As stated last week, October 1st 1956 was the first day of business for the new Paramount Cartoon Studio. Here is the settlement agreement between Paramount and Kneitel/Sparber that ended Famous (click to enlarge):
Paramount, having made a deal with UM&M and AAP in the past two years, had one more block of shorts for sale: the cartoons produced since the 1950-51 season, and all the live action shorts from that period as well (Sportlights, Pacemakers and Toppers). They began to seek a buyer to take it all – including the animation studio itself – off their hands. Paramount began their search by approaching its profitable comic book licensor – Harvey Comics – in 1957.
Strangely enough, the Harvey brothers were interested. The deal would include the animation studio and its equipment, the films, and the employee contracts. Harvey could have all the films for television syndication, all the copyrights for the characters (dating back to the Fleischer era), all the merchandising and licensing. One withholding: Paramount would retain the theatrical rights to the films, so they could still release a full slate of shorts. Heck, Paramount would even pay Harvey to produce 16 new theatrical cartoons each year for several years.
Though a contract was drawn up in 1957 between Paramount and Harvey, that initial deal was not consummated. Harvey Comics just didn’t have the kind of money Paramount was looking for. But Harvey didn’t exactly close the door. They spent most of 1957 and part of 1958 looking for a way to find the money and make a deal. They spoke with Guild Films and AAP to se what kind of advances they could get if they could provide the 1950-59 Paramount cartoons to an established TV syndicator.
As for the 20 titles released during the 1957-58 season – Popeye was no longer being newly produced, but Paramount made available a fresh set of Popeye Champions (aka re-releases) available to theaters. Casper, Herman and Katnip and Noveltoons would showcase a last hurrah for the Famous crew (all three series having been in production before the budgets were slashed, numerous staff cuts and the yearly order reduced – this explains the odd-number of 11 Noveltoon releases). This would also be the last season for Isadore Sparber – who passed away on August 28th 1958 – a little less that two weeks after the release of his last (and one of his best) film, Chew Chew Baby.
Six (6) Casper cartoons
BOO BOP (11/11/57) Kneitel/Golden. Casper helps the ghost of Franz Schubert finish his unfinished symphony.
HEIR RESTORER (1/24/58) Sparber/Eugster. In England, Casper helps another ghost find an heir for Lord Montegue.
SPOOK AND SPAN (2/28/58) Kneitel/Waldman. Casper helps Squeally the pig clean up to win the county fair.
GHOST WRITERS (4/25/58) Kneitel/Johnson. In this clever cheater, two writers at Paramount Cartoon Studios wrack their brains trying to come up with a good story for Casper. They consider using ideas (via stock footage) from Casper’s Spree Under The Sea, Once Upon A Rhyme and Too Boo Or Not To Boo.
WHICH IS WITCH? (5/2/58) Kneitel/Johnson. Wendy blames Casper for of Spooky’s practical jokes.
GOOD SCREAM FUN (9/12/58) Knietel/Pattengill. Casper tries to find a home for Ozzie the Ostrich.
Three (3) Herman and Katnip cartoons
ONE FUNNY KNIGHT (11/22/57) Tendlar/Pattengill. Set in medieval times, Herman rescues Princess Gwenivere who has been captured by robber-baron Katnip.
FRIGHTY CAT (3/14/58) Sparber/Johnson. In an abandoned insane asylum, Herman tries to drive Katnip mad and ultimately out of the building.
YOU SAID A MOUSEFUL (8/29/58) Kneitel/Johnson. In Katnip’s Pizzeria, Herman tries to help Chubby slim down to save him from Katnip.
Eleven (11) Noveltoon cartoons
This is one of the best seasons of Noveltoon releases as, in my humble opinion, several of the miscellaneous subjects here work on their own terms. They don’t hold a candle to Warners, UPA or even the Deitch Terrytoons, but – with the exception of the two cheaters, and the “Baby Huey” (which is marred by its limited animation) – these pictures are somewhat entertaining and visually interesting. A brief look of where the studio was headed artistically before the budgets were drastically cut.
POSSUM PEARL (9/20/57) Kneitel/Johnson. Man-hungry musical hillbilly gal Possum Pearl (last seen in Popeye’s Hill-billing and Cooing) sets her sights on an burglar (“Slippery Sam”) looking for a hide out.
JUMPING WITH TOY (10/4/57) Tendlar/Pattengill. The Fox disguises himself as Santa Claus so he can get Baby Huey. With this film, the lower budgets and limited animation begin to be noticeable.
JOLLY THE CLOWN (10/25/57) Kneitel/Eugster. An update of “Koko The Clown”, Jolly the Clown and Ellsworth Elephant get kicked out of the Big Top by a cruel ringmaster.
COCK-A-DOODLE DINO (12/6/57) Sparber/Golden. A dinosaur egg falls off a truck and into the nest of a farm chicken – who raises the dino (“Danny”) as her own. Note: two in-jokes – the Mama chicken names her first two hatchlings “Alfred” and “Harvey” in honor of the cartoons soon to be owner, Alfred Harvey; and Danny is taken away to “Famous” Circus (which uses the studios now-defunct logo).
DANTE DREAMER (1/3/58) Sparber/Eugster. A strong attempt to do a UPA stylized film, little Dante (ala Warner Bros. Ralph Phillips) day dreams himself a knight fighting a fire breathing dragon.
SPORTICLES (2/14/58) Kneitel. Jackson Beck narrates this cheater in the style of a “sports” newsreel, using stock footage from previous Screen Songs that involve gags about fishing, duck hunting, golf, baseball, wrestling, boxing, horse racing, boat racing, and bullfighting.
GRATEFUL GUS (3/7/58) Tendlar/Tafuri. A crooked bank teller steals money from his bank only to be hounded by panhandler Grateful Gus. This is as close to a personal film ever done by Dave Tendlar.
FINNEGAN’S FLEA (4/4/58) Sparber/Johnson. A bartender recounts the story of Finnegan and his singing flea – a story that echo’s Chuck Jones’ One Froggy Evening.
OKEY DOKEY DONKEY (5/16/58) Sparber/Eugster. A redesigned UPA-stylized Spunky the Donkey falls in love with Marilyn, a merry-go-round horse.
CHEW CHEW BABY (8/15/58) Sparber/Johnson. A cult classic – An American tourist in Africa invites an African cannibal to Cincinnatti to eat… err, meet his friends. NOTE: An in-joke, a car license plate seen is actually the film’s production number: N-17-13.
TRAVELAFFS (8/29/58) Kneitel. A cheater, using stock footage from previous Screen Songs that involve gags about different locales, including Michigan, Illinois, Mississippi, California and Mexico.
Story Board Panels from Chew-Chew Baby.
(thanks to Ken Layton)