Let’s begin this week with a look at the Paramount Shorts trade advertisement for the 1952-53 season. Some interesting points to note here. Apparently Casper was featured on a marquee somewhere, or maybe it was wishful thinking, but it was a good enough idea for Paramount to build the advertisement around. Note “Little Billy” represents the Kartunes. This season would mark the end of that series – and the beginning of another, Herman and Katnip.
Also note the image of Casper on the top left… obviously an early model that gives him a “white sheet” motif, with smaller feet. Also note this little known fact: Harvey later obtained Paramount’s live action Toppers, Pacemakers and Sportlights live action shorts in the deal they would make with Paramount in 1958 – but we will talk about that in a later post.
Here’s the three-page contract extension for the 52-53 season (sorry about the hard-to-read main page – original was a tissue paper carbon page which has not withstood the ravages of time. If anyone wants to take a crack at transcribing it, be my guest). Here you can see (if you squint) that Paramount ordered four “Herman The Mouse” cartoons – which, of course, became the Herman and Katnip series. Also note that Famous received a $60,000 raise for production of this season of cartoons.
Trade magazines like Boxoffice and Motion Picture Exhibitor continue to follow the trends among shorts in the theaters. Boxoffice’s survey (below left) has Popeye knocked down to 8th place in popularity – but at least he’s still in the “top ten”. Toreadorable is noted as number 9 amongst all “best shorts”! Exhibitor comments are quoted, including this one from Iowa: “Could get along without Casper The Ghost.” Golly, that’s not so “friendly”.
Motion Picture Exhibitor ignored Famous Studios entirely (though Paramount’s live action sports reels were awarded). That image selected for the Universal One-Reel Musical, “Cartoon Melodies” – we need to see these – they sound intriguing.
Starting this week I’ll list the releases for each season by series, adding release dates, director/head animator credit, a one line plot synopsis, and an occasional historic note.
SHUTEYE POPEYE – (10/3/52) Sparber/Eugster, A snoring Popeye does battle with a sleep-deprived mouse.
BIG BAD SINDBAD – (12/12/52) Kneitel/Johnson. Popeye tells his nephews of his battle with Sindbad the Sailor (via stock footage from the Fleischer two-reeler).
ANCIENT FISTORY – (1/30/53) Kneitel/Eugster. A parody of Cinderella, with Popeye as “Cinderfella”.
CHILD SOCK-OLOGY – (3/27/53) Sparber/Johnson. Popeye and Bluto compete to rescue Swee’pea who is crawling about a construction site.
POPEYE’S MIRTHDAY – (5/22/53) Kneitel/Johnson. The nephews try to keep Popeye from entering the house until Olive finishes preparing for his surprise birthday party.
TOREADORABLE – (6/12/53) Kneitel/Johnson. Popeye versus Matador Bluto in a bullfighting arena.
BABY WANTS A BATTLE – (7/24/53) Kneitel/Eugster. Popeye and Bluto recall their first battle, as babies in the 1890s.
FIREMAN’S BRAWL – (8/24/53) Sparber/Johnson. A remake of Fleischer’s The Two Alarm Fire, as Popeye and Bluto compete to contain Olive’s house fire.
Below (click to enlarge) storyboard panels from Popeye’s Mirthday (courtesy of Howard Lowery).
THE CASE OF THE COCKEYED CANARY (Little Audrey) – (12/19/52) Kneitel/Muffatti. Private Eye Audrey investigates the murder of Cock Robin.
FEAST AND FURIOUS (Finny the Goldfish) – (12/26/52) Sparber/Waldman. Katnip tries to eat Finny the goldfish.
STARTING FROM HATCH (Baby Huey) – (3/6/53) Kneitel/Tendlar. Huey is born (again) and is chased by the Fox.
WINNER BY A HARE (Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare) – (4/17/53) Sparber/Waldman. Hare bets everything on his race with turtle.
BETTER BAIT THAN NEVER (Buzzy The Crow) – (6/5/53) Kneitel/Tendlar. Katnip wants to use Buzzy as fishing bait.
SURF BOARD (Little Audrey) – (7/17/53) Sparber/Redden. Audrey tries to sneak her dog onto the beach.
Note: All the songs this season were (and still are) in public domain – except “Oh Ma-Ma”.
FOREST FANTASY – (11/14/52) Kneitel/Waldman. Forest animal gags with “By The Light Of The Silvery Moon”.
HYSTERICAL HISTORY – (1/23/53) Sparber/Eugster. American history gags with “Yankee Doodle Dandy”
PHILHARMANIACS – (4/3/53) – Kneitel/Johnson. All-animal orchestra gags (quasi-remake of Fleischer’s A Cartune Portrait) with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”.
AERO-NUTICS – (5/8/53) Kneitel/Eugster. Air travel spot gags with “Come Josephine In My Flying Machine”.
INVENTION CONVENTION – (6/10/53) Sparber/Eugster. Crazy inventions with “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”
NO PLACE LIKE ROME – (7/31/53) Sparber/Eugster. Spot gags about Italy with “Oh Ma-Ma (The Butcher Boy)”. The final Kartune release.
TRUE BOO – (10/24/52) Sparber/Muffatti. Casper befriends Little Billy as Santa Claus (a quasi redo of Fleischer’s Christmas Comes But Once A Year)
FRIGHTDAY THE 13th – (2/13/53) Sparber/Waldman. Casper makes friends with Lucky, a black cat.
SPOOK NO EVIL – (3/13/53) Kneitel/Waldman. Casper makes friends with Jocko The monkey.
NORTH PAL – (5/29/53) Sparber/Muffatti. Casper befriends a seal at the North Pole.
BY THE OLD MILL SCREAM – (7/3/53) Kneitel/Waldman. Casper helps a beaver build his dam.
LITTLE BOO PEEP – (8/28/53) Kneitel/Waldman. Casper rescues Bo Peep’s sheep from Wolfie in Mother Goose Land.
MICE-CAPADES – (10/3/52) Kneitel/Eugster. Herman tricks Katnip into thinking he’s dead.
OF MICE AND MAGIC – (2/20/53) Sparber/Tendlar. Tendlar. Herman uses magic to rescue Louise from Katnip.
HERMAN THE CATOONIST – (5/15/53) Sparber/Waldman. Katnip chases Herman around a cartoonists art studio.
DRINKS ON THE MOUSE – (8/18/53) Tendlar/Taras. They chase around a Malt Shop. First director screen credit for Dave Tendlar.
Below is the publicity sheet that went out to exhibitors to promote the first official Herman and Katnip series release, Mice-Capades. Note that they promote the Harvey’s Paramount Animated Comics which at this time (late 1952 and into 1953) H&K were prominently featured on the covers. They also mention the theme song sheet music, published by Famous Music. It always intrigued me that it says on this (and all subsequent) press sheets “Advertising Assesory: Stock One-Sheet”. I’ve never seen a Herman and Katnip one sheet poster – have you? I hold out hope that such a piece will emerge.
(Thanks this week to Howard Lowery, Ken Layton, Art Binninger and Thad)