Oskar Fischinger "Optical Poem"
Oskar Fischinger was a German-American abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter, notable for inventing abstract musical animations many decades before the appearance of computer graphics and music videos. He created special effects for Fritz Lang's 1929 Woman In The Moon, one of the first sci-fi rocket movies. He also made over 50 short animated films, and painted around 800 canvases, many of which are in museums, galleries and collections worldwide. Among his film works is Motion Painting No. 1 (1947), which is now listed on the National Film Registry of the U. S. Library of Congress.
An Optical Poem grew out of a short sequence at the end of Fischinger's earlier, independently-produced Composition in Blue (1935), in which a group of circles rise from the background and, in depth, head toward the viewer. Such effects would form the basis for the entirety of the new film. This sort of stop-motion animation work is slow enough, but consider that Fischinger was not moving rigid metal model joints, but lightweight pieces suspended by thin lines and thus prone to sway he had to make sure each piece was steady before making his exposure. The artist used a broomstick with a feather attached at the end as a "steadier." Moritz further pointed out that "as in most of Oskar's films, complex choreography often required a dozen figures to move simultaneously, some in the same direction, but others at a different angle or direction, so each exposure was slow and had to be carefully monitored."
Oskar Fischinger's contract with MGM contained an option for the studio to commission the animator for more films, but a financial dispute put a quick end to any such notion. The same year that MGM released An Optical Poem, the studio created their own in-house animation unit headed by Fred Quimby, the type of executive that had absolutely no interest in abstraction in his cartoons. Within a few years, Tom & Jerry were the resident cartoon stars at MGM, and their shorts would often become the Oscar®-winners for the year. Following his MGM experience, Fischinger briefly acted as an uncredited consultant on Disney's Fantasia (1940), and he went on to produce five more independent shorts, from 1941 to 1952.