Animation History
December 2, 2021 posted by Jerry Beck

Bringing Fleischer’s “Somewhere In Dreamland” to MeTV

They said it couldn’t be done. In fact, after three decades of personal effort, I was convinced it would never happen.

But Monday December 13th, in prime time, the first salvo of a new initiative to restore and preserve the classic Max Fleischer cartoons – locked for decades in the vaults at Paramount – will be available for the world to see. On that Monday’s special nighttime telecast of MeTV’s Super Colossal Cartoon Christmas (8pm EST/PST), a newly restored version of Fleischer’s Somewhere In Dreamland will make it’s debut.

The cartoon, the ninth of the “Color Classics” series, the first one photographed in 3-strip Technicolor, is a showcase for Fleischer’s incredible “Stereo-Optical” 3-Dimensional setbacks. The process, which involved building miniatures sets, filmed frame-by-frame on a revolving platform, with a special camera rig that shot the animation cels hung in front of a window, is still inspiring animators today (Cuphead, anyone?).

Because it was the first Fleischer short ever to be filmed in full (3-strip) Technicolor, the sets in the Dreamland sequence are especially colorful – an effort to somewhat blow the minds of Depression-era audiences, and perhaps their rivals at Disney. The cartoon has heart, visual splendor and a classic sense of wonder.

Credit for getting this film on the air, on MeTV, should go completely to MaxFleischerCartoons.com. They accomplished something I certainly couldn’t do – and I’m grateful to see some movement in restoring classic cartoons in the Paramount Vault.


It’s not like we (me and small band of historian/archivists) haven’t tried over the years. I’ve spent much time myself throughout the years trying to convince various studio execs to revive and restore their Fleischer library – first at NTA/Republic back in the 1998 (the result, the heavily DVNR-laced Betty Boop: The Definitive Collection); then I worked with distributor Kit Parker on a Color Classic collection (on VHS and DVD, from an assortment of fuzzy 16mm prints culled from rental libraries and private collectors) named after Somewhere In Dreamland for VCI Entertainment in 2002.

As a consultant to Warner Bros. Home Video, I contributed to the efforts to get the Fleischer Popeye cartoons restored and released on DVD in 2007 and the public domain Fleischer Superman shorts restored from their negs and compiled in 2009.

But cracking the code at Paramount Pictures has been superhumanly impossible. For the last several years I’d been content to work around the system to restore a handful of Fleischer cartoons via the preservation fund at Asifa-Hollywood (we’ve saved Raggedy Ann & Andy, The Raven, Dinah, Buzzy Boop at The Concert, Always Kicking’, Koko’s Earth Control and half-a-dozen more). DVD and/or blu ray releases from Ray Pointer’s Inkwell Images, Tommy Stathes’ Cartoons on Film (Cartoon Roots) and Steve Stanchfield’s Thunderbean Animation (Fleischer Rareties) ignited fandom interest in Fleischer and kept the flame alive in recent years.


In 2020, Fleischer Studios Inc. itself – spearheaded by Max’s granddaughter Jane Reid – began a concerted effort to get the cartoons back on the public radar. Fleischer licensee Rockin’ Pins, backed by a new family-sponsored entity – Max Fleischer Cartoons LLC – made inroads at Paramount that simply weren’t possible before. With new financial incentives for licensing and broadcasting, and with the Fleischer family’s input and support, Paramount has permitted the scanning of an original camera negative as a first step – and reception to its first telecast (its debut on MeTV Dec. 13th) is key to this initiative.

Max Fleischer Cartoons LLC is actively working to locate, scan and restore the entire Fleischer filmography. Images accompanying this post are from the new restoration. This (we hope) is only the beginning!

For this broadcast, we have to thank Jane Reid at Max Fleischer Cartoons LLC, Andrea Kalas at Paramount Pictures Archives, the UCLA Film and Television Archives, Mauricio Alvarado at Rockin Pins, and a digital restoration team that includes Jack Theakston and Thad Komorowski.

For me, the Color Classics and the Screen Songs (and another half-dozen early Bimbo Talkartoons) are the gems of the Paramount library. It’s almost criminal they’ve been neglected all these years and lay waiting to be rediscovered in those nitrate vaults. Could a proper set of Color Classics come to physical media, MeTV or Paramount+ someday? Let’s encourage those possibilities. Spread the word. Share this post. Tune in with me watching MeTV’s Super Colossal Cartoon Christmas on Monday December 13th (8pm EST/PST) – and let’s all work together to make that happen.

