Here’s a rather meaty post for you this round. We’re firmly in the Miami era of the Fleischer Studio, the period when the short cartoons arguably lost their sheen. But Paramount certainly didn’t have an inkling of that at the time.
I was scared briefly while getting all of these that the custom illustrations would be permanently replaced by muddy film still blow ups, but fortunately there were only a few isolated instances. So Does An Automobile (the last Betty Boop made in New York and a personal favorite of mine, though note the clipping erroneously says “from the new Max Fleischer studios in Miami”) got kicked to the curb, and amazingly so did Popeye’s Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. No mention of its Technicolor glory! For shame.
One of the true misfires of the Fleischer output was the short-lived Stone Age series. These and the Animated Antics have just about zero to recommend for them (and as you’ll remember from last week, I’m tolerant of Pudgy). They are awkward attempts at the type of spot-gag cartoons popularized by Tex Avery at Leon Schlesinger’s that no one was really able to do well outside that studio. (Proven by the fact that Ted Pierce and Cal Howard, now working for the Fleischers, had worked on those cartoons too!).
Interesting that they tried to sell the series as “The Stonebroakes” to the salesmen. Perhaps that would have been a better title for the series – it wouldn’t have helped the quality of the cartoons, but it might have been a better draw – as Hanna Barbera (or Dan Gordon) figured out 20 years later with The Flintstones.
According to an interview historian Mark Langer did with Myron Waldman, most of the animators wanted to call it quits as soon as the first few Stone Age cartoons were finished, but Paramount had already sold a season to exhibitors. As the continuous five-month campaign anticipating the turkey’s arrival in Paramount Sales News shows, Waldman’s account was likely not apocryphal.
“With the caveman shorts, we knew right away that they were stinkers. I haven’t the least idea where the idea came from, although I suspect it was Max Fleischer. The old humor magazine Life had a good illustrator called Lawson who drew monkey characters. Max was fascinated with them. When we were still in New York, Max asked me to draw some monkeys. I think that he kept working on this idea and it eventually turned into the caveman films.
“They were horrible. We wanted to discontinue them immediately, but Paramount wouldn’t let us. They had sold an entire year of them to theaters and had to deliver, no matter how bad they made us look. And they looked bad.”
(Waldman also said to Langer, “We didn’t have storyboards until the late 1930s.” Makes you wonder about some statements made on the Internet…)
We’ll be back next week with something big in time for Christmas…
June – October 1939 (click images to enlarge)