Winkler Pictures, Inc. was a film distribution and production company headquartered in New York. It owned the rights to the Disney-animated Alice Comedies and outsourced production for Universal Pictures's Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series to the Walt Disney Studio.
Winkler Pictures distributed films to theaters on a "states-rights" basis.
Founding and early history
When Max and Dave Fleischer of Fleischer Studios came to producer Harry Warner with their series Out of the Inkwell, he gave it to his then-personal secretary Winkler and encouraged her to form her own distribution company. This resulted in the establishment of M. J. Winkler Productions.
Winkler signed a contract with Pat Sullivan Productions to produce Felix the Cat cartoons in 1922. At the end of the same year, the Fleischer brothers left her to form their own distribution company, Red Seal Pictures. Sullivan and Winkler were constantly fighting and in 1925, when the renewal of his contract came up, Winkler opted not to renew it.
Winkler viewed a pilot reel called "Alice's Wonderland", submitted by Walt Disney. Winkler was intrigued by the idea of a live-action girl in a cartoon world and signed Disney to contracts of what would amount to a total of 36 Alice Comedies. Winkler would own the rights to all of the cartoons produced.
Sometime during production of the Alice Comedies, Charles Mintz took over as the head of M. J. Winkler Productions and the company was renamed Winkler Pictures. Mintz would send his brother-in-law George Winkler over to Disney's studio to suggest improvements.
Sometime in 1926, Winkler Pictures would negotiate a deal for national distributorship with the Film Booking Offices of America (FBO). FBO would distribute the remainder of the Alice Comedies shorts.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Oswald under Winkler and Disney
When Mintz got word that Universal Pictures wanted to re-enter the cartoon business in January 1927, Mintz told Disney to create a cartoon character he could sell to them. Disney began working on both the character and the films with Ub Iwerks shortly after he moved his studio to Hyperion Avenue.
Universal's publicity department chose the name of the character by drawing it out of a hat filled with slips of paper with different names on them.
The first Oswald cartoon, Poor Papa, was poorly received by the Universal executives. Disney and Iwerks created a younger and neater Oswald for their next cartoon, Trolley Troubles. It was well-received and Universal released it to theaters on September 5, 1927.
On February 2, 1928, Mintz signed a new three-year contract with Universal for the Oswald cartoons. The month before, Disney found out through Iwerks that George had been secretly hiring away Disney's animators during pick-up runs for Oswald reels.
After a series of meetings between Disney and Mintz, Disney's contract was terminated and Winkler Pictures became the sole producer of the Oswald cartoons. Disney would end up creating a total of 26 Oswald cartoons.
Oswald under Winkler
During the production of an additional set of shorts solely by Winkler, animators Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising went to Universal to try and convince the studio to put them in charge instead of Mintz. Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal Pictures, got tired of the internal politics and terminated Winkler Pictures' contract. He decided to produce the series in-house with director Walter Lantz taking charge.
Lantz had a drink with Walt to see if this situation would cause him any concern. Walt gave Lantz his blessing and told him there would be no hard feelings.
In 1931, Winkler Pictures moved its office to 1154 North Western Ave., Los Angeles, California, U.S. and renamed itself Charles Mintz Studio. Columbia Pictures acquired the studio shortly before Mintz's death.
- "Acquires New Holmes Series" - The Film Daily (5/25/1924)
- "Silent Animated Films at the Library of Congress" (includes the Alice Comedies)
- "In the Courts" - The Film Daily (2/20/1924)
- Written Timeline of Disney (1923-1925)
- "Miss Winkler Closes Deals" - The Film Daily (4/20/1924)
- M. J. Winkler Ad in The Film Daily (5/11/1924)
- Written Timeline of Disney (1925-1928)
- "'U' to Release Cartoons" - The Film Daily (3/6/1927)
- "'U' to Release Cartoons" - Motion Picture World (3/12/1927)
- "Universal Announces Release Of "Oscar, the Rabbit" Cartoons" - Motion Picture World (3/12/1927)
- "And That's That" Column - The Film Daily (2/1928)
- "The History of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Part Two"
- "Lester Kline" - The Film Daily (4/15/1929)
- "Benny Rubin and Oswald Make Universal One-Reelers Super Shorts" - Universal Weekly
- "Winkler Pictures Moves West" - The Film Daily (12/14/1931)