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on September 17, 2015
the definitive Superman production (as if you really had to ask) is the film series starring Christopher Reeve. second place is a little cluttered, though, consisting of the George Reeves tv series, the Kirk Alyn matinee serials...and the first ever animated Man Of Steel. cartoon producers Max and Dave Fleischer did admittedly have a couple of more successful properties in their stable in Popeye and Betty Boop, but their masterpiece is easily the all too brief series of 17 Superman shorts.
it's not simply the Superman fan in me speaking. it was indeed the former Kal-El's introduction to the Silver Screen, but that is but one of a number of things that make the series a milestone in the art of animation.
most obviously, it was the very first, literally first ever, action/adventure (or otherwise non-comedic) cartoon production. animation was largely considered to of been meant to be whimsical by nature (possibly because it was so obviously a cousin of the comic-strip), so whoever suggested this was literally flying in the face of conventional wisdom. it demonstrated that animation, like so much else, was capable of things other than that with which it was generally associated.
further ground was broken by unprecedented production values. cartoons hadn't yet had to bother with recognizable environments, so the likes of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse occupied a sort of limbo world, which was meant to be surreal anyway. in this case however, because Superman was well known to be based in a composite of New York City, it was incumbent upon the animators to make sure the New Yorkness of Metropolis was unmistakable.
it was also the first time animation had been designed to reflect how the human body moved. this was achieved by a technique known as "rotoscoping," which basically amounts to filming actual people and modelling the cartoon on that footage. it sounds simple, but it was a new enough approach to make an impression.
it even contributed a thing or two to the still burgeoning Superman continuity. (the comic book was only a few years old at the time.) initially, for instance, our hero simply leaped, as in "tall buildings in a single bound." it was under the Fleischers' auspices that he began to fly. also, his first nemesis herein, identified only as The Mad Scientist, could almost be called a prototype for Lex Luthor. when he premiered in the comic a few years later, about the only thing Lex hadn't inherited was the Mr. T-esque hairstyle.
(you can tell how early this is in Superman's life from the relative absence of Jimmy Olsen, not to mention the suspiciously even disposition of Perry White.)
it hadn't been much earlier that Superman's radio adventures premiered, so it was only logical to enlist radio actors Bud Colyer (Clark Kent) and Joan Alexander (Lois Lane) for the big screen incarnation. Colyer's most significant angle on the role was to play Clark in a softer tenor voice, but becoming a booming baritone upon becoming Superman. this not only established a line between the characters, but suggested one plausible reason why the Daily Planet staff never recognized their hero as one of their coworkers. curiously, that duality is only used here in the aforementioned Mad Scientist episode. from there on in Colyer only used the baritone voice, most likely because this incarnation of Superman turned out to be a man of so few words.
most importantly, though, they still pack the same whollop as ever. it's like Star Wars, which is well noted for having broken new ground technologically even in an age when said innovations are so de rigueur that they're harder to feel in the film than they once were. similarly, the Superman series has as strong a sense of drama and excitement as one could hope for, which it was able to fall back on once the revolution it introduced had become the status-quo. (fittingly, there are those who call this series the Star Wars of cartoons.) some have criticized these cartoons for being a little scanty on the story, but considering that they run an average of 8 to 10 minutes, it's pretty impressive how engrossing they manage to be.
but alas, it's reign was all too brief. there were a total of 17 installments over two years. there are any number of potential reasons it was such a blip on the radar. given the ground it broke, it may of become too complicated and/or expensive to maintain. it's also possible that the Fleischers and company simply underestimated it. unlike producer Alexander Salkind and director Richard Donner, who knew that they were dealing with a significant piece of lasting Americana, Max and Dave were, for all intents and purposes, contributing to that mythos. you can never tell what's gonna have staying power. truth to tell, in the days before television syndication and/or home-video, posterity wasn't necessarily an issue.
but either way it was fun while it lasted, and it remains the very best Superman cartoon production ever mounted (or likely to be mounted).
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on October 24, 2016
They don't make super hero cartoons with this sort of style any more. The Fleischers seemed to bring a film noir quality to the silly adventures that somehow just works. Even when Superman is punching out a goofy looking "dinosaur", he looks GREAT. These superb cartoons influenced both the beloved WB animated batman series and the somewhat less beloved Sky Captain.
The best presentation on home video. Beware the many public domain ripoffs. This is the real deal at a steal.
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on May 1, 2016
I loved this old cartoons. I watched them on TV as a kid. Superman was not all that powerful, he was affected by tear gas, it took effort to pull a train up hill, he could be stopped and he always beat the bad guy in the end. The fact that he needed to exert an extra effort to win made him more heroic. Watching them brought back many memories. These cartoons introduced the now famous "it's a bird,it's a plane introduction. It also had Superman flying for the first time. The animation is crude by today's standards, but not bad. Each story is complete. Each story is about 10 minutes. The Cartoon came out before WWII so none of the bad guy are Japanese or German and Superman fought for Truth and Justice. It would not be until the 1950's TV series during the Red Scare that they added "The American Way" was added.They are fun to watch.
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on January 31, 2015
these super man cartoons are fantastic great color , great sound , excellent production values . the stories are inventive and fun
although a tiny bit offensive by todays standards . being a child in the late 50"s i saw some of these cartoons at the theater with my siblings , with an enormous tub of popcorn and soda pop , it's a great memory . these cartoons are gems .
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on August 23, 2015
It is really good, REALLY GOOD with great art, animation, atmosphere, an old sense of adventure and suspense that still holds tension, and a worth progenitor to generations of dramatic and action cartoons........... then you hit the racism like a brick wall. A rocket powered brick wall that you just insulted and that hates your face. But that only applies to 4 of the dozen or so shorts.

