"Mickey Mouse" got an Egyptian brother

First Frenkel Brothers animated film

10/29/2005 Didier FRANCK  via email, .. "je me permets de vous adresser l'insolite histoire des trois frères Frenkel dont les réalisations rappelleront probablement des souvenirs à ceux qui fréqentaient les cinémas d'Egypte dans les années 35-50 En vous demandant d'excuser les approximations de langages dues à notre insufisante maîtrise de la langue anglaise, recevez nos chaleureuses salutations et nos vifs remerciements pour le bonheur que nous procure la consultation du site HSJE. Didier and Jenny Frenkel"

On 1935, May 24th one could read on the front page of La Bourse Egyptienne :

Please download mishmish.pdf for the full article

"Mickey Mouse" got an Egyptian brother First Frenkel Brothers animated film

Like Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop in America, Egypt got today his national Mish-Mish Effendi. He is the hero of the first Egyptian cartoon screened this week in the cinema Cosmograph”.

Frenkel Animated Cartoon

Lumieres D'egypte

Sixty years later, Shlomo is entering the Institut du Monde Arabe (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 bounced story.

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.

Norias 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 beloved Baheya!

Mish-Mish arose from David’s pencil in 1935, in a flat in Cairo. According to few witnesses, whenFrenkel Family 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.

Hershel FrenkelThe 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.

Betzalel FrenkelIn 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 Alexandria, Egypt.


Shlomo FrenkelAs 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.  

All 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 15 000 times.

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.  

Having 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.