October 12, 2023 posted by Steve Stanchfield

The Continuing Search for Noveltoons in Better Shape

One of my favorite things is managing to find good copies of cartoons that are around, but just in bad copies. Earlier today, my animation class was studying acting, and one of the things we were looking at were 80’s standup tapes on YouTube.  We looked at some Robin Williams that was a pretty degraded copy— and it was nearly impossible to see his eyes clearly in anything other than an extreme closeup. We’re in sort of a similar place with many cartoons that really should be around in better copies.

Happily, there’s currently a project (that I’m lucky enough to be part of) that involves restoring cartoons made by the Fleischer studio. Sadly, there isn’t the same sort of effort being made for the Famous Studios cartoons, who’s masters are at the very same archive. Perhaps some day that will happen, but for now it’s a very mixed bag.

Many collectors helped in the efforts to produce the Thunderbean Noveltoons DVD in 2010 (and Blu-ray revision), including quite a few prints in 35mm that were lent by collector Paul Mular and our very own Jerry Beck. Since then I haven’t pursued finding too many of the others since— largely because it was so difficult to find good prints of the ones we were able to. They’re just pretty rare. Of course, we’re also limited to the cartoons that are in the public domain, but lucky for us, NTA was especially bad at following through in renewals, leaving a majority of the early entries in the series without copyright.

I’ve started working on one of the special sets we announced a little while back. ‘Even more Noveltoons’ is meant to at least be HD scans of some of the harder to see ones from 16mm prints, even if they’re not the best copies. I pulled out the list I had made of the series back in 2009, and comparing it with what has shown up so far, I thought I’d update this list for this week’s post along with some copies that are common of them. So, here’s part one of the list and what’s around in terms of copies of them:

No Mutton fer Nuttin’ (1943)- the first of the series and a fan favorite. A fairly good copy showed up on French TV in the 90s. A few months back I managed to win a decent Kodachrome print of it on Ebay, so we’ll put that on the special set.

The Henpecked Rooster (1943) – Another hard one to see. This one also showed up on French TV in the 90s- I wonder where those prints came from?

(Cilly Goose (43), Suddenly It’s Spring (43) and Yankee Doodle Donkey (43) were alone the official set we did)

Gabriel Churchkitten (1944) This short isn’t in the public domain, and appeared on a collection of cartoons on VHS that NTA released in the 80s. This copy is from that VHS tape:

When GI Johnny Comes Marching Home (1945) I’ve never seen a good copy of this short— just the standard (red) NTA prints.  Here’s a scan of one of those prints:

(Scrappily Married (45) and A Lamb in a Jam (45) are on the Noveltoons Blu-ray)

A Self Made Mongrel (1945)  I’ve never seen a good print of this one either. Here’s the standard NTA print that’s out there:

The Friendly Ghost (1945)  This cartoon is the one that I wish was around in 35mm- it really *should* be since it’s the first Casper! I heard a rumor a good 35mm print was under someone’s bed for a while, but I think that was just a rumor. Here’s the best I’ve seen on it- from our own Jerry Beck’s Anscocolor print:

(Cheese Burgler (46) and Old McDonald Had a Farm (46) are on the Noveltoons Blu-ray)

Sheep Shape (1946) This is the other one that I’d love to see a good copy on (I know it’s a favorite of many people too). Here’s the usual NTA print that’s out there:

The Goal Rush (1946) I don’t know where this particular copy came from, but it’s at least decent… maybe from one of NTA’s tapes or zoomed in from a French TV copy? Honestly not sure—there’s a few other copies out there that are better than the usual NTA prints— but this is the best I’ve seen on this title:

Spree for All (1946) Thanks to collector Jerico Dvorak, we have this rare black and white print (from the British Film Institute) of this nearly lost Noveltoon starring Snuffy Smith. 

