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).
Eight (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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
(Special Thanks to Art Binninger and Ken Layton)