56 Comments

  • Seeing restored versions of all of the Fleischer Color Classics has been a childhood dream of mine as an animation fan. Hopefully this is the start of bigger things to come! I cannot wait to watch this!

  • I remember the “Somewhere in Dreamland” DVD was one of my earliest purchases directly from the US to Germany where I was living at that time, and my overall disappointment with the dull colors and lack of sharpness compared with the Walt Disney Treasures first wave….
    So this development is great news. And the perspective of having the neglected early Fleischer shorts in restored quality is tantalizing. Can I start holding my breath for watching “Sweet Jenny Lee” in its 1932 glory?
    Congrats to you, too, Jerry: Remember it was your contribution to Leonard Maltin’s “Of Mice and Magic” that sparked my interest in picking classic animation as a hobby, and I believe I am far from being alone with that.

  • This is a dream come true, for me and you! Those images from “Somewhere in Dreamland” are fantastic! Unfortunately Me TV isn’t telecast in my country, but I’m heartened by the prospect of someday being able to see my favourite Color Classic in a semblance of its original splendour, as well as “Poor Cinderella”, “Little Dutch Mill”, “An Elephant Never Forgets”, “Cobweb Hotel”, “Time for Love”, “Greedy Humpty Dumpty”, “All’s Fair at the Fair”, and all the rest. Heck, I’d even be thrilled to see “Playful Polar Bears” and the whole Hunky & Spunky series if they look this good! Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to this momentous and vital endeavour. If the Fleischer Color Classics can be resurrected at long last from the Paramount vaults, who knows what else is possible? Even — dare I hope — Terrytoons…?

    “Dreams will come true for me and you, somewhere in Dreamland tonight!” Sweet dreams, everybody!

  • This is excellent to hear! Glad that Paramount is finally doing something with the Fleischer shorts. Hopefully they will next tackle the Terrytoon shorts if someone is able to convince them. My only concern for this new restoration is if they cheaped out and only scanned the picture elements and took the soundtrack from one of the older, ancient dvd releases that sounds like crap. Going off what I’ve seen and heard, most bigger studio restorations skip over the scanning of the soundtrack for the cartoons. Thunderbean, Tommy, ‘n’ Criterion (Oswald shorts) get it right. As much as I like the Golden/Platinum collections, HBO Max restorations, the Tom & Jerry blu-ray set, and Tex sets, many of the shorts have crap choices or poorly restored tracks. Hoping the soundtrack will be fine on this short, and that it will be successful enough to spur more restorations and hopefully a Blu-ray release.

  • Excellent news. I am hoping for a full restoration of the Stone Age Cartoons, the Color Classics and the early Koko’s. It would be nice to have the 30’s Popeyes on BluRay. Speaking of which, has any more news come of the 1950’s Popeye Blurays?

  • Does the fact that MeTV blows up most of their 1:33 shows effect this?

    • The Toon in With Me show airs most cartoons in 1.33:1 Academy ratio. The only exception so far has been the Pink Panther shorts, which are shown in 1.78:1. So I think even in a prime time special, Somewhere in Dreamland will be shown in 1.33:1.

      • The only other exception has been the MGM Cinemacope cartoons which have been cropped to 1:1.33.

  • I think showing the other Fleischer cartoons besides Popeye on MeTV is a wonderful idea! Besides, it would be nice to see the original Paramount titles again after years of watching shorts with TV titles. Then again, we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • This is animation history that has been a long time coming…..finally we will be able to see these classic cartoons properly for the first time since their original theatrical reissues. No more UM&M/NTA alterations, bad edits, beet red prints, etc.

    This proves what a valuable asset Paramount cartoons were…and will be again! Thanks guys!

  • Jaw-dropping!

  • This is big news and huge congratulations to Fleisher Studios – and thanks for all your efforts as well, Jerry.

    The rights holders and parent companies with sharp business acumen in today’s landscape of rising costs of new material (which is, of course, vital to sustain a present-day industry) are hopefully realizing that the indifference to viable, potentially appealing back catalog “content” is no longer a current business model. Such works are extremely necessary now and add up to potential profits. There are actual mines out there ready to yield riches for the public and the bottom line.

