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Fleischer’s Superman Feature???

Peter Rosenberg of Cartoon Crazys, the folks restoring Gulliver’s Travels, as I mentioned in this post, wrote this on our Comments thread:

…we are planning on doing all 17 Max Fleischer’s Superman episodes later this year as well as using Max Fleischer’s original notes to re assemble them into the full length movie he had originally wanted to do and had planned on doing at a later date when he did the cartoons for Paramount.

Huh?? I never heard this before… and I don’t buy it. You’re telling me Max wanted to assemble the 17 Paramount Superman cartoons “into the full length movie he had originally wanted to do”??? Can anyone not connected to Cartoon Crazy’s confirm this? Methinks this is major B.S. – but then again, what do I know about Superman?

  • EricW

    Yeah seriously, didn’t the Fleischer studio try to price itself out of the market when Paramount proposed the series, and they were stuck when Paramount called their bluff? Color me skeptical…

  • Bill Cross

    I agree with you, Jerry. Sounds highly suspect.

    First of all – all 17 “Max Fleischer” episodes? As we all know, 8 (or nearly half) of the Superman cartoons were produced by Famous Studios after Max had left the building.

  • Since Max was kickedf out of his studio after only half dozen or so of these shorts were completed, it’s doubtful he had a plan for 17 of them. Sounds like a distributor who’d like to make some money off of public domain product.

  • was the title of “Max Fleischer”‘s planned superman feature by any chance “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Super-Pooh”?

  • Sounds like a sales gimmick. Makes them look better (if you buy it) than if they said “We’re just gonna chop up this old stuff and make it longer”

    They’ll probably “remaster” it, and airbrush the hell out of it, if it’s anything like their website.

  • Brian Kidd

    I don’t think a coherent full-length film is possible using just the shorts. Each of them (whilst imaginative and great fun) is very much a self-contained short story. They’re also totally formulaic, which works fine for shorts released months apart, but not for a feature story. I call B.S. as well.

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    If they go through with it, I hope they improve it by editing out the soundtrack bits that make it painfully clear that Fleischer was animating radio transcripts. Like the scene where a bad guy suddenly pulls out a gun and the narrator on the soundtrack says “Suddenly, he pulled out a gun!” Thank you, Captain Obvious!

  • In all of my years of researching the Fleischer Studios I never have unearthed any evidence that Max wanted to re-edit the Superman cartoons into a feature.

    There appears to have been no planning for any feature after “Mr. Bug.” In fact, “Variety” reported that because of the war, Max and company had difficulty obtaining some of the supplies needed for the production of a color feature. The war also eliminated the profitable European market which greatly impacted on the business model for an animated feature.

    I would like to see the documentation that would confirm this claim.

  • Rose

    Why does this feel to me to be an attempt to re package the product into “something new”. Something those who may already own (and in my case own several times over. From black and white Beta vision to multiple DVD’s), will be better prompted to buy.

    I have misgivings about the treatment Gulliver travels and Superman may receive. It, appearing, to me that the purpose of their work is primarily to sell as many units as they can vs. the goal of restoring the properties.

    When both can be done vs. just one.

    Good sales, of course, are important, and absolutely necessary to fund a business or any current or future project.

    …but I’ve always hoped that such things would come with careful consideration of what originally was, and could be again.

    Sometimes cartoon restoration is abit like the restoration of the Sistine chapel. When the restoration of Michelangelo’s work began there: brighter, tones were shown. Many argued these tones “wrong” as they had seen them only through years of smoke and varnish. Others pointed out that they were right-as they were now seen as they were originally intended.

    I fully accept a restoration to what an artist intended, even with love of what I once knew. Even with the loss of what I once knew.

    …but, if the restoration is mutilation it does not seem to me a good thing.

  • I ditto Jerry’s ‘Huh??’

    Max only produced the first nine Superman cartoons & if he intended to edit them into a feature it’s an easy guess NEW animation (along with music, voice acting, etc) would have been produced to bridge the shorts together.

