March 3, 2016 posted by

Thunderbean Thursday: Space Cartoons!

The PBS special A Year in Space premiered last night; it concentrated on documenting American astronaut Scott Kelly’s nearly full year at the International Space Station, ending with footage shot it Kazakhstan on March 2nd, with the landing of Kelly and two other Cosmonauts from Russia.

They’ve been back less than 24 hours as I write this; after watching it, I started to think about how space travel captured the imagination of the world both before it was possible, and exploded as a subject of film and animation in the 50s into the late 60s. I find the fantasy aspects of the pre-space travel films to be charming, and also enjoy the confident ‘coolness’ of the late 50s and early 60s TV animation.

Of course, there’s a *ton* of animated content over the years about space travel, but I thought it would be fun to talk about just a few as comparisons. These are the first things that come to mind to me….

Some of these are familiar to everyone here most likely. Here are my favorites:

The Fleischers win the award for some of the most fun space travel films:

Koko’s trip to Mars (1924) of course includes Uncle Max too:

Bimbo in Up to Mars (1930) is also much fun!

Of course, Dancing on the Moon (1935) is a wonderful entry in the Color Classics series, especially with all the setback model sequences:

Little Buck Cheeser features a spoof of the Buck Rogers character, elaborate and beautiful:

I don’t have a good copy of Scrappy’s Trip to Mars (1938) surprisingly…

I’ve always loved The Milky Way (1940), the Oscar-winning MGM cartoon, is closer to Winken, Blinken and Nod, though I always think of it as a space cartoon:

Of course, there’s all the great Warners cartoons as well, but you folks all know them even better than this stuff!

One of my absolute favorite things is something called Mr. E from Tau Ceti (1963). The best documentation of this series recently appeared in an entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (SFE) website here.

It turns out it was a series of 20 five- minute episodes constructed from all sorts of different footage, put together by your hero and mine, Fred Ladd! According to SFE, the main narrative footage is from Murilka the Sputnik Pilot (1960). Also according to the entry, much of the footage was from a rights-swap with European distributors. Much of the other space footage was produced by the United States government for various industrial films, and since it was made with tax payer dollars, the footage was immediately public domain, and usable by producers like Ladd.

The odd thing is that the episodes seemed to have vanished nearly entirely, even though it’s clear that it was distributed in 16mm. Many years back (maybe around 1986 or 87) I got a overstuffed 16mm reel of ‘Mr. E‘ clips from Jeff Missinne or Dave Kirwan. They appear to be the open and end tags from many episodes of the series. Jeff guessed that perhaps they were edited out to make a ‘long’ version of the 20 episodes since they are mostly recaps of what happened in the episode before.

Now, what are yours?


  • Here are my favorite space cartoons
    (Animated Shorts)
    Popeye the Ace From Space (Famous Studios in 3-D with those Shrek like space aliens)
    Hareway to the Stars (Bugs Bunny and Marvin the Martian)
    Reskio the Cosmonaut (Poland)
    What on Earth! (National Film Board of Canada ((as the National Film Board of Mars)) )
    Termites from Mars (Woody Woodpecker)
    The Great Space Chase (A Mighty Mouse mini series animated by Filmation)
    The Tom and Jerry space adventures (Gene Dietch and Chuck Jones)
    Lifted (Disney/Pixar)
    Duck Dodgers in the 24 and a 1/2 Century

  • Continued
    A Quack in the Quasar (Tiny Toon Adventures)
    Mis-Placed in Space (Dexter’s Laboratory)
    Boo Moon (Casper the Friendly Ghost)
    Beanyland (Beany & Cecil, set on the moon)
    (Animated TV Series set in space)
    The Jetsons
    Flash Gordon (Filmation)
    Star Blazers/Space Crusier Yamato
    Galaxy Trio
    Blackstar (Filmation)
    The Herculoids

    • I forgot to mention Star Trek the Animated Series

  • But Iwerks’ Willie Whopper cartoon “Stratos-Fear” is one of my favorites! (I just wish Ub chose to make this one in Cinecolor).

    • Ub* Iwerks… I love autocorrect… 😛

  • and, lest we forget, “Rocket-Bye Baby”

  • and Gerald McBoing Boing on the Planet Moo

  • Hi, Steve! Yup, I was the cretin who had a box full of random MR. E episodes, clipped off most of the titles and assembled a 50 minute or so continuity that (almost) made sense. Please forgive me! At the time this seemed a logical thing to do, so my family and I could watch the whole mess in one gulp. Alas, in those days I was way too eager to clip and splice! Jeff probably ended up with the trims, and then passed them on to you. As to the fate of this edited version, well that’s a mystery too! I think Mark Kausler contacted me and worked out a trade but then the darn thing got lost in the mail! As I remember it, Mark never received the package and the two of us chased around with the Post Office for a few months before giving up. Ah, the golden era of 16mm film collecting!

    • Ah… what I would give for that 50 minute reel of yours! I wonder if Fred has this stuff! Thanks for the trim reel though!

    • I don’t ever remember having a clip reel like that, so I think you probably swapped that directly to Steve. Didn’t a lot of the Hanna-Barbera Abbott and Costello cartoons from the 60’s have “space” settings for no reason other than to try and make them “up to date”? (Hey, Joe, I know the kids are gonna go for this…) They were “space detectives” or chasing “space pirates” in scripts that would’ve played just as well if not better without the “space” gimmick tossed in.

    • Sad to hear this 50 minute compilation got lost in the shuffle Would be interesting if Fred Ladd does have a copy somehow. If something like this could be found, why not?

