THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
February 20, 2014 posted by Steve Stanchfield

“Old MacDonald Had A Farm” (1945) with the Original Titles!

Today on Thunderbean Thursday: The Lure of “Noveltoons” (and the farmer that must not be named).

Old-macdonald600

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.

NOVELTOON275I 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?

23 Comments

  • Speaking as an almost-charter member of APATOONS (I think that I joined with #2 or #3), I can say, “We were?” I don’t remember any particular love affairs with Famous Studios or the Noveltoons. Some individual cartoons, maybe. The most enthusiastic that we got was when someone found and shared some unknown production data on some old cartoon that hadn’t been seen by the public since its original release in the 1940s or 1950s. Okay, this included many Famous/Noveltoons titles.

  • I agree with your friend; blackie the sheep was awesome. if only they had made more, AND kept the premise they used in the series’ first cartoon.

  • It was actually the guest appearance of Little Audrey licking the ice cream cone in “Olive Oyl for President” that clued me in as a nursery school-aged yute to the fact that the same studio did the Popeye and Audrey cartoons — the crossover between the characters as Noveltoon regulars in the NTA package and having their own titles on the Harveytoons series made it easy to figure out the former was simply earlier versions of the latter.

    In New York in the early-to-mid-1960s, both those series were owned by WNEW-Ch. 5, while the Popeyes were played by WPIX-Ch. 11, which of course had the final two years of the Popeyes sans AAP opening and closing titles. That, plus a couple of 1950s Harveytoons that mentioned Paramount made the trail back to the original source easier for your average TV viewer (though having my first grade class at PS 40 take a tour of the studio when they were doing the made-for-TV Caspers kind of made it really easy to know where they came from….)

    • Damn you were lucky! I’m sure going through that period and wonder where these things came from made it all the more challenging when the original studio copyrights were blacked over and re-copyrighted to someone else.

  • The first time I saw a Noveltoon was either on one of my videos or one of my grandma’s videos. “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” was one of the Noveltoons she had. It’s great to see it with its original titles! Please do another Noveltoons set!

  • I think my first time was in the early 60′s at a Saturday kids matinee at my local movie theater. They would show a bunch of cartoons and Three Stooges shorts. I always looked forward to the Warner and Disneys, if I saw a Paramount I hoped it would be a Popeye or Baby Huey; the Screen Songs were never that funny but at least the animation was good.

  • While the Noveltoons cartoons were constantly shown on air when I was a kid, I still learned a lot from your NOVELTOONS collection, Steve. This is possibly also because these ere so numerous and, overall, I think my childhood viewing leaned more toward those beloved MGM classic theatrical cartoons as well as the Warner Brothers library, perhaps the largest of any theatrical animation studio going. It’s nice to see any of the Paramount cartoons with original logos since all I’d ever seen was the Harveytoons logo. Because of that, I, too, probably did not immediately get the impression that POPEYE and LITTLE AUDREY was done by the same studio, even though they contained similar scoring and sound effects. Then again, some early PUPPETTOONS contained some Paramount/Famous sound effects; I often wondered why.

  • I don’ t think I ever put Fleischer and Famous together, although there is a lot of overlap in those early 1940s Popeye cartoons. Something like Fleischers’ ‘Small Fry’ is very similar though to what became standard Famous fare. I’m not sure in Indianapolis how much of the Famous product we got in the late 50s, early 60s. There are a lot the Noveltoons DVD that I don’t remember. Mainly the characters like Baby Huey, Herman & Katnip & Little Audrey are what I recall. I’d really like to have the Little Lulu ‘Swinging On A Star’ cartoon.

    • Or is it called ‘Bout With A Trout’?

    • A little late on the reply here, but here’s the YouTube version of “A Bout With A Trout” with original titles and title card.

  • LONG LIVE FUH-FUH-FUH-FAYYYYYYYYY-MOUS!

  • I guess for me, my first glimpse of “Noveltoons” came in the form of those Public Domain videos of the 1980′s. At least one I can recall was from Kids Klassics, a sister label to Goodtimes Entertainment, that released many of these videos that were sold in regular places like Toys R Us. The tape in particular that may be my first was of the three Casper cartoons of the 1940′s “The Friendly Ghost”, “There’s Good Boos Tonight” and “A Haunting We Will Go”. Having already watched Popeye cartoons of the AAP library before this point, I might have mad some connection to these, but at the same time, hardly saw the Harveytoon versions that came in the 50′s (either they weren’t aired locally or I didn’t catch them when they were on). As the years when on and more tapes accumulated in my collection, I began familiarizing myself with this fabled studio and the names in the credits I could link to those earlier Fleischer Studio shorts or the later works that followed. It’s an interesting way to get introduced to these cartoons that at one point seemed neglected to this fate simply because of expired copyrights and a new medium that opened up for such material.

  • PD tapes of the 80′s and 90′s LOVED using Noveltoons as prime filler. I must confess that is where I first encountered them.

    Will be seeing a second Noveltoons collection from Thunderbean, Steve? or perhaps a Lulu collection?