  • John

    Just look at the variety of enemies covered in the Superman shorts — mad scientists, criminal gangs, volcanoes, gorillas, mummys, Japan, Hitler, etc. How are you going to put all that into a coherent 70-90 minute feature film (especially since, AFAIK, Jeffrey Katenzberg wasn’t even running Paramount to come up with an idea like that in 1941).

  • Steve Siegert

    I am familiar with the Cartoon Crazys brand, so it does not surprise me that they are trying to butcher yet another series of classics. I bought a few of their early compilations a decade ago, and while the picture quality was excellent, they added sound effects that weren’t originally there. I think I will stick to my plans on purchasing the Warner set that is coming out in a few months, and then I will throw out all the public domain collections that I own.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I smell a “Hurray for Betty Boop” out of this!

    Well, maybe not that drastic, but that’s the image I paint in my mind about it. The whole concept sounds like something I do as a gag in a college film screening as a means to get people to show up by editing dupe prints of the Superman cartoons together to create a weird compilation reel of sorts.

  • Steve Stanchfield

    HA! How FUNNY! You know, a lot of companies just assume that people would NEVER know anything about history or be able to comment on it… so stories like this are invented to try and make a quick buck……

    “Of course, CHAPLIN intended to colorize all his silent shorts and string them into a fantasy film narrated by Tommy Smothers…..” (I wouldn’t put it past them to say that….)

    No doubt they’ll be using the older sources rather than the newer versions from the negs.

  • Steve Stanchfield

    On another note.. their ‘restoration’ demos always make me laugh- they always use different prints of the same film to show the ‘before’ and ‘after’ demonstration- usually an old 16mm Kodachrome print next to a 35mm print from someone else’s DVD! follow Jerry’s link and jump on their site and look at the Felix the cat restoration- the first print is an old beat up Commonwealth 16mm print- the second is right off the DVD ‘Cartoons that time forgot’ from a 35mm print! You’d have to have your head examined to believe they ‘restored’ the print from the first source!

  • Either way, I want to see these Fleischer “original notes” that they claim to have uncovered. C’mon, Cartoon Crazys, show us the goods!

  • Reggie

    Any new footage done to link the old shorts would look about as good as that Superman drawing on their web page. But it would allow Cartoon Crazys to copyright their mostly public domain ‘feature’ as a new work, which is their real commercial goal. How is DC Comics allowing this?

  • Did this idea really come from Max Fleischer? Or are the folks at Cartoon Crazys that insane enough to screw with the CLASSIC Superman shorts and decided to give out false information? The Fleischer shorts should be left split and 10 minutes each.

  • tom stazer

    Oh, what a scam. Expect hideous, laptop-level “restoration” that will make your eyes bleed. This will be produced on the cheap, guaranteed, and that means some art school film and video intern will be doing it and cranking up the sharpening, “correcting” colors and blurring dust.

    UGH. It was a dark day when “restoration” software made it’s way into the hands of salesmen.

  • Robert Barker

    Come on, it’s funny. Once WHV puts out the official set, shouldn’t this spate of Superman collections come to an end? And we still don’t know if that collection will be any improvement over the previously released cartoons on Superman I and II. Obviously this is a huckster’s move to once again capitalize on a played out property. It’s a famous character, a famous cartoon studio, it’s color, it’s public domain. Where’s Legend Studios version, called ‘Supermanville’?

  • Dave Filipi

    Having seen all of the shorts often and recently I don’t see how they could possibly be joined into a coherent feature. They are incredibly formulaic in plot so it would be endless repetition.

  • zavkram

    If there was any intent to edit all 17 cartoons into a cohesive, feature-length story; then how will they explain Lois lane’s noticeable absence from the very last Superman cartoon, “Secret Agent”?

    I can’t wait to see what they do with the Tom and Jerry cartoons! Oh wait, I forgot…

  • cliffclaven

    What’s curious is that they’re doing something nutty like this, and nobody seems to have hit on the much easier (but no less wrong) idea of lacing the Popeye featurettes together.

    You already have some workable linking footage from the Famous Studios hacked-up versions (Popeye making a movie of Ali Baba, telling his nephews the story of Sindbad, and I think going to a premiere of Aladdin). At worst it would be a matter of dubbing some new voice bits (“Come on Uncle Popeye! Let’s go to the premiere!”) and tossing in some more Famous footage for padding.

