NOVELTOONS Original Classics
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When Paramount removed Max Fleischer (Betty Boop, Popeye) from control of the Fleischer cartoon studio in 1942, the future looked grim. But under the new name of Famous Studios, a core group of artists kept at work—and brought a crazy cast of characters to life in Noveltoons, an unforgettable one-shot series.
Now 20 of these classics are back, digitally restored and remastered from original 35mm and 16mm film materials-brighter and more colorful than they've looked in decades. Famous stars like Raggedy Ann, Herman the Mouse, Blackie Sheep, and Baby Huey pop right off the screen... with anvils and shotguns in hand!
Bonus features include commentaries by animators and animation historians; galleries of original art and ads; vintage storyboards and more.
Cartoons included on this set:
Cilly Goose, Suddenly It's Spring, Yankee Doodle Donkey, Scrappily Married, A Lamb in a Jam, Cheese Burglar, Sudden Fried Chicken, Stupidstitious Cat, Enchanted Square, Much Ado About Mutton, Quack-a-Doodle-Do, The Wee Men, Naughty But Mice, Flip Flap, The Bored Cuckoo, Teacher's Pest, Leprechaun's Gold, Ups and Downs Derby, Pleased to Eat You and Saved By the Bell.
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It's pretty ironic that a cartoon studio bearing the moniker "Famous" produced so many shorts and characters that weren't. They were better known for Popeye, Superman and Casper the Ghost, but they also churned out a number of other creations like Herman the Mouse and Baby Huey, not to mention hordes of one-shot wonders.
Most of these miscellaneous shorts were released under the banner of the "Noveltoons" series. Famous Studios was formed in 1942 in the aftermath of some bitter business between Max and Dave Fleischer and distributor Paramount Pictures, so most of the staff from the original Fleischer studio remained. Many of them were master animators who had been in the game since the silent days, and it's interesting to see what they came up with when they weren't just making more Popeye or Superman shorts.
Not surprisingly, the animation in most of the Noveltoons is top notch, especially in the earlier entries. The art of Dave Tendlar, John Gentilella, Isadore Sparber, Seymour Kneitel, and Dan Gordon shines, as does that of Jim Tyer, one of the wackiest animators ever to pick up a pencil. It's nice to see these films with their original credits restored so that these artists can be appreciated by name.
Another aspect of the Noveltoons that really stands out is the voice acting. Sadly, it appears that Paramount, like many cartoon producers, had no interest in giving the actors credit. But they're good ones: Jackson Beck (who voiced Bluto in the Popeye shorts), Jack Mercer (Popeye), Sid Raymond, and Arnold Stang, among others. Composer Winston Sharples provides great musical scores as well.
As for the humor, well, after watching several Noveltoons in a row, it becomes clear why they aren't more popular. While the animation and artistry are on par with the best series from other studios at the time, the laughs aren't. The stories are mostly linear and straightforward, and the timing is often slow. The characters are memorable, but with many of them there's a feeling that we've seen them before. Blackie the Lamb could stand in for Bugs Bunny, Buzzy the Crow could be Woody Woodpecker, and Herman, for all his wiseguy charm, is really just another cartoon mouse in a sea of others. Even the overgrown lummox child concept had been done before Baby Huey showed up. (Junyer Bear, anyone?) At their best, though, these cartoons are still enjoyable, especially in the way the characters look and move. The cat and dog in "Cheese Burglar", the wolf in "Teacher's Pest", the horse in "Ups an' Downs Derby", and others just LOOK funny. It's also obvious when animator Jim Tyer is drawing them...they suddenly take on new levels of wackiness.
By the 1950's, the Famous cartoons got pretty formulaic and budget cuts put a damper on the creativity, but this DVD focuses on the 1942-1950 period, and there was some real experimentation going on here. There are rowdy cat-and-mouse chases clearly influenced by MGM, but there are also sweet, touching stories like "The Enchanted Square" featuring Raggedy Ann. There are chase cartoons, but there are also able attempts at Disney cuteness.
The real selling point of this DVD set, though, is the effort Steve Stanchfield and his team put into restoring these films. They're public domain, so they're easy to find...in fact they're a dime a dozen. Most of the copies out there, though, are shabby, faded and beat-up. They've changed hands so many times over the years that many have their titles and credits lopped off and replaced with a TV distributor's logo, are re-titled as "Harveytoons", and look like they were rescued from a local TV station's dumpster. (I suspect many of the prints used on the old public domain vhs collections were, in fact, acquired through Waste Management.) Stanchfield decided to go the extra mile and track down original theatrical prints with their original Paramount/Famous titles and credits, with unfaded color. If you've seen them before, you've never seen them like this! The colors pop, the lines are crystal clear, and the sound is excellent. These cartoons were made in Technicolor, and they USED it. At times it's dazzling, particularly the backgrounds. The skies in "Lamb in a Jam", the fantasy world in "The Enchanted Square", the backyard in "Naughty But Mice", and the house in "Stupidstitious Cat" will knock your socks off. Some shorts definitely look better than others, and you'll come across some dust, lines and the occasional film splice here and there...but it really gives you the feeling that you're watching these cartoons as they were seen back in the 1940's. Even the one or two lesser-quality prints on here look better than anything you'll find in the Wal Mart bargain bin.
It's also nice to see that Steve worked with the experts on this one. Jerry Beck, Thad Komorowski, Mike Kazaleh and Bob Jaques all give very informative commentaries. There's also bonus material including model sheets and drawings, plus a storyboard to finished cartoon comparison.
This DVD gave me a new appreciation for a series of cartoons I knew very little about, and introduced me to several great Golden Age films I'd just flat-out never seen. If not consistently funny or groundbreaking, they're beautiful to look at, and the animation is fantastic. Steve Stanchfield and Thunderbean Animation did this one right, and if you're an animation enthusiast, this belongs in your collection.
I ordered this DVD on a Sunday and it arrived in PA (from MI I believe) the following Friday AM (the day I am writing this). I've already watched it and it is everything I'd hoped it would be. Steve & company don't just compile the best of what they find and offer it to the public - they painstakingly make it SO MUCH BETTER.
For those of you familiar with the Thunderbean Animation products - well, you're not reading this because you know what to expect. For those of you unfamiliar - this is not a run-of-the-mill public domain collection. This is a collection of hard to find masters beautifully restored to as close to the original productions as you will ever find them (perfect in my opinion).
This is a collectors' collection. I can't top that last statement.
I don't usually talk much about the quality of a dvd, except for Cartoons as some need a re-mastered here and there, but this is one hell of an exceptional set of restored shorts. Just beautifully done.
It's a treasure to see such forgotten shorts being treat so wonderfully. Ignore any mindless chatter about violence and focus on the colours, the charming nature of the cartoons and the commentaries and extra's. They're all to die for.
The menu's are professional and easily navigated.
I'm gutted there was no small accompanying booklet like Snafu, Cubby bear etc, but that's my only fault (if you can call it as such)
Just buy the darn set and enjoy times forgotten gems.
Thank you Steve Stanchfield and Thunderbean employee for this output.
This set was so good, Steve from Thunderbean confirmed this set sold out! No wonder, because this is one of the best sets of Thunderbean I've ever watched. It never gets old at all. Get this set now. Definitely worth the money you spend!
Most recent customer reviews
ALSO GREAT QUALITY FOR IT'S AGE..Read more
20 Cartoons have been restored and remastered from 35mm and 16mm film materials:
01) Cilly Goose, 1944...Read more