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Back to Miami

An invitation to participate in the “Fleischer Studios Animate Miami” program at this year's Florida Moving Image Archive's Rewind/Fast Forward Film & Video Festival, brought me back to the city where I was born, enabling me to take a new look at the Fleischers' Miami experience and visit the company's historic studio buildings.

I have not been back to Miami since I was six weeks old; my father had just been laid off from his job as an inbetweener at Fleischer Studios and decided to move back to New York City. Despite having written extensively over the years about Fleischer and its move to Florida, I had never back to the city of my birth. Thus, when Steve Davidson invited me to participate in a Fleischer tribute in July as part of this year's wonderful Florida Moving Image Archive's Rewind/Fast Forward Film & Video Festival, I eagerly accepted.

Stuart McIver, Steve Davidson and Harvey Deneroff at Fleischer Studios Animate MiamiLeft to right: Author Stuart McIver, Steve Davidson, head of Florida Moving Image Archive, and myself at “Fleischer Studios Animate Miami.” Photo courtesy Florida Moving Image Archive.

“Fleischer Studios Animate Miami” was held on the Festival's opening night, Thursday, July 10, at the Hyatt Regency's Ashe Auditorium; I shared the stage with author Stuart McIver, who has written extensively on Florida history, including several aspects of Fleischer in Miami. (For those interested, try to get ahold of his 1994 collection of essays, Dreamers, Schemers and Scalawags — The Florida Chronicles Volume 1, which is unfortunately now out of print.)


Joseph Fleischer's son (with walker) and his wife, flanked by three veterans of the Fleischer Studios' Ink and Paint Department in Miami. The man with the proclamation in his hand is from the Miami-Dade Film Office; Steve Davidson is next to him. I'm in the rear with Stuart McIver. Photo courtesy Florida Moving Image Archive.

Three women who worked in the studio's ink and paint department showed up, along with the son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren of Joseph Fleischer (the studio's electrician) along with Myron Waldman's son and his wife. (Waldman was one of Fleischer's top directors, whose delightful 1941 two-reel version of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, remains one of the best cartoons the studio made in Miami.)

Part of the fun of such excursions is picking up the unexpected tidbit of information or insight. For instance, when they showed one of the “faster than a speeding bullet” Superman openings featuring a hurricane, it immediately sparked a discussion about which tropical storm was its inspiration, with one local suggesting a famed storm which hit Miami in 1926; it was then I realized it was probably inspired by The Great New England Hurricane of 1938, which would certainly have been in the minds of a bunch of New Yorkers who migrated to Florida in its wake.

The next day, I visited the old Fleischer Studios complex, which is now home to the Miami-Dade County Child Development Services. It stands in remarkably good condition, standing quietly amidst a somewhat rundown residential neighborhood. (The original builder, hoping to cash in on the influx of animation artists, surrounded the studio with single family homes, which he tried to sell to people working at Fleischer — apparently with little success.)

To my surprise, the complex had never been declared a landmark, and the person I spoke to at Miami's landmarks preservation office had never even heard of the studio. However, it appears my visit may spur a move to correct to declare the site an historic landmark.

Anyway, here are some photos of my brief tour.

Miami Fleischer Studios
The drawings of Olive Oyl and Popeye hanging in the lobby of Miami-Dade County Child Development Services was the only evidence I saw that the complex once housed the Fleischer Studios.

Fleischer Studios Miami
This was the original main entrance to the studio. The current entrance is around the corner of the building to the right.

Fleischer Studios Miami
The modest door on the right is the current entrance to the complex.

-- Harvey Deneroff
September 8, 2003

2003 by Harvey Deneroff


 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

Harvey Deneroff interviewed for Miami
A local PBS station interviewed me for a weekly magazine program as part of their coverage of “Fleischer Studios Animate Miami.” Photo courtesy Florida Moving Image Archive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janice Delaney and Jerome Steers
Janice Delaney and Jerome Steers of the Miami-Dade Department of Human Resources graciously took time out to show me around the complex — especially since I showed up unannounced. They were very receptive to the idea of the buildings being given landmark status, as it might help spruce the place up.

Fleischer Studios Miami
The studios' inner courtyard. The shutters were added after the Fleischer Studios left Miami.