Sudden Fried Chicken (1946) This short had a good scan in standard def made in the late 90s. I licensed that scan for the Noveltoons DVD.  Sadly, I was unable to track down that 35mm print to make an HD scan. Here’s the standard def copy— the best I’ve seen on this title. I don’t recall if I had gotten rid of the gate weave when we put it out, but this copy has it:

(Stupidstitous Cat (47) and The Enchanted Square (47) are on the Noveltoons Blu-ray)

To be continued!  Have a good week everyone!


  • I love the Thunderbean Noveltoon collection, and I would love to see all of these cartoons looking as good, especially “The Friendly Ghost” and the two Blackies. Hopefully future restorations of the Fleischer Color Classics will help generate interest in the Famous Noveltoons as well. Keep up the good work!

  • The French TV prints are said to have been done by Lobster Films for two shows called “Cellulo” and “Ça tourne Bromby”.

    • They’re not from Lobster.

    • France 5 is part of France Télévisions, which is a state-owned broadcasting company in France. I suspect that they made a deal with Paramount in or about the year 2000 that included a license to air Noveltoons, and in all likelihood the Paramount company itself provided the footage. The “5” logo in the corner was used on airings from late 1999 until early 2002. Stills and actual files of a number of cartoons from France 5 started showing up on the internet in 2007, at least that’s when I started noticing. These are now often referred to as the “Hammerson” files, named after the person who taped and digitalized them.
      France 5 temporarily shared their analog TV channel in France with arte TV (the station that aired many cartoons provided by Loster Films), which may explain Jay Dee’s idea for the source of the Noveltoons. I think this is not the case.

  • Steve:
    This hearkens back to last week, but I STILL haven’t got my copy of Flip The Frog. The Thunderbean site says it’s being processed, but still no word of it having been shipped out.
    What could be holding it up?

    Also I always though Cilly Goose was rhr=e first Noveltoon

    • They were assembling the sets this week – the discs, cases and printed materials come from different sources. He was optimistic shipment would begin today. This info from the dedicated Thunderbean forum on blu-ray dot com:

      • Thanks for the link. Are my eyes deceiving me or did I read that Bunin (as in Alice in Wonderland Bunin) are done?

  • Yes, the early Caspers are essential, particularly the awkwardly-titled “There’s Good Boos [reads like “Booze”] Tonight,” which has a genuinely tearjerking ending. It would be nice to see an optimal quality “The Mite Makes Right” too.

    The 1940s Noveltoons convey earnest efforts by the former Fleischer artists (also newcomers like Bill Tytla) to do quality work, clearly hampered by uninspired management. By the ’50s the cartoons had settled into a uniform blandness; even Popeye was a shadow of his former self. But Casper still stood out as the most promising new character, despite contemporary complaints about the sameness of the cartoons. (The same could be said of the indistinguishable-from-each-other Roadrunner cartoons.)

    Good hunting!

    • Honestly, I think the difference between the two you mentioned was that the Casper shorts were not usually directed by the person who is created on the screen but by the animators. Thus, there doesn’t seemed be much personal touches during much of the shorts.

      The Roadrunners, on the other hand, despite each having the same plot (and can be sometimes difficult to pinpoint which cartoon had what gag), had a real director (which was always Chuck Jones during the ’50’s) whose style and pacing helped make the cartoons work and feel more memorable.

  • About where that copy of Goal Rush is:

    The video posted here is a recreation. Notice:
    – the blurred-out France 5 (La Cinquième) screenbug at the top right
    – the freeze-framed Noveltoons title d
    – the telecine quality sing-along segment
    – the Paramount opening and closing logos (which were both swiped from one of the Popeye 40s Blu-Rays)

    The body (no Paramount or bouncing ball) is from a said channel airing, originally posted by Mihai

  • Frankly, as far as public domain Paramount cartoons go, I’d rather MeTV run the 1942-1950 non-Popeye Famous Studios shorts than most of the Betty Boops they show (the post-code ones largely in public domain as well).

    On that note, what other Famous Studios shorts of the NTA package are NOT in the public domain (besides Gabriel Churchkitten)?

