screensongtitle420.jpg screensongtitle420.jpg

Fleischer/Famous lettering


One of my guilty pleasures, when watching Paramount cartoons from the mid-1930s through the late 1940s, is admiring the incredible “Fleischer lettering” in the main titles (and occasionally in the body of the cartoon itself). I’ve never been able to identify the mystery studio calligrapher, but this person’s unique work is as much a part of the studio’s style as the animation, voices and music. This lettering style first shows up right before the Fleischer studio moves to Miami and is prevalent throughout the 1940s Famous Studios period (you can view some of this work on my Paramount Original Titles page). This individual also did the Famous Studios logo, Fleischer/Famous letterheads and in-house publications.

Graphic designer Mark Simonson has just created two new fonts based on “Fleischer lettering” and they look terrific. Coincidentally, Mark has also been working on a font resembling to my second favorite classic movie lettering: Columbia Pictures titles (most recognizable from Three Stooges shorts, Sam Katzman serials and just about everything Columbia released from the late thirties through the mid 1950s). But I digress. I’ll be ordering his Fleischer styled Snicker and Kinescope later this week.

  • OM

    …Jerry, one of the things you might comment on was something I’d heard years and years ago about that specific “Screen Songs” title card design. The concentric circles were deliberatly used to invoke a sense of the Warner Brothers title cards, which used those ever-changing rings. Have you come across any evidence of this in your research?

  • Luke

    Now it’s became a generic font, ohhh, great.

    I wish Paramount would restore their cartoons.

  • OM – No, I’ve never heard anything like that.

    Warner Bros. had (at the time) no claim on the concentric circles (or “bullseye”). Ub Iwerks used them on his MGM Willie Whopper cartoons in the early 30s, and Lantz used them for his Universal Swing Symphonies in the 40s, and as far as I know, no one ever said a peep. Warner Bros. used them continuously for 29 years (plus) and their cartoons have become closely associated with them, as one of several visual trademarks, but it wasn’t always so.

  • I also have long had a fascination with the Columbia lettering! No matter how slapdash or ill-conceived the films, those titles added class. I’ve always wondered whether it was all the work of the same person or a department with one hell of a style guide. Here’s a post from my blog re: Columbia titles:

  • John

    The main title lettering for the Fleischer’s final season of the Popeye series, which debuted at the same time as Superman, lasted for 20 years, all the way into the opening for the KFS made-for-TV Popeyes, so they definitely had staying power, despite the upheavals at the studio (Dave Fleischer’s name got the same type of lettering in the credits until he departed early for Columbia, then it was cut back to the same typeface as the animators and writers on the final few shorts, until the could legally get his name off the credits when the Fleischers’ contract expired).

  • What a great post, Jerry. I spent the night of Grim’s 100th birthday talking with Bob Little. I wish, now that you mention it, I had thought to ask him about it. Certainly, he would have known who did the type art.

  • top_cat_james

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who pays attention to things like this, Jerry. I’ve always wondered who did the beautiful handwriting on the Tom and Jerry’s and early Hanna-Barbara TV cartoons

  • ThePeterNetwork

    The fonts are not freeware. I am not happy. :(

  • Mike Lacy

    When you are 12 years old and notice film credits lettering you are decidedly a concern for your parents. When you scream the names of the animators of the Popeye cartoons you are (or they) even more disturbed. I agree that the classic script lettering in the Columbia pictures title cards was very elegant and bespoke C L A S S . It amazed my friends that when I was in my late teens and early twenties a fun evening in my apartment was “playing” with my speedball deluxe pen set. Wouldn’t trade my imagination in for anything!