BUT THAT IS JUST HISTORY FOR YOU. It is animation and thus it is a matter of art that reflects and preserves the time it was created (which is why we don't burn copies of the Merchant of Venice for anti-Semitism). This will put stuff like Dumbo into context a bit more if you still don't get what racism looked like in the bygone days. Not the worst of the era by a long shot (check out some flies her material and war time looney tunes for the whiskey of the breed), but seeing straight up villains with racial masks of the period.........yikes (and nope, it is not just the war time enemies).

Do not show to particularly stupid children.
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on January 25, 2013
I love Superman. When I was a kid, I had just about everything that Superman was on ; action figures, comics, books, games, and I even had a Superman shirt. I loved this cartoon when I was a kid. I still have a VHS tapes of about half of the shows that I was given in 1985.

Quality of this dvd....
When the case says superior elements were used for this set, you can believe it. Of course, there's a bit of flicker, hair, and scratches, but the image is far and above any public domain sets of this show. The colours are, for the most part, bright and vivid. There were even some effects that I don't remember ever seeing.

Audio....
This is the one downside of this set. The show is in mono. Which, in it's self, isn't a problem. But some of these episodes, if listened to in All Channel Stereo or Full Mono setting, has a strange buzzing or crackling in time with the audio. I'm not finished with the set yet, but so far, it seems as though half of the episodes have this problem. I solved this problem (mostly) by using Direct or Mono settings on my receiver. These cartoons are on the Ultimate Superman Collector's set from a few years ago, so sometime I'll check to see if these episodes have the same sound problem.

Case....
I love the slipcase this set comes in. It has a sort of rough texture to it and the font used gives the set a really cool vintage look.

Update: I finished the set and the strange audio popping and crackling is on about half of the episodes. I checked my ultimate superman dvd set from a few years ago, and the sound isn't on those versions of the episodes. But it's something that I can put up with for the sake of convenience. I didn't see too much difference in the visual quality of the episodes between the two sets. I wish that Warner would do some sort of replacement program or something. But this is warner we're talking about. They don't have a great track record with replacement programs. I still recommend the set, though. The all around package makes it worth it.
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on September 16, 2017
Complete collection of some of the most groundbreaking, influential and historically important animated shorts from filmmaking's Golden Age. Care was taken in these transfers and the images are first rate and much clearer than past slap-dash releases.
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on April 12, 2016
Great little collection of all the 1940's Superman cartoons. So much you could discuss here. The development of Superman, Daily Planet and what powers he had back then. The amazing animation style by Fleischer. The historical WWII references. There's some really neat little episodes that are very fantastical and fun to watch.
Some reviewers are criticizing the depictions of Germans/Japanese in a few episodes. Well, the US was at war when this was made. WWII was a rough time for people, they needed to see someone like Superman fighting against the enemy and ending the war. Those episodes aimed at WWII are at it's worst a historical look at America's need for heroes and their wanting to end/win the war. A most very interesting point in Superman's existence.
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on March 9, 2013
These beautiful cartoons from the 1940s have been available for years in terrible 'private domain' DVDs. The prints were just awful..scratchy, grainy, too dark, poor sound..etc. They always deserved a great treatment since these 17 theatrical shorts were made with hard working and dedicated animation artists. These cartoons were meant to rival Disney cartoons at the time. An unprecedented amount of money was used to create these shorts. Unfortunately they were short lived, mostly because the Fleischer studios went bankrupt. But the first story (The Mad Scientist) truly shows how much time was spent on these cartoons, particularly when you see the machine explode near the end. The colors are magnificent and, of course, all of it was hand drawn rather than computer generated. What is great about this particular DVD set is that finally these shorts were cleaned up and beautifully restored to the quality the original audiences were able to watch back in the theaters. These same shorts with this quality are also available in the Superman tin collection with all of the Superman films including 'Superman Returns'. But the cartoons are scattered around in two disks with other unrelated special features. It's a pain to fumble around finding them. This DVD set is very inexpensive for what you get and it makes it so much easier to pop in the DVD player and just watch them. That's why I would recommend them even if you have them already in the tin collection. And if you by chance own them in a public domain format, I seriously urge you to throw it away and purchase this set. You will probably be absolutely amazed at the difference, making the older versions practically unwatchable. These are a great treat and finally are given the treatment they have deserved for years.
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on October 3, 2017
I always enjoy watching movies and shows on Superman. These are nice and simple cartoons.
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