Animation History
August 17, 2015 posted by

Famous Studios 1953-54

1953-54 was a year of great technical change in Hollywood. Television had established itself in the nation’s homes and theatre owners were noticing a drop off in movie attendance. To address this, the major studios introduced wide screen pictures, stereo sound and 3-D in an effort to differentiate the theatrical experience from the home tube.

Famous Studios was contracted to provide a 3D Popeye short and a 3D Casper cartoon during this season’s output. For Famous, these pictures were the highlight of the year – in both cases it could be argued that Famous bested the other studios (which included Disney, Warner Bros. and Lantz) in creating dimensional cartoons.

Perhaps it was their experience with Fleischer’s “Stereo-Optical” process of dimensional backdrops back in the 1930s, but there is no doubt that Kneitel and Sparber had a good feel for creating dimensional cartoons – and did the parent studio proud (they had to – their 3D pictures would play with “A” productions starring the likes of Martin and Lewis, or sexy Rhonda Fleming. This might even be some folks first exposure to Casper so much was riding on these films).


The Contract

mv_popeyeEight (8) POPEYE cartoons

POPEYE THE ACE OF SPACE – (10/2/53) Kneitel/Eugster. Two space aliens abduct Popeye and subject him to various tests.
SHAVING MUGS – (10/9/53) Kneitel/Johnson. A remake of Fleischer’s A Clean Shaven Man.
FLOOR FLUSHER – (1/1/54) Sparber/Golden. Somewhat a remake of Fleischer’s Plumbing Is A Pipe.
POPEYE’S 20th ANNIVERSARY – (4/2/54) Sparber/Eugster. Hollywood celebrities give a testimonial dinner for Popeye, which includes stock footage from Rodeo Romeo and Tops In The Big Top.
TAXI-TURVEY – (6/4/54) Kneitel/Johnson. Popeye and Bluto are rival cab drivers vying for a fare from fair Olive Oyl.
BRIDE AND GLOOM – (7/2/54) Sparber/Johnson. A remake of Wimmen Is A Myskery.
GREEK MIRTHOLOGY – (8/13/54) Kneitel/Golden. Popeye tells his nephews of their uncle Hercules.
FRIGHT TO THE FINISH – (8/27/54) Kneitel Eugster. A reworking of Fleischer’s Ghosks Is The Bunk, as Popeye and Bluto use ghosts and skeletons to scare each other away from Olive.

Dave Tendlar's model sheet for "Huey's Ducky Daddy"

Dave Tendlar’s model sheet for “Huey’s Ducky Daddy”

Six (6) NOVELTOONS cartoons

HUEY’S DUCKY DADDY (Baby Huey) – (11/20/53) Sparber/Tendlar. Baby Huey goes fishing with his father.
THE SEAPREME COURT (Little Audrey) – (1/29/54) Kneitel/Golden. During a fishing trip, Audrey is brought to trial by a pool of hurt sea creatures.
CRAZY TOWN – (2/26/54) Sparber/Eugster. Spot gags about a town where everything is in reverse.
HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW (Buzzy) – (4/16/54) Kneiterl/Tendlar. Buzzy tries to cure Katnip’s baldness.
CANDY CABARET – (6/11/54) Tendlar/Taras. Candy characters give a nightclub performance. Obviously, a cartoon in production when Paramount canceled the Kartune series, thus was released as a Noveltoon – this is the final bouncing ball cartoon of the 1950s. The song is, of course, “Ain’t She Sweet”.
THE OILY BIRD (Inchy The Inchworm) – (7/30/54) Sparber/Waldman. A hawk tries everything to catch a worm.