    Note: If anybody from Cartoon Crazy is reading this, JUST KIDDING. IT WOULD COST MONEY. YOU DON’T WANT TO DO IT.

  • Why is Betty Boop dressed up like Tomb Raider on their website? XD

  • Obviously, the “notes” to be used are from the same Max Fleischer notebook that suggested that cartoons be created called SUPERMAN AND THE LITTLE KING, SUPERMAN AND HENRY THE FUNNIEST LIVING AMERICAN and SUPERMAN AND WINSTAR-EL, HIS KRYPTONIAN GRANDPA.

  • Hi Kids,
    When I met/hosted Fleischer screen writer Jay Morton at the Florida Ominicon in 1984, I had asked him about the possibility that Max & Dave were going to make a feature using Superman. He said: “No way, with the expense of the shorts, it just was not feasible”.
    He also told me about the un-produced scripts he had written. One was an Aztec Idol that came to life and used the Sun to temporarily Blind Superman! He was a very cool guy and I have lots of stories. Hmmmmmm, now that I think of it, if Warner had offered me an audio commentary spot on the up-coming dvd, I could have done a terrific job.

  • Mark

    It’s possible at one point that Paramount may have wanted to string them together (for a quick buck) as was the norm with popular movie serials after their initial run.

    But, with the lack of any factual evidence I’d say it’s bogus. Besides how it would have been accomplished is anybody’s guess but then again it’s been done with TV shows.

  • I see it working like this:

    Montage together all the expositions where the robots and volcanoes and unfrozen dinosaurs break loose. Many newspapers spinning in to tie it all together. After about a dozen of those things the world is going to look like it’s falling apart at the seams. This is a job for…

    Ace reporters Lois and Clark! They get called into Perry’s office where he reads off a long, long, long (jump cut), long list of things they need to get to the bottom of.

    Then Lois loses Clark and Clark changes into his tights and for the next 40 minutes he flies to one threat after another while stopping occasionally to pluck Lois from whatever new jam she happens to resurface in.

    After all the crooks are caught and volcanoes plugged and the world is safe again, we finish back in Perry’s office where Lois humiliates Clark with one of her classic “you’re such a pussy, Clark” comments. Clark pretends to laugh and winks at the camera as he waits for it to fade out.

    But no! Lois has 16 more! And Clark has to laugh and wink thru each one.

  • AAAUUUGghghhh Cartoon Crazys’ website hurts my eyyyeees!

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Oh robcat2075, you slay me!

    This is exactly how they might do it a la “Hurray For Betty Boop”. Hire an editor who might make due with the footage, several writers (one serving as ‘director’), some community theater actors, a keyboardist to compose a new score for the 5.1 masses, and call it “Superman To The Rescue!”

  • Bill Field

    At a really amazing comic con almost 32 years ago- Spectrum Con, I saw the Superman cartoons screened,for my first ever viewing, at age 14- I had never even heard them mentioned until the Amazing World of DC Comics profiled them a year earlier. Myron Waldman animated these classics, he also worked on Bat Fink much later- He said that Max wanted to make a Superman Feature, but the fees were 10 times greater than for the shorts. Max had an idea to do both by pitching the series as the first animated serial- then, later would edit Dave’s story arc into the right time for a feature film. because Dave told Max that after years of research he had devised the perfect formula for successful live action features, but was sure the same would hold true for “Superman” because of the realistic human characters. Paramount must’ve seen this coming a mile away, and said that each tale must be self contained. It could be possible that they’ve seen the original serial version outline that they presented to Paramount– but the question remains, the intros all seem different with specific material to the varied aspects of his origin, was there a cryptic edit that the F Bros left, that when recreated would make the best Superman feature EVER? Live OR Animated? I am generally cynical- but this may not be a TOTAL fabrication- now to assess the correct % of BS…

  • It would be interesting to see the unreleased 1940 test reel that the Fleischers made to demonstrate the feasibility of producing these Superman cartoons. Some of the surviving cell artwork was reproduced in the 1998 “Superman” book by Les Daniels.

