For Disney fans the period of Ub Iwerks’ animation career, outlined in Leslie Iwerks’ and John Kenworthy’s The Hand Behind the Mouse, they are probably the least familiar with was Iwerks’ time running his own studio and producing his own shorts.
Flip the Frog’s first short Fiddlesticks in 1930 was also Iwerks’ first story without Walt Disney. Viewers may notice a familiar looking mouse, down to the red pants!
Iwerks as a story man and producer attempted to break the mold from the regular shorts available to audiences. The Brave Tin Soldier from 1934 was one of the most critically acclaimed stories that attempted to break the mold and is still applauded to this day for its depth. Though originally the distributor demanded, “No more unfunny endings.”
And despite complaints, Iwerks continued to push the boundaries, as can be seen in 1936’s Balloonland which symbolically provided warnings against isolationist strategy in the years before World War II.
Despite pushing boundaries, without the partnership of Walt Disney, Iwerks was never able to make his studio financially stable. And in late 1936, Iwerks closed his own studio.