  • First, I’m glad a Paramount cartoon that isn’t Betty Boop, Superman or Popeye is airing on TV again after all these years. And then, I’m ticked that where I live, Beaufort, South Carolina, doesn’t carry MeTV!

  • I would also love to see Screen Songs (the color ones and the ones with Betty and Bimbo) on TV, Paramount+, or on a decent DVD/Blu Ray collection in the near future.

  • Out of my own concern I must say, is Somewhere in Dreamland de-grained? The Koko restorations they have done thus far are heavily degrained and their claims of saying that it’s Youtube compression aren’t true one bit. Grain is important to film and while this will be a very nice upgrade, I have to raise my concerns since this may be the ONLY time to get it right

    • Re: the Koko’s, one can’t really call those “restorations” at all. This is what happens when you get non-film people trying to do this stuff on the cheap. Can’t speak for Dreamland, though.

      • What restorations of OUT OF THE INKWELL are you referring to. To my knowledge they haven’t been “restored,” or certainly not the major entries, yet.

    • No grain was removed, you can rest easy. Check your Facebook messages, I sent you something

      • What did you send me?

        • A lump of coal since apparently I’m cheap. 🖤

  • This restoration was shown at the Redford Theatre’s Classic Cartoon Festival in Detroit this past weekend (with permission and credits from the restoration team), and it was absolutely breathtaking on the big screen. I would be among the first in line to buy a Color Classics Blu-Ray!

    • That was not the “restoration” posted here as I understand it. This is a new 4K digital scan.

      • Yes, it was the same exact restoration shown at the Redford that will be on MeTV. We let Steve Stanchfield run it there. Scott, glad it looked great on the big screen and can’t wait for everyone to see it.

  • I don’t have MeTV on YouTube TV. SID is one of those cartoons I would love to see in all its restored splendor. (Like seeing the jaw dropping Sinbad at the Egyptian). Maybe a publicly projected SID in Los Angeles somewhere? The New Beverly? Cinecon? (Like Raggedy Ann and the Raven). Thank you for all your efforts.

    • We are planning to show this publicly, on the big screen, Sunday December 26th (day after Christmas) at the Alex Theater in Glendale – Part of the annual GREATEST CARTOONS EVER! screening. More details and advance tickets here: https://alextheatre.org/event/the-greatest-cartoons-ever-2pm

  • Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this project! It sounds like it’s going to be terrific!

  • Something to celebrate.

  • OF COURSE this is great news! Let’s hope all us cartoon lovers will want more. I would love to see some of the late 1920’s-early 1930’s Screen Song cartoons in the original release versions. And…this is a long shot…maybe the lost Stone Age cartoon “Way Back When a Triangle Has It’s Points” will be re-discovered.

  • This is wonderful news! Kudos to everyone involved.

    The logical place for these restored cartoons to land would be Paramount Plus. I personally would like to see DVD or Blu-Ray sets.

  • I suppose Max Fleischer and Dave and everyone who made the films have earned a wee bit of credit too.

  • You forgot that Bill and Toony are showing Christmas Cartoons on December 23rd and Christmas Eve at 7am EST

  • Just set up the DVR to record this-yay!

  • Hopefully we’ll be seeing these on Paramount+

  • I’m not a fan of the Color Classics, although I do enjoy how the mother in “Dreamland” is Olive Oyl with plastic surgery. And “Poor Cinderella” is fun in its strangeness; Betty Boop playing it relatively straight with an air of a burlesque queen trying to go legit, and those mice singing off-key. But I’m glad for those who are that there’s a chance of them getting a proper outing other than the “Somewhere in Dreamland” DVD set. And just in time for “Christmas Comes But Once a Year.”

  • Jerry I remember when I was a kid seeing the Fletcher Raggedy Ann & Andy cartoon every Christmas Eve on local TV in Pittsburgh. There was just something magical about it. Thank you for all the effort you’ve put in to restore these beautiful Fleischer gems!

  • I wonder if the success of The Puppetoon Movie Volume 2 opened Paramounts eyes to the value of all these fantastic animated shorts.

  • Great news about the restorations. Honestly never expected to see that happen.

    So, Jerry, is it too early to start pestering you for information about when a DVD/Blu-ray collection of these cartoons is coming out? And is it too early to start demanding to know when the rest of the Fleischer/Famous titles are going to be restored? Oh, and the Terrytoons. We need to know right away when the Terrytoons are going to be restored.

