Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Max Fleischer’s Super Superman Cartoons

Max Fleischer's Superman Cartoons
I sometimes despair that people younger than a certain age will think that the generally terrible state of current television animation is what 2-D or hand-drawn animation is limited to.

True, many of them have been introduced to the high-points of Japanese anime as exemplified by great directors like Hayao Miyazaki, but how many more think the warmed-over examples of anime available on TV are the height of that genre as well?

It seems that everyone knows, through cultural osmosis if by no other means, about Bugs Bunny and some of the Disney classics, but how easily the actual achievements of great hand-drawn animation are submerged beneath the waves of over-hyped 3D features.

Even more overlooked are some of the cinematic gems of the mid 20th Century that were shown as featurettes before feature films in the 1940’s, and later shown on television in the 1950’s.

A shining case in point are the wonderful 8-minute Superman cartoons created by Max and Dave Fleischer’s studio. For more detail, see my previous post about Max Fleischer.

As I mentioned in that post, the cartoons themselves can be viewed online via the Internet Archive or purchased on DVD. (You can also find some of them on YouTube in varying degrees of quality, or lack thereof.)

Hans Bacher, on his terrific blog One1more2time3’s Weblog: Animation Treasures, which I also wrote about before, has posted a wonderful set of screen shots from 4 of those classics in an article titled up in the sky…, which allows you to stop and appreciate the beautiful drawing, backgrounds, composition, lighting, staging and “cinematography” that made these cartoons mini-masterpieces of animation.

This is a film noir Superman, and still the best version of the character ever brought to the screen.

3 thoughts on “Max Fleischer’s Super Superman Cartoons

  1. tim b

    I found a full DVD set of the Fleischer Superman episodes at used bookstore a while back and loved them.

    God knows, no one could probably afford to do hand-painted backgrounds like that anymore. But the richness of atmosphere and color really is (or ought to be) shaming for anyone who’s accomplishing way, way less with a way, way larger set of tools.

  2. Brandon Robinson

    Sir your telling the truth! I studied 2/D animation in art college and I’m often frustrated that american animation has yet to take traditional animation to the next level. As much as 3/D is popular nothing will compare to the amazing work of classic 2/d animation and the art that made it so wonderful.

  3. j.d. smith

    I can recall seeing these on TV as a kid in the 50’s and 60’s. I would actually CALL the TV staion to find out when they would show them, so I would be absolutely sure not to miss them! I sought them out for years before they were available for ver little years afterwards.
    I’m convinced that these mini-masterpieces are the quintessential versions of the Man of Steel narrative, the original creators had in mind. Nothing since has so perfectly captured the true essence of Superman’s character!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>