On 1935, May 24th one
could read on the front page of
La Bourse Egyptienne
“Mickey Mouse got an
Brothers animated film
Sixty years later, Shlomo
is entering the
(Arabic World Institute) movie theatre in Paris, with the cheers of
the spectators. He is now 85 years old and he is the last survival
of the Frenkel family as well as the last witness of an unusual and
The lights wane as silence
follows the hubbub. Suddenly an oriental music bursts out from the
loudspeakers whereas appears the animation sequences on the screen.
Threatened with damage and decomposition the silver nitrate film has
fortunately been restored.
are untiringly drawing water along the Nile River. Far away the
Great Pyramid is outlining. A combined zoom and traveling effect
brings us back to the foreground where we can see a little fellow
hated with the traditional tarbush. Riding a donkey,
Mish-Mish Effendi is singing how happy he is to meet soon his
Mish-Mish arose from
David’s pencil in 1935, in a flat in Cairo. According to few
witnesses, when entering the place, no one could say whether they
were in a joinery or in a studio or just in a room to live.
The February 25th 1996 is the very last day at
l’Institut du Monde Arabe to commemorate the centenary of the
Egyptian cinema. This was the opportunity to pay tribute at the
Frenkel Brothers as pioneers of the Arabic animated films.
The Frenkel’s story takes place far away from the
lights of Egypt , in the darkness of the anti-Semitic pogroms that
occurred in the early 20th century in Byelorussia.
|The oldest son Hershel was an
American movies lover. He was a great admirer of Charlie Chaplin in
which films he recognized some part of his own family destiny. David
was as much fascinated by cinema as his brother and he aspired one
day to create his own production company. Besides he revealed and
developed real talents in drawing and painting.
||In September 1905, Betzalel ran away
from Retchitza with his wife Gnissa and child Hershel. They settled
in Jaffa in Palestine then dominated by the Ottoman Empire. Betzalel
created there a bookshop and tried to live of trading, printing and
binding books until the Turks came into the First World War. In
November 27th 1914, the Turkish expelled from Tel Aviv the Russian
Jews suspected to become enemy spies. Compelled at another exile,
Betzalel and his family counting then six children were deported to
|As for Shlomo he was the one gifted
with good hands. Creative, resourceful, he felt good with mechanics,
electricity, and technology. Most of all he was a master of
repairing, making and transforming all kind of material, tool or
engine into a complete new or practical one.
|David had the exceptional opportunity to learn the Chinese lacquered
technique from a famous professor, Mr. Stoloff.
The 1930s highlight
of Art Deco movement was also those of a craze for Far East art. Led
by their father, the Frenkel brothers were involved successfully
into making and decorating furniture. So they knew
The Ministry of
Agriculture. Then more and more furniture was made even for King
Farouk, while Beys gave orders to the Frenkel for being
pictured for example on a screen carrying a Chinese dress or hated
with the tarbush.
Each member of the
family liked very much cinema. But since they saw Mickey Mouse for
the first time in 1930 in Egypt, they just became haunted by an
ambition: to be able one day to do as well as Walt Disney! All the
money they won thanks to their business was saved and invested in
this particular purpose. Of course no one knows anything about
making films. So they just had to re-invent the technique.
nights long father and sons talked and sketched again and again
until they agreed together with a character. Finally the result was
“Marco Monkey”. At that time, there’s nothing else to do than give
it life! That’s of course the most difficult to achieve because it
means that making it move 1O minutes suppose sketching about 15
Shlomo is in charge of the steps after the cartoon: photography,
developing, synchronization... Gathering here a lens, there a
cogwheel he finally succeeded in making a shooting camera, an
editing and mixing table. Little by little cartoons accumulated as
much as roll film.
reached 1600 meters the film was ready. What an excitement the day
when Shlomo put the film in the projector. What a satisfaction when
everything lives up to expectations! All the four they made it,
despite those who argued that they were undertaking a foolish thing.
Moreover on the strength of newspapers the cartoon was appreciated
even if the artists have been criticized because of an evident
similarity of the sketches with Walt Disney.
As for Shlomo he was the one gifted with good hands. Creative,
resourceful, he felt good with mechanics, electricity, and technology. Most of
all he was a master of repairing, making and transforming all kind of material,
tool or engine into a complete new or practical one.
David had the exceptional opportunity to learn the Chinese lacquered
technique from a famous professor, Mr. Stoloff. The 1930s highlight of Art Deco
movement was also those of a craze for Far East art. Led by their father, the
Frenkel brothers were involved successfully into making and decorating
furniture. So they knew