Whether developing breaking news reports or sprawling historical deep dives, G. Michael Dobbs, author and former executive editor of Reminder Publishing, showcases the same savvy embrace for informative investigations.

“I think that the advantage is I am a journalist, so I am going to look at it from that perspective,” said Dobbs.

Following his illustrious journalism career, Dobbs remains busy behind the keyboard. He published his latest book, “Made of Pen & Ink: Fleischer Studios, The New York Years,” in 2022. The fact-based work fused exclusive interviews and extensive research to examine the lasting impact of the 20th-century animation staple, Fleischer Studios, the animation auteurs behind “Popeye,” “Betty Boop,” “Out of the Inkwell” and several other standouts.

Dobbs now continues his Fleischer Studios findings with “Made of Pen & Ink: Fleischer Studios, The Florida Years.” This work may trade its bustling New York metropolis backdrop for Miami’s sun-kissed glow, but the material shifts toward a decidedly bleaker tone. “The Florida Years” charts Fleischer’s final days in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

“There is a sadness to the book … The tragedy is even greater when [Fleischer] does their best work at this time,” said Dobbs.

Dobbs bears a nostalgic affinity for the Fleischer brand. He grew up idolizing the technical wizardry and creative creations behind each Fleischer cartoon that glowed across TV and movie screens. “The New York Years” and “The Florida Years” showcase how Dobbs formulates these formative experiences into the springboard for meticulous investigative reporting.

Dobbs first conceived his literary works on Fleischer Studios when attending a 1975 revival of Fleischer Studios cartoons.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, these are fabulous.’ In complete and utter innocence, I said, ‘I should write a book about this,’” said Dobbs.

He then began working on the project in 1976 after completing college. Dobbs regularly visited New York City to interview principal members from Fleischer Studios.

“When you meet these people, it adds a whole other dimension to work with,” Dobbs said.
In addition, Dobbs traveled to the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art Collection for his research process. His investigation into Fleischer Studios’ material included dissecting microfilm of movie trade publications and watching endless archived moviolas from the era.

Fleischer achieved a unique creative frequency during their time. Dobbs reflected on how animator, writer and voice actor ensembles blended their distinctive perspectives to form harmonious collaborations.

“It is very tough to point to one or two people and say, ‘This is where that cartoon came from,’” said Dobbs. “Instead, you got a whole group of people, and it was really wonderful.”

In their fleeting features highlighted in “The Florida Years,” Fleischer illustrated several standout achievements. Dobbs reflects on how the film “Mr. Bug Goes to Town” and episodes of “Superman” and “Popeye” showcased “unbelievable” artistry for the era.

Artistic achievement does not guarantee financial prosperity in Hollywood, though. Dobbs’ latest work meditates on the age-old war between art and commerce, a familiar industry parable that still rages on today. The Fleischer brand ultimately disintegrated under the leadership of Paramount and its overly pragmatic approach to squeezing profits.

In conversation, Dobbs connects Fleischer Studios’ gradual erosion from Paramount’s corporate interests to the struggles facing many modern entertainment empires.

“We see how a corporation that made motion pictures that had some sort of philosophy of aesthetics of art. Ultimately, that company [Paramount] showed that it is all about money; it is all about product. What resonates today is that we are seeing very similar things happen.”

Dobbs continued, “Like at Warner Brothers. The new head of the Warner Brothers conglomerate took a $90 million movie called ‘Batgirl’ and said, ‘Hey, we are going to erase it.’ What Paramount did to the Fleischer’s foreshadowed that this is a business. The people who make the movies often do not make the decisions about them.”

The book dissects this parallel while also achieving closure for Fleischer. “The Florida Years” charts the paths that several iconic talents traversed following their Fleischer days. The book additionally culminates decades of preparation for Dobbs. He shared that concluding this project was a surreal experience.

“It’s been this huge part of my life. I must admit that it being over is sort of weird, but thankfully, I am working on other books,” said Dobbs.

Dobbs is fast at work on developing two new movie-related books. One will spotlight the careers of Richard and Alex Gordon, two producers who revitalized several careers with their thoughtful casting choices. The other focuses on the glitz and glamor that populated extravagant movie advertisements during cinema’s golden years.
Look for “Made of Pen & Ink: Fleischer Studios, The Florida Years” on bookshelves and online stores in the near future. Dobbs will feature his work at several book signing events that will be announced on his Facebook page.

Matt Conway
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