Myron Waldman's model sheet for "The Oily Bird"

Myron Waldman’s model sheet for “The Oily Bird”

Six (6) CASPER cartoons

DO OR DIET – (10/16/53) Sparber/Waldman. Casper save a turkey from an axe wielding famer.
BOO’S AND SADDLES – (12/25/54) Sparber/Waldman. Out west, Casper help Billy capture outlaw Desert Dan.
BOO MOON – (1/1/54) Kneitel & Sparber/Waldman. Casper visits the Moon and is attacked by its inhabitants.
ZERO THE HERO – (3/26/54) Kneitel/Waldman. Casper helps a mutt become a watchdog.
CASPER GENIE – (5/28/54) Kneitel/Goldman. Desperate for a friend, Casper pretends to be a genie and grants Little Billy anything he wishes.
PUSS AND BOOS – (7/16/54) Kneitel/Waldman. Casper rescues two kittens from drowning.

herman-katnip53Four (4) HERMAN AND KATNIP cartoons

NORTHWEST MOUSIE – (12/28/53) Kneitel/Eugster. Captain Herman tries to capture evil Pierre Katnip.
SURF AND SOUND – (3/5/54) Tendlar/Taras. Herman tries to drown Katnip at the beach.
OF MICE AND MENACE – (6/25/54) Kneitel/Golden. Katnip chases Herman around a penny arcade.
SHIP-A-HOOEY – (8/20/54) Sparber/Golden. Herman tries to recapture his ship from Katnip the Pirate.

Famous In The Third Dimension

3-D turned out to be a short-lived fad in 1953 and essentially considered over in 1954 – sadly depriving us of a 3-D Herman and Katnip! Here are some artifacts of the brief fling with 3-D:

The one-sheet poster for "Boo Moon"

The one-sheet poster for “Boo Moon”

This was a publicity story created to be planted locally by theaters playing "Boo Moon".

This was a publicity story created to be planted locally by theaters playing “Boo Moon”.

Special press materials were prepared for both "Boo Moon" and "Popeye The Ace Of Space". Here was a newspaper ad for "Boo-Moon"

Special press materials were prepared for both “Boo Moon” and “Popeye The Ace Of Space”. Here was a newspaper ad for “Boo-Moon”

This advertisement was mailed to exhibitors directly from Paramount's sales offices. (click to enlarge)

This advertisement was mailed to exhibitors directly from Paramount’s sales offices. (click to enlarge)

Original cel and background from "Boo Moon"

Original cel and background from “Boo Moon”

Original pencils from the Noveltoon “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”


And finally, our “cartoon of the week”. I can’t do this column without embedding at least one. Since there is no point in posting one of the 3-D films – (Psssst! Buy the 3D Rarities blu-ray, which contains a beautifully restored print of Boo Moon (with audio commentary by Thad K.) – I might as well post this Baby Huey classic:

ducky-daddy-600 ducky-daddy2ducky-daddy3

(Special Thanks to Art Binninger and Ken Layton)


  • For the record, “Cartoon Champions” reissues for 1953-54 were:

    “The Wee Men”
    “The Enchanted Square”
    “Cheese Burglar”
    “The Stupidstitious Cat”
    “Much Ado About Mutton”
    “Naughty But Mice”

    “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” was Buzzy the Crow’s final cartoon, wasn’t it? (Well, except for “Katnip’s Big Day.”) I’ve assumed Buzzy was retired as part of what appears to have been an industry-wide move at the time away from stereotyped depictions of African American characters, and while Buzzy was a crow, his voice and personality were inarguably borrowed from Eddie “Rochester” Anderson.

    • Actually, it was “No Ifs, Ands, or Butts”, which we will get to next week.

    • One more Buzzy to go after this one — “No Ifs, Ands, Or Butts”. But “Hair” was his final one with Katnip (who at least doesn’t end this one dead, frozen in ice or whatever, even if his dignity isn’t left intact at the iris-out).

    • According to Thad Komorowski, “A Bicep Built For Two” was originally going to be a Buzzy cartoon. (It certainly feels like one.) He also said that the last two Buzzy cartoons sat on the shelf for a while before they were released. (That would explain why Dave Tendlar was credited as head animator instead of director on both of them.)

