Another year, another order for 24 cartoons from Paramount Pictures. Not much different in their exercise of the 12th option – except a bump up in the yearly budget by $45 thousand dollars.
However you’ll note below a separate three page “Letter Agreement”, also dated March 11, 1954, which essentially grants Paramount the rights (100%) to sell Famous Studios cartoons to television. This agreement also informs Famous that Paramount will pay them $350. for each cartoon they license to TV. (Twenty one months later – in January 1956 – UM&M TV Corp. made a deal paying Paramount $3 million dollars for all its pre-1950 shorts)
This is the twelfth of fourteen (14) guaranteed options agreed to per the initial May 1942 agreement with Paramount. Will Paramount continue making cartoons with Famous Studios beyond the 14th option (ending in 1957)? Find out next week.
The trades were especially active in promoting shorts this year. Boxoffice magazine highlighted the Hollywood cartoons in its special “Promotion” section in November 1954; Motion Picture Herald devoted four pages (“Shorts On Parade”) in October. Motion Picture Exhibitor only gave a nod to Paramount’s sports shorts in its annual poll of the years best.
After the 3D fad of the previous season, now “wide screen” – or in Paramount’s case, “VistaVision” (projected in either 1:66 or 1:85 ratio) – was the new order of the day. (click pages below to enlarge).
Let’s take a closer look at this season’s order of cartoons:
Eight (8) POPEYE cartoonsPRIVATE EYE POPEYE (11/12/54) Kneitel/Johnson. Detective spoof as Private Eye Popeye is hired to protect Olive’s emerald from a jewel thief.
GOPHER SPINACH (12/10/54) Kneitel/Johnson. Popeye does battle with a gopher in his spinach garden.
COOKING WITH GAGS (1/14/55) Sparber/Johnson. Olive goes on a picnic with Popeye and April Fools prankster Bluto.
NURSE TO MEET YA (2/11/55) Kneitel/Eugster. Popeye and Bluto try to impress Nurse Olive and her charge, Swee’pea in this redo of I Likes Babies and Infinks.
PENNY ANTICS (3/11/55) Kneitel/Johnson. A “cheater” remake of a previous “cheater”, Customer’s Wanted. Popeye and Bluto, penny arcade barkers, try to lure Wimpy to their flicker machines where clips (stock scenes) from Silly Hillbilly, Wotta Knight and The Fistic Mystic play again.
BEAUS WILL BE BEAUS (5/20/55) Sparber/Johnson. Popeye and Bluto escort Olive to a day at the beach.
GIFT OF GAG (5/27/55) Kneitel/Johnson. Two of Popeye’s nephews try to sneak a gift for Popeye into his house.
CAR-AZY DRIVERS (7/22/55) Kneitel/Johnson. A remake of Wimmen Hadn’t Oughta Drive, Popeye tries teaching Olive how to drive.
Six (6) CASPER cartoons
BOO’S AND ARROWS (10/15/54) Kneitel/Waldman. Casper helps an Indian boy, Little Feather, hunt.
BOO RIBBON WINNER (12/3/54) Sparber/Waldman. Casper helps Molasses, an overweight greyhound, lose weight for his next race.
HIDE AND SHRIEK (1/28/55) Kneitel/Waldman. Cousin Spooky comes for a visit.
KEEP YOUR GRIN UP (3/4/55) Sparber/Waldman. At a circus, Casper saves a laughing hyena from a cruel ringmaster.
SPPOKING WITH A BROGUE (5/27/55) Kneitel/Waldman. In Ireland, Casper is mistaken for a leprechaun.
BULL FRIGHT (7/15/55) Kneitel/Waldman. Casper teaches a young bull how to win a bull fight.
Four (4) HERMAN AND KATNIP cartoons
This season Herman and Katnip suffered from the unavailability of voice actor Arnold Stang, whose radio, TV and movie career was exploding. But the loss of Stang was more than made up for with increased violence and slapstick mayhem.
Poor Katnip is encased in cement in Mouse Trapeze; is sliced in half, and gets his ass burned off in a suit of armor (in Robin Rodenthood); gets his head caught in a locomotive door, is forced to consume a ton of liquid from a water tower, and frozen alive (in Rail Rodents); and is bludgeoned with an anchor, has a pegleg replaced by a lit stick of dynamite and is shot out of a cannon (in Ship-A-Hooey).
RAIL-RODENTS (11/26/55) Tendlar/Taras. Katnip chases Herman and his nephews on a train. (Arnold Stang is absent as Herman’s voice for all four films this year)
ROBIN RODENTHOOD (2/25/55) Tendlar/Taras. Sir Katnip the tax collector versus “Robin Hood” (Herman, not voiced by Stang).
A BICEP BUILT FOR TWO (4/8/55) Kneitel/Golden. Herman tries to help Katnip bulk up to impress a gal. (Herman’s voice not Stang)
MOUSE TRAPEZE (8/5/55) Sparber/Golden. Katnip chases Herman and his nephews around a circus. (Whoever is doing Herman’s voice here is at least trying to do Stang).
Six (6) NOVELTOONS cartoons
An interesting year for Noveltoons as three of the six featured series regulars (Audrey, Huey and Buzzy) and three were new players .
For the regulars, each of them tackled a then-current trend. For Little Audrey is was science fiction (re-using a title from the initial Betty Boop cartroon of 1930). During the early 50s, flying saucers were spooking adults, while kids were watching Captain Video – both were spoofed in Dizzy Dishes.
It was the end of the line for the politically incorrect Buzzy – who literally goes out with a bang (and a puff) in a hilarious cartoon about another modern day taboo, the smoking habit. And Baby Huey gets his hands on a gun in another cartoon reflecting a then-current kids trend – cowboy westerns which were flooding TV screens at the time.
The trio of one-shot characters were also interesting – if a little lack-luster. “Snapper” is a bone-headed canine news photographer in a series of spot gags about taking pictures; as for “Waxey” and “Wishbone”, my guess is they were aiming for a “Tweety” like innocent who always gets the upper hand – but as a routine barnyard chase, it falls a little flat; and though “Martin Kanine” (his name a take-off from a popular radio and TV series, Martin Kane, Private Eye) had the best “script” of the trio – a clever idea about a dog becoming smarter than his master – it suffers from lead-footed direction. On the plus side, Fido Beta Kappa was an early use of incorporating Irv Spector’s angular cartoon style into the animation – a nod toward the UPA look that was taking over the field.
FIDO BETA KAPPA (10/29/54) Sparber/Eugster. (Martin Kanine). A pooch is sent to Dog College and returns as a genius.
NO IF’S ANDS OR BUTTS (12/17/52) Sparber/Tendlar. (Buzzy). Buzzy tries to help Katsy stop smoking.
DIZZY DISHES (2/4/55) Sparber/Golden. (Little Audrey) Audrey dreams about an invasion of flying saucers.
GIT ALONG L’IL DUCKIE (3/25/55) Tendlar/Taras. (Baby Huey) Huey wants to play cowboy. Huey wants to play cowboy.
NEWS HOUND (6/10/55) Sparber/Eugster. (Snapper) Snapper will get fired from the newspaper if he doesn’t bring back a sensational photo.
POOP GOES THE WEASEL (7/8/55) Tendlar/Taras. (Wishbone and Waxey The Weasel) A weasel chases a chicken.
Below: An early storyboard for Fido Beta Kappa by Irv Spector. (click to enlarge)
(Thanks this week to Ken Layton, Art Binninger and Thad)