    • According to Jerry Beck, a Little Lulu collection may not be released for a while. But I don’t know about another Noveltoon set…

  • I have to admit that, as much as I loved cartoons, I never got any of those PD VHS tapes that were produced in the ’80s and ’90s; after all, I thought the Looney Tunes and MGM cartoons would always get heavy airplay on TV, and the tapes that I saw always had poorly-drawn, off-model artwork of Bugs, Daffy, or Porky. As such, my introduction to the non-Popeye Famous Studios cartoons came via the flood of $1 PD DVDs from about 10 years ago. And while I think of Famous cartoons as generally being nice-looking but bland and repetitive, I agree with Eeteed that the Blackie the Sheep cartoons are standouts from that studio.

  • I remember seeing this years ago uncensored. As for post-Fleischer Famous Studios; Kneitel was wise to hire Otto Messmer and Jim Tyer, but couldn’t keep them due to poor judgement on his and Paramount’s behalf.

    • i sure would love to know the full story of how/why james tyer lost his job @ famous studios.

  • Back when my family lived in Chicago–this would be up until Valentine’s Day, 1960—I saw the “Little Lulu”, :”George Pal Puppetoon” and some of the “Screen Songs” on a noontime kid show on WGN (9). I don’t remember who was hosting. He also would ru “Chatter’s World”, a series of live-action shorts featuring the misadventures of a dressed-up chimpanzee.

    When we moved out here, KTLA (5) had the package which contained not only the “Little Lulu”, shorts but both the Noveltoons and the earlier “Color Classics” and “Animated Antics” ones as well. Usually, these ran on Skipper Frank’s program from four to five in the afternoon. They also were run on a noontime program hosted by an “Uncle Luther”, on a two-thirty-to-three show which may not have had a host, and a Sunday evening show that likewise did not have a live, in-studio host.
    Cartoons I can distinctly remember seeing included “Hunky and Spunky”, “The Fresh Vegetable Mystery”, “Bunnymooning”, “Ants In The Plants”, “Cilly Goose”, two of the “Land Of The Lost” shorts, (Jewels and Knives), some of the “Gabby” and “Stone AGe” cartoons, “Small Fry” and several “Little Lulu” entries.

    Of course, our television was black-and-white, and so was the broadcast. But, through the miracle of RCA’s Compatible Color system, we were able to see them.

    These were NTA prints in the main, a few of which with their brass-trio fanfare.

    KCOPP (13) had a package of UM&M shorts, primarily “Betty Boop”, that they’d run now and then. And KTLA also had the “Popeye” packages–both the AAP and the KFS.

  • My first exposure was a PD VHS tape that included “The Old Shell Game” and “The Big Flame Up”. As a kid, I just assumed they were older Looney Tunes until years later.

  • I recall “Harveytoons”, like the pre- ’48 Warner Bros. cartoons, and “Flintstones” re-runs, were ubiquitous children’s programming fare on local TV stations throughout the seventies. It seemed like every town ran them. I can remember wondering if theater audiences would actually sing along to those bouncing ball shorts.

  • I didn’t have many PD VHS tapes growing up, but if I think about it, I’d be willing to bet that my first exposure to the Noveltoons (and the Fleischer Color Classics) was actually through the PBS program “Shining Time Station.” While admittedly the show is better known for introducing Thomas the Tank Engine to US audiences, almost every episode had a music video that was illustrated with classic PD cartoons. Shorts like “Play Safe”, “The Friendly Ghost”, “Cheese Burglar”, even “Gulliver’s Travels”!

    It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the connection between those shorts and the Popeye cartoons I was seeing contemporaneously on TNT or Cartoon Network.

  • Growing up in the late 60s, my exposure to the Famous Studios cartoons came at lunchtime with a home-grown program broadcast on Kitchener ON’s “Cartoon Playhouse” (later becoming ‘Big Al and Friends’ showing mostly WB cartoons and then the Flinstones) which basically ran any cartoon from MGM-> Famous-> Warner brothers-> Universal-> Columbia-> UPA. They must have had a print library because I recall many of their prints included B&W Looney Tunes and cartoons that weren’t necessarily in the syndicated packages (I do recall seeing stuff like the Fox and Crow, Early Noveltoons, Happy Harmonies, and several of the ‘Censored 11′).

    Anyway, their first cartoon at 12pm was ALWAYS a Famous Studios cartoon and at the time I was well-versed with the Funday Funnies group as I was allowed to buy and read the comics (Casper, Audrey, Huey, H&K, Buzzy)- so I always looked forward to seeing the Harvey “H” appear then await the Noveltoons theme music.

    However a few times I did see the original Famous Jack-in-the-Box and didn’t know WTH it was different than the other cartoons- I used to sit by the TV with a tape recorder and record the broadcast to listen to when I got home at the end of a school day. I loved the “bouncing ball” cartoons and sang along- which I how I learned a lot of those older songs- and was glued to the set during the sequences when the lettering morphed into the characters and assembled a picture :-)

    Years later I actually found those cassette tapes and listened to them- reciting many of the cartoons by heart, even 20 yrs afterwards… and recognizing a lot of the early titles by their audio.

  • I remember seeing this Paramount/Famous”Noveltoon”on “Cartoon Playtime”on WNEW TV Ch.5 in NYC back in the late 1950′s. But..when I watched this film..it had the UM&M tv packager logo at the intro. This is the first time that I’ve seen this movie cartoon with the original titles.

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