  • captain murphy

    Regardless of intent indicated by these last two comments, you still have to deal with the commonly related fact that Fleischer DID try to price the studio out of the running for Superman with a overly high budget quote, which, to their surprise, was met.

    I have never heard the Superman cartoons even suggested as a pitch from the Fleischers until this comment thread. Everything I have read suggested they had other interests and did not WANT the assignment at all.

  • Reg Hartt

    Max did not produce all 17 Superman cartoons.

    While the work will make an interesting feature film there is no need to present it to the public under pretense.

    In fact, it would work better if they just stuck to the truth.

  • Shmorky

    HA HA! You can’t fool a cartoon historian! It’s funny when someone like this is caught in such a blatant lie. Nice try, jerks, but all you want to do is fix something that isn’t broke!

  • Michael J. Hayde

    I’m about two weeks away from submitting the manuscript for a book about “Superman on Radio & TV” to my publisher, Bear Manor Media. As part of this project, I researched the Fleischer cartoons, since they used performers from the radio show. The earliest blurb I could find appeared in newspapers on September 3, 1940:

    “Paramount pictures will do a series of Superman cartoons with one release monthly beginning in September.”

    Of course, “Superman” was originally planned as a serial through Republic Pictures – that studio even wrote a script, which was used for “Mysterious Doctor Satan.” Paramount came along with more money and better distribution, and DC went with them. It’s possible DC suggested an animated serial (which would put Superman on screens every week), and mayyyyybeeee Paramount floated the idea to the Fleischers… but it’s clear that the idea of monthly stand-alone releases was settled pretty early on.

  • Trying to string together the Superman shorts into a coherent long-form piece sounds about as likely as doing the same with a collection of Popeye shorts.

    But it gives me a great (slightly blasphemous) idea. How about a reboot/remix of the Fleischer series? Take all that footage, add new voice tracks, new sound fx, re-record the music (in stereo) and maybe create a few bridging scenes. Put it all together and make a feature out of it. Send me a check and power up the lawyers and I’ll start on it tonight.

  • Bill Field

    Where’s Ray Pointer when you need him?

  • captain murphy

    Just like coloration, This is all about repurposing public domain works into a newer form that someone might be able to slap a copyright upon to claim exclusivity. No need to make up blantant lies about the intents of the original creators (or IS there? )

    Let the remixes begin.

  • cliffclaven

    One last note on repurposing Superman: Some years ago there was an MTV video that had a sort of noir theme and used clips from one of the last Superman cartoons — the one with the blond spy being chased by Nazis on a revolving bridge. They didn’t use any of shots with Superman and edited the soundless clips to suggest a pure noir or gangster film.

    Since I hadn’t seen that particular short I was briefly obsessed with the idea that somebody produced a serious hard-boiled cartoon in the 30s or 40s. It was almost a disappointment to eventually see it was one of the Superman series and not an animated Sam Spade.

  • OM

    “was the title of “Max Fleischer”’s planned superman feature by any chance “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Super-Pooh”?”

    …Gene? Could you drop by OMBlog and send me your mailing address? I’d like to send you a bill for a new keyboard :-P :-P :-P

  • OM

    “But it gives me a great (slightly blasphemous) idea. How about a reboot/remix of the Fleischer series? Take all that footage, add new voice tracks, new sound fx, re-record the music (in stereo) and maybe create a few bridging scenes. Put it all together and make a feature out of it.

    …Why do I have this vision of something like this turning out more along the lines of What’s Up, Tiger Lily? crossed with those Speed Racer GEICO commercials? I can see some of the scenes going along the lines of:

    “Oh, if only you were more of a man like Superman, Clark!”

    “If I were, I’d prove Larry Niven was right by blowing off the top of your head on the first shove, you snotty bitch!”

    …It can happen. And it probably will.

  • They didn’t even spell “Formatted” correctly on their home page.

  • Mike Lacy

    The entire concept is insane. Why can’t people just try to enjoy the films as they were originally presented. Max must be spinning in his urn contemplating how to sue!