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    Ko-Ko the Clown Trip to Mars (1924)


    by andythebeagle

    This is yet one more example of the genius of Max and Dave Fleischer, creators of the silent "Out Of The Inkwell" cartoons, starring "Koko The Clown."

    The opening minute alone makes this worth viewing. It is so creative I just sat in awe. This was done over 80 years ago and still is fresh in its originality. In a nutshell, Max draws a bunch of faces which finally evolve into Koko, then Koko's normal body emerges from this huge face. He attach's the head to himself but it's so big, he can't go anywhere. Eventually - all of this in about 20 seconds - he deflates his head and he's back to normal!

    The story is that Max is fascinating with astronomy and has built a small rocket ship in which he wants Koko to take a trip to the moon. The clown doesn't want to go, tries to run away, puts TNT under Max's seat, but winds up in the ship. He goes all the way to Mars and encounters weird beings and a subway! Max's chair blows up and he winds up in outer space, too! It's all extremely bizarre-and-typical for these Koko clowns. Max must have been a ham, himself, because he likes to be part of these cartoons. That's fine, because the mixture of real life and animated action makes these all the more fun.


    The character originated when Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope, a device that allowed for animation to be more lifelike by tracing motion picture footage of human movement. To test out his new invention Fleischer photographed his brother Dave in a clown costume. After tracing the film footage amounting to some 2,500 drawings and a year's work, Koko the Clown was born. Koko's appearance owes much to The Yama Yama Man. Both Koko and "Yama Yama Girl" Bessie McCoy wore a loose black material with three large white pom-poms in front and a white-trimmed neck frill. Both costumes have white gloves with long fingers, white foot coverings, and a hat with the same white pom-pom as in front. A 1922 sheet music drawing makes the connection more explicit, saying "Out of the Inkwell, the New Yama Yama Clown" with a picture of Koko.

    Using the rotoscope device, Max Fleischer was able to secure a contract with the John R. Bray Studios, and in 1919 they began Out of the Inkwell as an entry in each monthly in the Bray Pictograph Screen Magazine released through Paramount (1919–1920), and later Goldwyn (1921). Aside from the novelty of the rotoscope, this series offered a combination of live-action and animation centered on Max Fleischer as the creative cartoonist and lord over the clown. The clown would often slip from Max's eye and go on an adventure, or sort of pull a prank on his creator. Fleischer himself wrote, produced, co-animated and directed all the early shorts