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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Gelnhausen, Hesse, Germany
Died in Hollywood, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameWilhelm Oskar Fischinger

Spouse (1)

Elfriede Fischinger (1932 - 31 January 1967) (his death) (5 children)

Trivia (23)

Brother of filmmaker Hans Fischinger.
German painter and pioneer animator. In films, he was noted for his abstract shapes synchronised to music. He worked on the special effects of Fritz Lang's sci-fi classic Woman in the Moon (1929), moving to Hollywood in February 1936. He designed the Johann Sebastian Bachs 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor' sequence for Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940), but quit without credit before its completion as his designs had been altered to be more representational.
He was labeled "degenerate" by the Nazis for his experimental abstract animated short films.
Secretly, Fischinger composed the silent movie Radio Dynamics (1942).
In the 1950s, Fischinger created several animated TV advertisements, including one for Muntz TV.
Upon arriving in Hollywood in February 1936, Fischinger was given an office at Paramount, German-speaking secretaries, an English tutor, and a weekly salary of $250.
In 1928, he was hired to work on space epic Woman In The Moon (German: Frau im Mond), directed by Fritz Lang, which provided him a steady salary for a time.
On his own time, he experimented with charcoal-on-paper animation. He produced a series of abstract Studies that were synchronized to popular and classical music.
A few of the early Studies were synchronized to new record releases by Electrola, and screened at first-run theaters with a tail credit advertising the record, thus making them, in a sense, the very first music videos.
The special effects Fischinger did for other movies led to his being called "the Wizard of Friedrichstraße".
In 1932, Fischinger married Elfriede Fischinger, a first cousin from his hometown of Gelnhausen.
Fischinger apprenticed at an organ-building firm after he finished school until the owners were drafted into World War 1. The next year he worked as a draftsman in an architect's office, until he too was called to duty. However, since he was too 'unhealthy', he was rejected from combat duty.
Fischinger attended a trade school and worked as an apprentice, eventually obtaining an Engineer's Diploma.
Most of Fischinger's filmmaking attempts in America suffered difficulties. He composed An Optical Poem (1937) to Franz Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody for MGM, but received no profits due to studio bookkeeping systems. He designed the J. S. Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor sequence for Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940), but quit without credit because Disney altered his designs to be more representational.
He prepared a film which was originally named Radio Dynamics, tightly synchronized to Ralph Rainger's tune "Radio Dynamics". This short film was planned for inclusion in the feature film The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936). However, Paramount only planned to release in black-and-white film, which was not communicated to Fischinger when he began his work. Paramount would not allow even a test in color of Fischinger's film. Fischinger requested to be let out of his contract and left Paramount. Several years later, with the help of Hilla von Rebay and a grant from the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (later The Guggenheim), he was able to buy the film back from Paramount. Fischinger then redid and re-painted the cels and made a color version to his satisfaction which he then called Allegretto. This became one of the most-screened and successful films of visual music's history, and one of Fischinger's most popular films.
Facing financial difficulties, Fischinger borrowed from his family, and then his landlady. Finally, in an effort to escape bill collectors, Fischinger decided to surreptitiously depart Munich for Berlin in June 1927. Taking only his essential equipment, he walked 350 miles through the countryside, shooting single frames that were released many decades later as the film Walking from Munich to Berlin.
He invented a "Wax Slicing Machine", which synchronized a vertical slicer with a movie camera's shutter, enabling the efficient imaging of progressive cross-sections through a length of molded wax and clay. Moving to Munich, Fischinger licensed the wax slicing machine to Walter Ruttmann, a pioneer in abstract film, who used it to make some backgrounds for Lotte Reiniger's Prince Achmed film. During this time Fischinger shot many abstract tests of his own using the machine. Some of these are distributed today under the assigned title Wax Experiments.
Although he never again - after 1947 - received funding for any of his personal films (only some commercial work), the Motion Painting No. 1 won the Grand Prix at the Brussels International Experimental Film Competition in 1949.
In the late 1940s Fischinger invented the Lumigraph (patented in 1955) which some have mistakenly called a type of color organ. Like other inventors of color organs, Fischinger hoped to make the Lumigraph a commercial product, widely available for anyone, but this did not happen. The instrument produced imagery by pressing against a rubberized screen so it could protrude into a narrow beam of colored light. As a visual instrument, the size of its screen was limited by the reach of the performer. Two people were required to operate the Lumigraph: one to manipulate the screen to create imagery, and a second to change the colors of the lights on cue. Today one of the instruments is in the collection of the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, and the other two are in California.
According to William Moritz, Fischinger contributed to the effects animation of the Blue Fairy's wand in Pinocchio (1940).
Frustrated in his filmmaking, Fischinger turned increasingly to oil painting as a creative outlet.
Three of Fischinger's films also made the 1984 Olympiad of Animation's list of the world's greatest films.
Although the Guggenheim Foundation specifically requested a cel animation film, Fischinger made his Bach film Motion Painting No. 1 (1947) as a documentation of the act of painting, taking a single frame each time he made a brush stroke-and the multi-layered style merely parallels the structure of the Bach music without any tight synchronization.

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