Please note: if an earlier link doesn't work, it may have changed following an update! Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-six shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Backgrounds in 1931

Flohri By King
Emil Flohri and Carlos Manriquez
as drawn by
then animator Jack King in 1931.
Manriquez By King

Not long ago, March 18th to be precise, Mike Barrier described below photo, and told the story of Emil Flohri (1869-1938), the background painter we see sitting there, with his assistant Carlos Manriquez standing next to him. Until Mique Nelson joined around July 1931, this was the entire Background Department, on Hyperion Ave.!

Carlos Manriquez (10 April 1908 - Mexico, May 81) actually joined Disney before Flohri, late 1928 or early 1929, but I seem to remember reading that he left the studio around 1933 after he could not get a requested raise because he was not deemed good enough. On the other hand, Manriquez had a Disney Social Security Number, between Claude Coats and Vern Papineau, and that indicates that he still was on the Disney payroll in November 1936! [Added in 2018: he actually worked at Disney from 5/26/1929 until 5/27/1938. Flohri started 3/19/1930, with Disney until "ca. 1936."] He later had a studio in Mexico, and painted backgrounds for Warner shorts.
Carlos Manriquez and Emil Flohri<< Click to enlarge...
[Note the upside-down visor/cap on top of Flohri's desk - it seems to be the same as in Jack King's caricature at the top of this post.]

It is interesting to look at details in this picture! Here we see on the left the background that Manriquez is holding - on the right a frame grab from scene 2 of the Mickey Mouse short CM-13 The Moose Hunt (rel. 5/8/31), as animated by Dave Hand.
If Manriquez was just finishing this background, which looks to be so as there is no writing on it yet, this would date the photo to around April 1931! Manriquez would just be 23 years old.
BG in Carlos Manriquez' handThe Moose Hunt

On this blog we have met Flohri before, on the draft of CM-10 The Birthday Party, released five months earlier than The Moose Hunt. The background on Flohri's table is a bit of a puzzlement to me, as I have tried to look through all of 1931's shorts for it, without any results. Here it is, adjusted for perspective... [See below!]
(Comments are welcomed!)
BG on Flohri's table
The Picnic 1930 pan bg mosaic
[Thanks to Alex Rannie, I was able to find the BG and make a little mosaic of screen grabs. It was used in CM-8 The Picnic, a Mickey short released 10/23/30, which would push the date of this photo back to late 1930, which is quite impossible, as this room is in the L-shaped "Animator Building" which was not finished well into 1931. It seems likely, though, that the long BG was staged especially for the photo, as the BG for The Moose Hunt would at not have been done at the same time! Alex supports this suggestion, remarking that the background seems to have been cut loose from the backing board they normally are stretched onto during the painting process. How intriguing! Bottom line, this photo was taken several days after April 17th (that day is when the 2/26/1931 Haverty sprinkler plans were approved by the "Board of Fire Underwriters") and before July 1931 (but closer to April), as a part of a "look at our new building" series of photos.]

Another interesting detail are the crusty old books on Flohri's shelves: I can just make out (after refocusing the image) that the spines read "Judge," so they may very well be bound versions of the magazine that Flohri himself illustrated, as described by Mike Barrier!
He had his claim to fame, his portfolio, right there!
Books on Flohri's table<< Click to enlarge...
Think what you want, I find this stuff fascinating!
If you like this stuff too, check out any of my previous 500 postings - that's right, the posting on "The Blend" was number 500!



Anonymous Stephen Worth says...

I'm working on a book on Eugene "Zim" Zimmerman, and have several bound volumes of Judge like that. Flohri is all through them. He wasn't one of the main guys at Judge. His stuff is a bit stiff and realistic compared to Zim and Sullivant and Flagg. Good draftsman though.

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 11:31:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous prwilliams says...

congratulations on the 501st post!

it does make me wonder at times just where the real draftsmanship in animation is heading when i look back at these fine works of art...

no matter how good the digital media has been for animation, you cant argue with craftmanship like this, working on such large media!

great post!

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 3:47:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous David says...

I love these types of posts and often spend time looking at what else is in a photo - what's in the background, or on a desk, or on a bookshelf. As noted, you can usually locate some interesting bits that are to me (and you too), fascinating.

In one photo I have of Disney artist Hank Porter, visible pinned to the wall beside his desk is a color chart of sorts - he has painted Dr. Martin's watercolor paint in a single stroke on a piece of paper, and has labeled the stroke with the name of the color.

Insignificant perhaps, but, Porter's son and daughter both told me their father was colorblind. His daughter told me he colored his illustrations using shades and tones to guide him.

I think, perhaps, this color chart pinned to the wall was Porter's way of knowing what the various colors would look like on the finished product, at least in his mind's eye. The chart guided his paint selection.

Congrats by the way on your 500th! You are to be congratulated for a job well done!

Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 10:38:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Mark Sonntag says...

This is great photo, without my dvds in front of me to check I'll take a stab at guessing the BG. I think it is from an early Silly Symphony.

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 3:45:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Hans Perk says...

Thanks, prwilliams and David for your kind words, and thanks, Mark - the long pan BG has now been identified by Alex Rannie as being from CM-8, The Picnic. It is used in two long dancing scenes with Mickey and Minnie, sc. 20 (20-00ft) and 26 (24-02 ft), with animation by Wilfred "Jaxon" Jackson. My draft has the date 9/13/30, while the official release date is 10/23/30.

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Michael Sporn says...

I spent Sunday going through all the 31 & 32 Disney shorts without finding the BG posted. Of course, I should have gone back to 1930, but I was having too much fun. Here's to Alex Rannie.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 3:40:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous John says...

The whole site is fascinating to me, Hans, as a Disney alumni. I was at the Studio from 1956 until 1967, working first as John Lounsbery's assistant; it was through his complete unselfishness that I then was shuttled over into animation. I came to New Zealand in 1967 and set up my own studio doing television ads. It is marvelous seeing and reading these things. I treasure the drawings I saved over the years; they are inspiring. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 2:58:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous DecemberDaisy says...

Carlos Manriquez was my Grandmothers brother. I am so happy to have found this page! I'll be sure to share it with the family at our next family reunion! Thank you!

Monday, March 5, 2012 at 8:24:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Pearce8 says...

Very interesting ... though I am not an animator by any means. What drew me to your site was the name "Emil Flohri" .... I administer a website
[] that has to do with genealogy related to the Flohri/Flory/Flora name and its various variations. Until I ran across mention of Emil Flohri today, I had no idea that the name was in use in the US after 1819 when an early ancestor of mine died who at times was identified by that spelling.

Fascinating page here for me .... almost like the person above who noted that Carlos Manriquez was a relative. I have yet, however, to find the precise family link to Emil.

If you have any more information regarding Emil Flohri's story, I would appreciate hearing about it (please just leave a note on the comments section of the above Web Site). Regards, Steve Flora.

Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 10:27:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Vincent Gutierrez says...

Mique Nelson was my wife's great grandfather!

Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 11:36:00 PM PDT  

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