles Wilhelm 1916, F M Follett 1917, Sam Lloyd 1917, Santry 1918, Raoul Barré 1919, Pat Sullivan 1919, Roland Crandall 1920
  • Animators: all of the directors, plus Raoul Barré 1915, Johnny B Gruelle 1917, Jack King 1920–1921, Isadore Klein 1920–1921, Leon A Searl 1920–1921, Bert Green 1920–1921, Edward Grinham 1920–1921, Ben Sharpsteen 1920–1921, Will Powers 1920–1921, Walter Lantz 1920–1921, David Hand 1925–1927, Ving Fuller 1925–26, Frank Paiker c 1924
  • Inker/Cel Painter: James Shamus Culhane 1924–27
  • Screenwriters: H E Hancock 1920–1921, Louis De Lorme 1920–1921, Clyde Geronimi also animator 1924–26, Webb Smith


  • Pathé 1913–1916
  • Paramount Pictures 1916–1921
  • Thomas A Edison, Inc 1917
  • Goldwyn Pictures 1919–1921
  • W W Hodkinson 1922–1923
  • Standard Cinema 1924–1925
  • Film Booking Offices of America 1924–1926


  1. ^ Donald Crafton; Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898–1928; University of Chicago Press; ISBN 0-226-11667-0 2nd edition, paperback, 1993
  2. ^ Denis Gifford; American Animated Films: The Silent Era, 1897–1929; McFarland & Company; ISBN 0-89950-460-4 library binding, 1990
  3. ^ Leonard Maltin; Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons; Penguin Books; ISBN 0-452-25993-2 1980, 1987

External linksedit

  • The Max Fleischer Series2
  • Bray Animation Project

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