    • I thought I seen someone on the net shown some documentation of the ownership status of the Paramount cartoons and apparently “Cilly Goose” is still copyrighted.

  • Is there a divide between Paramount cartoons that went to NTA and those that wound up with Harvey Comics and are now at Dreamworks Animation? Does it go by year or is it just a random split?

    • The pre-October 1950 Paramount cartoons were sold to U.M. & M. TV Corp. (NTA) in the mid 1950s. Harvey Comics purchased the 1950-1962 cartoons, which are now under the ownership of DreamWorks/NBCUniversal and Paramount still holds the 1962-1967 cartoons to this day, which is funny because the pre-October 1950 cartoons have since been reunited with Paramount.

      • Worth mentioning as well that the Harvey-owned Famous Studios shorts in a way almost ended up under Paramount’s ownership again, as Dreamworks Animation purchased Classic Media in 2011/2012 when Paramount was still distributing their output (tail end of the era in fact). Obviously of course, things have since unfolded differently.

    • “Casper’s Spree Under The Sea” is the first Harveytoon IIRC.

  • Despite everything, that is far and away the best copy of Sheep Shape I’ve run into. I recall having a hard time finding a version that wasn’t soaked in beet juice and compressed to VCD quality.

  • Sheep Shape is the best Blackie so far. A lot of Tex Avery gags, but also they manage to sneak the dirtiest one of the pre-Bakshi times:
    I suggest to put the speed in 0.5 or even less to fully appreciate it…

  • Small question, Steve. Cilly Goose is not in the public domain either. That film’s copyright was renewed on January 3rd, 1972. How did you manage to get over that?

  • I feel the need for a “Golden Age of Noveltoons” Blu-Ray series akin the old Golden Age of Looney Tunes laserdisc sets from the 90s. Heck, if only I had the money and resources, I’d produce the set myself. But yeah, I’d pretty much be limited to what’s in the public domain (at least initially). But anyhow, like you said, Steve, if the Fleischer restorations are tickling people’s fancy, I’m sure there’s a market for the Famous Studios cartoons.

  • Well, if a lot of the cartoons are still owned by Paramount, then it may take a long time for this to happen. Jerry Beck recently posted his frustration in getting the TERRY-TOONS back for fans to see them once again. I know people who’ve hoped that a restored version of HOPPITY GOES TO TOWN (aka MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN) would be out before the public again.

    With the old copyright laws, you had to renew a film’s copyright every 28 years, right? So, if CILLY GOOSE had it’s copyright renewed in Jan. 3, 1972, wouldn’t it have to be renewed again on Jan 3, 2000? If it wasn’t tthen, wouldn’t the film now be in the “Public Domain”?

  • There are also three post-October 1950 Noveltoons that are in the public domain: THE SEAPREME COURT, CRAZYTOWN (both 1954), and PEST PUPIL (1957).

  • Wait are we getting a another noveltoons collection?

  • Knowing Mr. Stanchfield as I do, you NEVER can TELL!

  • STOP with the Noveltoons! They are garbage. We want all the SOUND Aesop’s Fables from 1929 and 1930 NOW on Bluray. We want them YESTERDAY actually. Stop wasting time on garbage animation from the 1940s. We will begin a petition to stop Thunderbeam from wasting time on Post-Code garbage animation. Pre-Code ANIMATION Matters! We will start the PAM movement.

    • That will help compensate for the damage your namesake did when he imposed the Production Code in the first place.

    • To label the Noveltoons “garbage” shows how little you must know or care about classic animation. By the way, it’s Thunderbean, not Thunderbeam.

  • Not ALL of the NOVELTOONS are GARBAGE! I used to think the same thing about the Famous Studio POPEYE cartoons. I actually found out that SOME of them were VERY good! I actually want to see the 1950s POPEYE cartoons restored and available – there are a few there that are worth seeing, too!

    The early talkie AESOP’S FABLES are that good? I can’t tell if you’re serious or kidding us!

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