  • Don’t forget one of my absolute favorites: Astronomeows! (starring that damn cat)

    • “We don’t talk about that here” he said in an elevator…


  • Here’s more Space cartoons animated shorts,tv series and feature length animated films:
    Space Ghost
    Once Upon a Time…in Space (part of France’s very popular Once Upon a Time series)
    Ulysses 13
    The New Adventures of He-Man
    Robotech (Mobile Suit Malcross)
    Battle of the Planets/G Force/Saban’s Eagle Riders (Ninja Science Team Gatchaman)
    And newcomer
    Miles From Tomorrowland

    • D’OH!!! I meant to say Ulysses 31 not 13!

  • Let me also add Gumby’s Moon Trip/Gumby on the Moon/Trapped on the Moon.

  • Don’t forget Tex Avery’s “The Cat That Hated People”, which has a sequence set on the Moon.

  • Like you, Steve, I tend to like some of the imaginings of space travel long before it was major world news and fact rather than fictional, and yes, “LITTLE BUCK CHEEZER” is indeed a classic, as is “THE MILKY WAY”. I only wish that I’d gotten to actually see a full color print of either of these but, alas, our “EARLY BIRD CARTOON SHOW” did not broadcast in color and, if it did, I’d probably realize that the prints that our ABC-TV affiliate was running were already beat read. Yet, even in the days of stylized TV budget animation, I liked space cartoons. When our house got its first color TV, I was delighted to see SPACE GHOST in all its glorious color, but even in black and white, it was the dimensions of the early theatrical cartoons of the early talking era, the mid-1930’s, that almost seemed 3-D to me even if it wasn’t and, now, remembering the visuals of a cartoon like “BOO MOON” from Paramount/Famous, I can see where that would be fabulous in its actual 3-D version along with “POPEYE, THE ACE OF SPACE”. I am rather surprised that no one has mentioned “THE CAT THAT HATED PEOPLE”. Now, those images of space beings were some of the strangest in all of American animated cartoon history. If only such an idea were this easy, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could compile so many of these choices into a nicely packed DVD of space adventures imagined before the age of space exploration. Hey, maybe it was possible that I’d seen “SCRAPPY IN OUTER SPACE”, but as of now, I can’t recall.

    I do like “HAREWAY TO THE STARS”, though; the dialogue is priceless, but again, the earliest images of surreal space beyond Planet Earth are among the longest lasting memories.

  • Oops, I realized too late that someone *DID* already mention “THE CAT THAT HATED PEOPLE”. I wanted to give it honorable mention anyway. Again, here’s hoping you do hunt down a better print of “SCRAPPY IN OUTER SPACE”. Oh, and wouldn’t “BUDDY’S ADVENTURE” qualify? I think that hot air balloon did land on either the moon or Mars, and I would imagine that early Warners animation of other worldly beings might be rather interesting. There are sections of the score to that one that I rather like, too.

  • Several more space toons
    The Astrusmurf from The Smurfs
    Animanics’Space Case
    Beany and Cecil To the Schmoon
    Herge’s Tin Tin’s A Trip to the Moon (Belvision)
    Space Racers
    Space Ace and the Space Mutts (starring Astro from the Jetsons)
    Yogi’s Space Race
    Space Mouse (Walter Lantz)

  • I like to think that somewhere somebody has Mr. E and those other serials culled out of foreign animation: The fisherman and his wife, the antelope who caused gold coins to appear from her heels, and the spoiled princess.

    Back on space, we have to include that Ward Kimball TV segment — was it ever packaged as a freestanding short? — of the genius’s secretary who’s kidnapped and persecuted by Martian beasties until she changes to a superheroine and gives them exploding cigars.

    Elsewhere on the old tube:
    — “Colonel Bleep” which had those oddly charming visuals. On revisiting I was surprised to discover I had totally forgotten the lumpy educational content.
    — “Space Angels”, a cousin of Clutch Cargo.
    — “Rocket Robin Hood”

    Meanwhile, HB did space-based versions of Yogi Bear, Josie and the Pussycats, Casper the Friendly Ghost (??), the Partridge Family (???) and Super Friends; while Filmation offered “Gilligan’s Planet” and Saturday morning versions of “Star Trek” and “Flash Gordon”.

    The short-lived “Duck Factory” had its heroes go to pitch a Dippy Duck series to a network exec. Seeing his office filled with “Star Wars” posters and stuff, they quickly retool the pitch to Dippy Duck in space.

  • Yet still more…
    Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
    Galaxy Goof Ups (Starring Yogi Bear)

  • The Mars in Pop Culture segment from Disney’s “Mars and Beyond” episode of the “Disneyland” TV show’s also worth a mention, if only for the from-out-of-nowhere Donald Duck cameo.

  • And who can forget the animated version of Lost in Space that was part of ABC’s Saturday Superstar Theater.
    And Terrytoon’s Astro Nut, the animated Pigs in Space for Little Muppet Monsters, and Dodo the Kid from Outer Space

    Also I regret to add these forgettable space cartoons
    Pinocchio in Outer Space
    Alien’s First Christmas
    Care Bears in Space
    Rickety Rocket

  • And there was that segment of “Destination Moon” with Woody Woodpecker.

  • Filmation’s Bravestarr and The Simpsons episode Deep Space Homer.

  • I was just watching the original Russian source for MR E FROM TAU CETI on YouTube. Just type “Murzilka” and you’ll find 3 Murzilka films.

  • Speaking on behalf of the Oswaldian League let us not forgot Oswald in “Mars”, another 1930 cartoon adventure that is every bit as good as Bimbos!

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