A novel reference to “Noveltoons”

Great moments in American literature… ?

After seeing the remake of True Grit a few months ago, Leonard Maltin decided to re-read the original Charles Portis novel and the rest of authors work. Imagine his surprise when, while reading Portis’ first book Norwood, he found a reference to both Warner Bros. Road Runner and Coyote AND Paramount’s Noveltoons!

Paramount Cartoons noted in great literature? Seymour Kneitel recognized for his directorial genius? I’m afraid not. It more likely reflects the general public’s attitude towards Chuck Jones mini masterpieces versus all other comers. And most Noveltoons are not very good (though a guilty pleasure of mine!).

Norwood was written in 1966 and has recently been reprinted along with True Grit and Portis’ other novels by Tusk, a division of The Overlook Press. I’ve posted the page from the book below, the relevant text in bold. The set-up is that good ol’ boy Norwood has just hitched a ride with a guy driving a bread-delivery truck, who turns out to be a talkative fellow.

(Thanks, Leonard Maltin)


  • dbenson

    I’m guessing Portis was summoning up some fuzzy childhood memories here, or perhaps he’s letting his character be a little off on purpose. Roadrunner never turned up with skates or new inventions — the Coyote regularly busts HIMSELF a good one. Meanwhile, his description of Noveltoons somehow evokes the sappier Terrytoons, although both could be cringeworthy when they set their minds to it.

    That said, his truck driver is more on target than some nonfiction I’ve read over the years.

  • Oliver

    Most intertextual references to popular culture either treat it with sniffy contempt or fanboy indulgence. Always good to see a more interesting, intelligent approach.

    On a related matter, could anyone who’s read ‘The Shining’ confirm, is Danny watching ‘Road Runner’ cartoons part of King’s original novel, or a detail Kubrick added for the movie? (Viewers will note that Jack Nicholson’s character metaphorically becomes the Coyote during the climax.)

  • Chris Sobieniak

    This is exactly how I picture my folks remembering cartoons!

  • http://highlyrecommended.blogspot.com Satorical

    That Noveltoons analysis is dead-on.

  • pspector

    What? The driver never saw any Modern Madcaps?

  • Bob Lindstrom

    And in related news, let’s not neglect the 1970 film version of “Norwood,” starring the brilliant thespian talents of Glen Campbell and Joe Namath. I think their presence as the leading actors may qualify that entire movie as a Noveltoon.

  • Andy

    Yeah, that’s pretty much how I react to Paramount’s “Noveltoons”.

  • Andy

    My not so humble opinion, and I know that Jerry has a fondness for them, but Paramount cartoons are wretched and unfunny. That said, Winston Sharples made really good unsung cartoon music.

  • Gray64

    It’s really too bad, because Seymour Kneitel’s efforts were always very easy on the eyes and well animated, there was just never much of any real interest going on in them.

  • Tim Hodge

    On a non-animation note regarding Charles Portis, I was surprised to read the phrase “pop a cap in him” in True Grit. I thought that was just gangsta slang.

    • Mike

      I’m guessing the phrase goes quite a ways back, at least to the days when a percussion cap had to be placed beneath the hammer. Not sure if people in the Old West used that exact phrasing, but I do remember reading a first-hand account of one of the lawmen who gunned down Bonnie and Clyde. He said he “hated to bust a cap on a woman…”

  • http://ryuuseipro.blogspot.com/ John Paul Cassidy

    As a Noveltoons fan, I may not agree with the statement, but I thought that was a neat reference nonetheless. :)

  • http://www.classicparamountcartoons.blogspot.com ParamountCartoons

    Why, Paramount, why? Why couldn’t you put this in the film versions? (Even though Harvey and NTA had the rights back then to the pre-1962 cartoons).

    Then, Paramount Pictures, you could show a Noveltoon before the 2010 version, like Jerry said on Stu’s Show when he talking about the “Betty Boop” lawsuit? They have the theatrical rights.

    And if Paramount doesn’t think that’s feasiable, do this:
    Show a theatrical short of a Nickelodoen character (…..er, SpongeBob or Fairly OddParents). And put in OLD-FASHIONED TITLES, no end credits, just the Paramount logo.

    Either choice, you’ve got to please Jerry (and me).

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Technically, as Jerry has said numerous times, they do hold theatrical rights to those cartoons to this day, so they could actually do something like this in the theaters if they wanted.

  • top cat james

    Assuming the book is not set in another time period, bread man is refering to the DePatie-Freleng produced Roadrunners,which are just as gruesome as anything Famous was cranking out. “Sugar and Spies” is the only semi-tolerable one out of that bunch,IMO.

  • top cat james

    Forgot about “Rushing Roulette”. That one is a little better.

  • pspector

    Well, I guess my dad was partially responsible for a “shoemaker”: some animation on “The Shoe Must Go On”, and to the best of my knowledge a Modern Madcap and not a Noveltoon. However, I don’t believe he ever did any singing mice! :)

    • Christopher Cook

      “The Shoe Must Go On” was indeed a Modern Madcap–it ran on ABC’s New Casper Cartoon Show. It about a blacksmith whose hammering of horseshoes interfered with the rehearsal of an orchestral concert. No mice–just the smithy and a rather irritated concert entrepreneur.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

    “Was that on AMERICAN BOY or FAMILY MAN?”

  • J Lee

    Actually, the one-shot Noveltoons are probably the best cartoons Paramount did during the 1950s (though not the 40s, when the Popeye and Little Lulu series were still pretty strong). In the 50s, it was the continuing character series that really started to take Famous’ reputation downhill (and if you go through Irv Spector’s Noveltoons and Modern Madcaps from the 50s and early 60s, the subject matter tends to be about as far away from kiddie-oriented singing mice as possible).

  • Matt KSki

    NORWOOD

    wasnt that an Eddie Murphy movie?
    (duhuhuhuh)

  • http://stanleystories.blogspot.com Frank M. Young

    I made note of this on the Termite Terrace Trading Post discussion group some five years ago, to deafening silence. Glad to see that (a) someone else noticed this and (b) cared! :)