Octagonal Perfume Bottle from Animated Film Date with Duke by George Pal


This small figure, emulating a torso in the shape of a glass perfume bottle is one of four characters created by George Pal for his 1947 Puppetoon Production of Date with Duke. The short film featured composer-musician Duke Ellington performing and conducting the bottles in his well known composition "The Perfume Suite". Each bottle, embellished with buttons, plastic stones, sequins, and filigree is fitted with a detachable wooden head with painted features and felt hair topped with a distinctive decorative crown. A glass horn resembling an open flower is fitted into a small hole representing the mouth.

George Pal was one of the pioneers of stop-frame animation, a painstaking process achieved by moving figures and shooting each change on a single frame of motion picture film in a series of progressive steps. For each frame shot, the head, arms, and legs of the figures were changed according to the motions needed to create the illusion of movement. Pal was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1944 for "the development of novel methods and techniques in the production of short subjects known as Puppetoons".

George Paul (1908-1980) nee George Marczincsak, was born in Austria Hungary and educated at the Budapest Academy of Arts where he studied architecture. Limited job opportunities encouraged Pal to further his interest in human anatomy, and he attended a local medical school where he studied kinetic motion—the energy of motion and the interrelationships between moving parts. This sparked Pal’s interest in animation and his studies served him well when he went to work at a silent film company where he became the head of the cartoon department.

By 1933, fascism was on the rise and the Nazi regime was spreading its influence in Europe. Pal fled to Prague, and where he was known as an animator, special effect designer, and producer and then Paris where he opened his own animation studio. He disliked the flat two-dimensional looks of the early cartoons and he began to create three-dimensional figures using carved wood with wire limbs that made for easy movement. Pal created replacement parts, such as heads, arms, and legs, that could be used interchangeably to create the impression of continuous, flowing movement. These puppets with no strings were named “Puppetoons”, a combination of the two words puppet and cartoon. Pal finally settled in Eindhoven, Netherlands were he produced short films and commercials for products that were sold in England, France, and the Netherlands.

On average, the animated shorts lasted about eight minutes, and for each film, Pal created as many as 9,000 puppets with as many as 200-300 heads and appendages. One of his first advertisements included dancing cigarettes.

In 1939, while Pal was traveling in the U.S. lecturing at Columbia University, the Germans invaded Poland. Pal, his wife, and his son were granted asylum in the U.S. and in 1940 he was hired by Paramount Pictures.

Date Made: 1947

Maker; Producer: Pal, GeorgeUser: Walter Lantz ProductionsMaker: Pal, George

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: California, Los Angeles

Subject: AnimationMusic


See more items in: Culture and the Arts: Entertainment, Popular Entertainment, Movies, Jazz, Movie Collection


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Elisabeth Pal

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1983.0361.05BAccession Number: 1983.0361Catalog Number: 1983.0361.05B

Object Name: figure, animation

Physical Description: adhesive (overall material)glass (overall material)metal (overall material)sequins (overall material)Measurements: overall: 3 3/4 in; x 9.525 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b2-8349-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1182908

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.