Today on Thunderbean Thursday: The Lure of “Noveltoons” (and the farmer that must not be named).
I have to admit: I was never into the Paramount’s Noveltoons or Screen Songs from the 40s in the same way I was into so many other cartoon series. It would be accurate to say that I’ve always liked certain cartoons in the series- but I honestly had never really gone looking for them in many years of collecting.
I was too young to see many of these cartoons on TV. I had seen OTHER Famous Studios series… Casper cartoons and of course the Popeyes – but I can’t remember seeing a Noveltoon growing up at all. While working on the Noveltoons DVD set, I was surprised to find such nice material on many of the films. By this point, I had seen most of them, but usually in the washed out 16mm prints that NTA made. Funny enough, for the DVD project, I did find (and use) some 16mm printing negs that UM&M (NTA) made, and was happily surprised that those negatives held color a whole lot better than the prints did.
I remember a lightbulb going off as a kid seeing an early 40s Popeye that has ‘It’s a Hap Hap Happy Day‘ as part of the score – a huge moment in realizing that this was the same studio that made Gulliver’s Travels. Did any of you have the same sort of ‘discovery’ while trying to figure out what studio made what? Of course, it would have been smart of me to look at the credits- but heck, I was seven!
In the early 80s I called a collector friend in New York and had a conversation that eventually led to talking about Noveltoons. Thinking about it, almost every conversation with him seemed to end with talk about the series. I was likely calling him to buy some Scrappys that were advertised in The Big Reel, as usual. He was a member of APATOONS, the fanzine that the ‘cool’ hardcore animation fans got. Still being a teenager, I had the impression that I wouldn’t be ‘cool’ enough to join …reiterated by my new friend’s reinforcement that everyone in the group loved the Noveltoons and Famous studios cartoons more than any other: a sort of Cult group of fans. To him, the best of these were the Blackie the Sheep cartoons and the first few with Herman. He said these were ‘Cult-toons’. That name became the inspiration for the VHS tapes I started to put together a handful of years later.
He also introduced me to many films I had never heard about, including things like Monkey Doodle and the Cy Young’s Spring Song cartoon (in a black and white print). As a cartoon collector, I’ve always had a thrill seeing cartoons I had never seen before. Something I really miss from the early days of collecting was getting a new film reel in the mail, looking very much like all the other reels until it was projected. I’m sure this is the same sort of thrill newer viewers got when they popped in one of the cheap VHS PD tapes that were sold at the supermarket or Kmart or everywhere- and the thrill even newer eyes are getting finding these films on the internet. It must be neat to find something you like and then drudge around on the net to figure out what other people have said about it. The newer generation seems to really love a lot of these films; many of them grew up wearing out those PD VHS kiddie tapes.
Old Mcdonald Had A Farm (1945) is officially a Noveltoon, though it’s clearly laying the groundwork in format for the new ‘Screen Song’ series that was to follow. Many of you die-hards will be able to identify various animators that worked on this picture.
One particular collector friend of mine loves this particular cartoon above all others. He saw it on a UAV tape as a kid that broke, so since then he’s been looking for a print with the original titles. In a way, his mission to find a
print with the original titles on this one is similar to any of collector looking for their favorite thing. It’s totally HIS fault that I transferred this one more recently. After a bit of searching, I ended up borrowing a print from the same collector that I had the conversation about Noveltoons with 30 years ago. Funny enough, he asked me if I’ve finally come around to liking the Noveltoons all these years later! I couldn’t believe he remembered that conversation with the 15 year old teenage obsessed with Scrappy cartoons… I should probably send him the Nolvetoons DVD that Thunderbean produced.
This is a 16mm Kodachrome print from the 40s – not as beautiful as a 35mm on this cartoon, but very watchable.
I do have to admit, I’d still rather see any of these on the big screen, in a 35mm Technicolor print with an audience… whenever there is a chance to do so I still will.
So, when did you first see a Noveltoon?