    • Thanks Jon,

      That list of Champions titles may explain the excess 35mm I.B. Technicolor safety prints that were rented out by NTA, They actually kept the Paramount logos on those prints as they were not shown on TV and did not have to be chopped out per the TV license with Paramount. Many of those prints now appear on PD DVDs.

    • That’s interesting about “A Bicep Built for Two.” I’d always given Famous credit for finally coming up with a variation on the usual Herman and Katnip formula. That it was conceived as a Buzzy cartoon does explain it, though.

  • Hi (again) Jerry,
    I once saw a Casper cartoon in which Casper scares another character so bad that the character turns inside out, exposing his bones and other viscera. Any idea what this cartoon was titled?

    • Jack, I can see that gag in my mind’s eye – but I can’t recall which exact cartoon that is from. I’m hoping someone else can chime it. If not, I know I’ll encounter it again. There’s also a chance its not from a Casper – that wasn’t the only series to use such “wild take” gags.

    • Just a quick search but try PIG-A-BOO at 5:49 to see the Big Bad Wolf’s skeleton pop out of his body and serve as an escape to carry him away from Casper. If that’s not it I’ll keep looking.

    • I finished a fast search of the Casper collection disk but PIG-A-BOO was as close to the description I found in the Casper theatricals. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t pop up in another series like Herman and Katnip or Buzzy. I’ll turn the search over to the NSA now. Good luck.

  • Thanks for posting the cartoon “Ducky Daddy.” Are voice credits available?

    • Paramount almost never credited its voice actors (there is an occasional credit for a narrator, as in “The Friendly Ghost”). Most of us can recognize the regular crew, Mercer, Questel, Beck, and Raymond in various cartoons. In this case, perhaps Keith Scott can identify Huey’s Papa in this one?

  • I actually got to see “Boo Moon” in 3-D last Thursday. The Wexner Center in Columbus had a special screening of selections from “3-D Rarities”. Unfortunately, the gift shop had no copies of the Blu-Ray to purchase.

  • Popeye the Ace of Space and Boo Moon were Paramount’s cartoon contributions to the 3D craze of that era. Others were WB’s Lumber Jack Rabbit starring Bugs Bunny; Disney’s Working For Peanuts starring Donald Duck, and Adventures In Music: Melody; and Universal-International’s Walter Lantz cartune Hypontic Hick starring Woody Woodpecker.

    Anyone else ever notice the resemblance of Shrek to the aliens from Popeye the Ace of Space?

  • It’s interesting that the Inchy model sheet has a Screen Songs production number. I wonder if ‘The Oily Bird’ had been originally planned as one.

  • Jerry:

    One of my memories of Paramount/Famous cartoons on TV is “Land of the Lost,” based on the kids radio show and featuring Jackson Beck as the voice of Red Lantern, the fish who helps the kids find a missing jackknife.

    Do you recall it and know what year it was made?

    • Pat – There were three (3) Land of The Lost cartoons, one ended up in the Harveytoon package, the other two came to TV via U.M.&M. or NTA.

      THE LAND OF THE LOST (1948) – the one about knives
      LAND OF LOST JEWELS (1950)
      • LAND OF LOST WATCHES (1951)

    • I get confused because I think it was all the same cartoon – but I didn’t realize there were three!

    • EC in its early “pre-trend” years published a “Land of the Lost” comic, scripted by the writer/creator of the radio show.

  • “Crazy Town” was a remake of a Betty Boop cartoon with the same name.

  • Interesting that Huey’s papa in the animated shorts is depicted as much older (White hair and glasses) in the Harvey comics.

  • As a kid I remember seeing Inchy the Worm’s image displayed prominently on the Harveytoons logo in the TV cartoons, even though I don’t think he was ever used more than once.

    • Yup, Inchy was on the Harveytoon title card along with Wendy, Spooky, Buzzy, and the Tortoise and Hare.

  • “Oily Bird”‘s more or less a “Early Bird Dood It”(MGM, Tex Avery, m1943); a knock off. Great one shot, though, Famous/Paramount REALLY took that one-shot billing to a new level (e.g., Snapper, Kitty Kuddles..)

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