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Warner Bros Posts Fleischer Superman Cartoons Online

Yesterday, Warner Bros. quietly post most of the Fleischer Superman cartoons to their You Tube channel. Normally this wouldn’t be big news because (a) the cartoons are in public domain, and (b) Warners released them on DVD years ago.

But since I’ll use any excuse to express my love for this series, here is an embed of the first cartoon (above), an Academy Award nominee of 1941 – and here are individual links to the rest of the films (below):

Mechanical Monsters
Billion Dollar Limited
The Arctic Giant
The Bulleteers
The Magnetic Telecope
Electric Earthquake
Terror On The Midway

Warner Bros. owns the original negatives to these films and has restored them to brand new condition. It thrills me no end to be able to watch these version at will, anytime, online. The first nine are not only technically brilliant, but are some of the cleverest little sci-fi concepts ever visualized. A magnetic telescope? An electrical earthquake? Robot jewel thieves? The same kind of ingenuity behind the gags in the Koko the Clown films or Popeye cartoons is at work here.

When the Fleicher’s left the building in 1942, Paramount’s animators finished the contract with eight more films that shift the focus from imaginative science fiction to conflicts with our wartime enemies, ancient mummies and petty thugs (if you want to see those online, go here).

These are some of the best cartoon shorts ever made – and were not like any Hollywood cartoons before or since. If you’ve never seen them you owe it to yourself to check them out – and if you have, no further urging by me is necessary. Enjoy!

(Thanks, “Paramount Cartoons”)

  • Though I frequently mourn the decline of the Fleischer Studio after the Production Code came in, I make an exception for these, the best Superman adventures on film to date.

  • James

    They were certainly unique for their era as I believe they were the only ones to to take advantage of the popularity of fantasy/adventure and superhero serials done by studios like Republic and Universal and make studio-backed animated adventure stories. The only other cartoon shorts that come close are some of the Popeye shorts like Goonland and “Popeye Meets Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves.”

    Had the creative talent been pooled elsewhere or more financially sound projects like Superman been the new focus, they could have cornered a whole new genre of animation that wouldn’t be revisited again until television in the 1960s.

    As for the streams, they’re definitely unusual. While the films are PD, studios like WB tend to still try and claim loose copyright on “restored editions” they’ve done to keep PD companies from using studio restorations or other privately funded restorations.

  • joe horne

    YAY! artic giant…where he leaps tall buildings…no flying…yay!!!!!

  • David D

    While I do give credit to Warner’s for posting their beautifully cleaned-up versions of these shorts, it should probably be noted they still have the audio glitches and mismatched openings on some shorts that were present when these restored versions first debuts.

    They do look terrific, though…

    • Chris Sobieniak

      For me it’s the way the endings are all the same music of the first cartoon as I had viewed them from those PD 16mm dupe prints back in the day! They look good at least.

  • I love Fleischer’s Superman shorts! Thanks Jerry!

  • AaronSch

    …remains the best version of Superman ever put to screen.

    • Julian DiLorenzo

      Agreed! So glad someone else feels that way!

    • John A

      I definitely believe the Fleischers gave us the best version of Superman ever filmed.

      If Paramount had only had the foresight to bankroll a Superman feature, Max and Dave would have never lost their studio.

  • Does anyone know if they’ll be releasing DVDs with these newly cleaned-up versions, or are these actually the same ones that appear on the currently-available set that’s linked to above? I’d much rather watch them on my TV than on YouTube.

  • Phaeton99

    The only way this could be better is if they posted each short in high definition — but I am not one to complain. ;)

    Thank you for the heads up. It made my day!

  • galacticadude

    I remember tracking these down on VHS tapes back in the 1980’s. I had Jerry’s ‘of Mice and Magic’ book from the library to help. I got the Bosco video DVD in the late 90’s and need to pick up a better copy sometime. These are my favorite cartoons from that time.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I had it bad in the 80’s when the best you had was the typical budget tape release of the characters derived from those 70’s dupe prints and telecine quality that was dark and muddy at best. Lord knows we have it far better today (presentation aside).

    • Kevin

      I think Jerry Beck may have written an animation book or two but “Of Mice and Magic” was written by Leonard Maltin.

  • dbenson

    A fun detail: Recognizing voice talent from the Popeye shorts.

    • Stéphane Dumas

      Speaking of Popeye, check for the Famous studios short “She-sick Sailors” where Bluto tried to impress Olive Oyl disguised as Superman, they re-used some of Superman’s BGM for this Popeye short, back when Paramount/Famous studios still owned the rights. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p94Q679kbxU

  • Mike Cagle

    No flying? Dude, he totally flies.

    • dbenson

      At first, Superman in the comics couldn’t fly — but he could leap like crazy. The animated cartoons gave him the ability to fly because they quickly realized Superman just looked silly leaping around. The comics quickly followed suit.

  • Pedro Nakama

    I got a copy of these on DVD about 10 years ago at the 99 Cent Store. Believe it or not it was an excellent transfer.

  • John Kaufman

    Jerry Beck’s co-author, Leonard Maltin, also deserves credit for writing Of Mice and Magic.” First published in 1987, the book remains an indispensible guide to American cartoons pf the studio era.

    • I’d like to make it clear that Leonard Maltin wrote OF MICE AND MAGIC. I was his research assistant, with him all along the way, doing research and compiling the filmography – but Leonard actually wrote the book and is properly credited as the sole author.

  • I would have loved it if Paramount had also decided to release Bat-Man cartoons in the same fashion… Those would have been wonderfully creepy. A Mummy mystery starring Bats? Mechanical robot thieves?

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It certainly could’ve gone there if they hadn’t thought to stay within the safe, comedic category for the rest of the studio’s lifespan.

  • Don’t you think this will be the eventual future of older media of all sorts? Really, what market exists to generate revenue from the properties? It seems to me that this is a trickle that will turn into a flood as television in it’s traditional form dies. I know I love Lucy is touted as still making millions of dollars a year for the rights-holder, but as models change there’s likely more to be gained from availability and brand exposure than from vaulting it so it’s forgotten.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I pretty much figured that out already.

  • Jeffrey Sultanof

    This is great news. I’ve gotta figure that WB may be preparing a Blu-ray of these cartoons if they’ve been newly transferred. Let’s hope!!

  • Rab Smith

    For years I endured the tenth-generation Superman ‘sub-dupes’ that were basically unwatchable: I got the 2-disc set on US import and I’m very pleased with it. There’s some impurities in some of the shots, but it somehow adds to the period charm. The Bulleteers is a special fave, as is the Mechanical Monsters.

  • Rick in Mexico

    I remember a wartime “Superman” cartoon called “The Eleventh Hour,” in which Supes basically renders Yokohama Harbor useless, leaving us ’50s tots wondering why the war took so long to win if we had Superman on our side. Was it withheld from release due to questions of racism?

  • Retro00064

    Warner Bros.’ Technicolor restorations of the Superman cartoons are, of course, beautiful. It’s just a shame that they lessened the excellence of the restorations by messing around with the end titles, end title music, etc. on many of them. I mean, they couldn’t even get the end of the first cartoon right: compare the restored version above with this print. If they do eventually re-release these cartoons on Blu-ray or whatever, I would like it if they finally got the titles and end music right.

  • hernandez2014

    Wasn’t there a ToonHeads episode devoted to Superman?