    And is it too early to start complaining about the quality of the restorations and about DVNR?

  • I’m just wondering what erroneous factoids the “Cartoon Curator” will dole out before the presentation.

  • This is fantastic news! The holy grail for myself would be a 35 mm restored version of “Hold It!”. Maybe we will yet see this.

    Also, with Thad Komorowski on the case, no one needs to worry about improper digital restoration. Very heartening.

  • The great thing about this is that even at the MeTV commercial break rate an animated short can shown all the way through without being interrupted. Right? RIGHT?

    • I mean, the September 11 edition of Saturday Morning Cartoons did get preemted in my area for 9/11 20th anniversary, so you’re wrong.

  • “Locked in the vaults for decades”?! I know you guys like to pretend the public domain doesn’t exist, but the idea that Somewhere In Dreamland was lost until a copyrightable restoration of it was done is just taking it to a new level of brazenness.

    • No one is pretending that the public domain doesn’t exist. However, thanks to the public domain, this cartoon and several others have been seen for years in low-quality, worn-out duplicate prints. Paramount owns the original negative and it should be celebrated that a public domain cartoon is finally being recognised by its original distributor and being restored.

  • What brilliant news!
    I’d particularly like to see all the surviving Inkwells restored to the best that’s humanly possible (including some film grain of course!), as well as the Color Classics, the Talkartoons & the Fleischer cartoons featuring songs.
    Not to mention Mr Bug from the best existing materials.
    But of course also the entire Fleischer catalogue in total!

    • Not to worry! Cartoons On Film is already in the midst of working on all of the surviving Inkwell films for Blu-ray release.

      • Great news – Thanks!
        I realised you have an Inkwell set coming out next year & hoped to eventually release more. But I didn’t know that you plan to release all of the surviving films in the series!
        Which is of course even better – & even more so as I know you do all you can to restore them to the best possible condition. That’s going to be a brilliant set of blu ray releases.

        Animation fans will be so pleased to hear this – or may already be, if this is something you’ve previously announced re. all the surviving Inkwells.
        Thanks very much again for all your work to achieving this.

    • Yes, we are scanning and restoring every Fleischer cartoon we can find from studio archives, private film collectors and more! The Koko cartoons are my absolute favorite and we’ve started to release the scans we’ve acquired on our YouTube channel @ Max Fleischer Cartoons.

      • Please release Somewhere in Dreamland for those that don’t have MeTV on YouTube

  • Holy mackerel! This is most exciting. I don’t have MeTV, but my parents do and I’ll have to ask them to record this for when I visit them for the holidays. I have no idea if they’ve ever seen many Paramount shorts (outside Popeye) so I’ll be intrigued to see what they think of it!

    Truly, may this be the beginning of a long overdue reevaluation of the rest of the Fleischer/Paramount animated legacy.

  • Nice! Will be tuning in. It’s a great cartoon and these stills look amazing.

  • Oh, belatedly, it should be mentioned that I was somewhat involved in this, too. I was asked to write the intro for the cartoon. I’m not sure that it will be used, however since I heard that the program had already been in the process of Post-Assembly when I was contacted. But it’s happening, just the same. Now to the next phase.

  • This is fantastic news,I sent a letter to Paramount CEO/Chairman and Nickelodeon President,Brian Robbins and one of my ideas/suggestions for him is restoring most of Paramount’s classic cartoon library(except for the 1950-1962 cartoon library,which is currently owned by Universal Studios) and my prayers have been answered.

  • It’s sad that i can’t see it because my cable provider (AT&T U-Verse) is playing scrooge and be the only provider in my area to not carry MeTV

  • Am watching Somewhere in Dreamland on MeTV…never saw it before though for people of a certain age it was a cartoon seen on Christmas. And wow…the restored titles and the animation…a total Christmas treat.

    And I hope this will be on a future DVD or Blu-Ray.

  • DOAH! I missed seeing the show last night! I stayed up late to see if they would replay it at their night-time service on ME-TV PLUS, but it was not to be!

    I’m not an all-time fan of the COLOR CLASSICS series, but I sure do love DANCING ON THE MOON and CHRISTMAS COMES BUT ONCE A YEAR! Hopefully, more Fleischer-Paramount restorations will follow!

    P.S.: Is there THE FAKE RAY POINTER afoot? The guy I wrote to was – is – a member of the Official Popeye Fanclub. I think he’s the real one – hopefully!

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