One of my enduring interests in the study of animation is the relationship between independent and commercial film-making. At one level the two modes of production are polar opposites, one concerned with self-expression and experimentation, the other with maximising return on investment. On a more practical level, independent artists often rely on commercial work to survive, and producers look to the artist for the innovation their products need to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Oskar Fischinger's life and work are illustrative of the complex relationship between art and commerce. Born in Germany in 1900, Fischinger studied many crafts and arts, from organ-building to engineering and oil-painting. He is credited with many moving-image innovations, including a technique for wax-slice stop-frame photography and a coloured-image producing organ called the Lumigraph. As an animator, he is best known for his visual music films, of which Studie Nr.6 is an early example.
Throughout his life, Fischinger strived to work as an independent. He believed:
"The creative artist of the highest level always works at his best alone, moving far ahead of his time. And this shall be our basis: that the Creative Spirit shall be unobstructed through realities or anything that spoils his absolute pure creation."
Whilst this was the ideal towards he strived, Fischinger was not above taking commissions and commercial work. In 1940 he contributed to the visual development of the Toccata and Fugue sequence for Walt Disney's Fantasia. Although he left the project disenchanted with the industrial nature of production at Disney, his influence can be recognised in the finished film: