You can now watch on YouTube some of the greatest super-hero cartoons ever produced -- the 1940s era Max Fleisher Superman cartoons!
In 1941, just a few years after Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel sold the rights to Superman to Detective Comics, Inc., for $130, Paramount Pictures bought the film rights to the superhero. Paramount then asked Fleischer Studios to produce a cartoon series, and provided them with an unusually large budget to do so. The result, according to one survey of distinguished animators, was the 33rd greatest cartoon of all-time. The first, 10-minute Superman cartoon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short. (It lost to Disney's Lend a Paw, starring Pluto.)
I just watched the initial installment and it's really great. The score is fabulous, and while the story is simple be today's standards it's still a lot of fun. Some of the elements of the mythos we take for granted today are missing (Superman was raised in an orphanage, not by the Kents) and some are different (Krypton was a planet that glowed like a star), but it's still unmistakably Superman. And unmistakably fun. Enjoy!
Fun Fact: The Fleischer cartoons are the reason Superman flies. Up to that point in the comics he just had super-human leg strength that allowed him to “leap tall buildings in a single bound”, so he basically travelled around like the Hulk, by super-jumping again and again ’til he got where he was going. Since Fleischer didn’t have the budget to animate Supes doing that, he asked permission to just have him fly. Since the cartoon was much more popular than the comic at that time, flight became one of Superman’s more well known powers, eventually being added to his list of abilities in the comic as well…
Now I have to go and watch my dvd copy of these classic amazing cartoons. I love the way the music syncs up with his punches against the death ray. Old story telling at it’s best. Even my kids (all under 10) have fun watching this. Highly recommended!
The Fleischer stuff is just top-notch. Between Popeye and Supes, how can you go wrong?
What the Fleischers did with light and shadow in those cartoons is quite stunning, and their work shows what can be done with conventional (non-CG) animation if money’s not tight.
I would also highly recommend, for those with kids or without–altho the kids might get bored, as I did way back when, with the sappy musical numbers– the Fleischer Studios’ “Gulliver’s Travels,” which used rotoscoping for Gulliver long before Ralph Bakshi, and introduced a character named Gabby whom Fleischer tried to spin off into other cartoons. I especially like the enemy spies. The guy who voices of the king of Lilliput also voiced Popeye.
These have been favorites of mine for years. I used to have a DVD of them, in fact, but it got stolen when my apartment was burglarized.
I suspect that these cartoons were also the source of Superman’s X-Ray vision, as it’s used as a plot device in the 2nd installment, “The Mechanical Monsters.”
Also, the influence on Bruce Timm’s DCU cartoons is very obvious.