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Paramount Cartoon Studios (late 1955-1967)

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Paramount Cartoon Studios (late 1955-1967)
FamousStudios1955-59.png
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Putting it simply... the studio's fame vanished within the span of a few years.
Formerly: Famous Studios (1942-early 1957)
Industry: Theatrical animation
Predecessor: Fleischer Studios
Successor: Paramount Animation
Library:
Warner Bros. (Popeye the Sailor and Superman only)
Universal Pictures (through DreamWorks Classics) (post-October 1950 to March 1962 cartoons under Harvey Entertainment only)
Paramount Global (pre-October 1950 and post-March 1962 cartoons only)
Defunct: December 31, 1967, 54 years ago
Founder: Sam Buchwald
Headquarters: United States
Czechoslovakia (Gene Deitch-directed shorts)
Key people: Izzy Sparber (1955-58)
Dave Tendlar (1955-58)
Seymour Kneitel (1955-64)
Gene Deitch (1960-63, 65-67)
Howard Post (1963-67)
Shamus Culhane (1966-67)
Ralph Bakshi (late 1967)
Notable works: Popeye the Sailor
Little Audrey
Casper the Friendly Ghost
Herman and Katnip
Noveltoons
Modern Madcaps
Little Lulu
Comic Kings
Swifty and Shorty
Honey Halfwitch
Nudnik (produced by Gene Deitch in Czechoslovakia)
GoGo Toons
Fractured Fables


Famous Studios (renamed Paramount Cartoon Studios in 1956) was the first animation division of the film studio Paramount Pictures from 1942 to 1967.

Due to immense budget cuts in 1955 due to the rise of television, Famous Studios was downsized and assumed fully by Paramount, who renamed the cartoon studio as Paramount Cartoon Studios. While most of the Famous Studios output from 1942 to mid-1955 received mixed-to-positive reception, the shorts from late 1955 until the closure of the cartoon studio in 1967 received critical backlash from animation buffs, critics, and audiences alike, owing to Paramount's takeover of Famous Studios and layoffs and budget cuts bought throughout through the early shorts of this era, received positive-to-mixed reception.

This article will be talking about the shorts from "Little Audrey Riding Hood" up to "Mouse Trek".

Why They Weren't Famous In These Years

  1. To start, during October 1956, Paramount bought Famous Studios, forcing Seymour Kneitel to lay off over 20 staff members from the animation studio, including Izzy Sparber and Dave Tendlar. The impact, as a result, was massive, leading to numerous problems listed below.
    • Because of this, the former later died of a heart attack on August 28th, 1958. According to a member on the Golden Age Cartoons Forum, his death might have possibly been contributed to stress at the East Coast studio in New York, between a more limited talent pool, more contentious union issues, moonlighting, as well as the staffing cuts that he and Kneitel were forced to make at the end of 1957.
  2. Extremely stiff animation quality from 1959 onwards (besides for Gene Deitch-directed shorts) that is heavily resembling those of television cartoons at that time, and is a severe downgrade from other cartoons at the time.
    • To be fair, the animation did begin to take a nosedive in 1957 starting at Baby Huey's "Jumping With Toy", but it got worse in 1959.
      • The animation of 1959-64 is a ridiculous downgrade from its previous years (1942-1956 or to a lesser extent, 1957-58) since it looks low quality, subpar, and stiff at best. It honestly looks more like any television cartoons or even ripped off from TerryToons and UPA than any threatical cartoons due to its issues with the low budget cuts such as the characters movements being limited at best, cheaply done backgrounds, or even off model in some shorts.
  3. The familiar title card sequences (such as the Noveltoons jack-in-the-box intro and the original Little Audrey intro) were changed to be more simplified and have weirder typography, particularly with the Noveltoons intro used in 1964-65.
    • By this era, the animated Paramount opening logo (the 1954-mid 57 version) appears to look incredibly cheap and poorly drawn as if it were designed by a child, with its use of flat colors and simplistic character designs used for the Paramount Mountain and its surrounding clouds.
  4. Awful and weak writing that doesn't stay true to the original cartoons, especially in the Modern Madcap series.
    • This wouldn't help as a quarter of the old writers either left (Larz Bourne) or were mostly demoted to regular animators (I. Klein, Irv Spector). With the majority of the 1960-61 works were almost entirely written by both Jack Mercer and Carl Meyer (who would leave shortly after 1961). While Irv Spector and I. Klein did occasionally write around this period, it was only a few and they would eventually leave Paramount shortly after. Meanwhile, new writers were hired on the spot, most of which were incredibly hit or miss.
  5. Limited stock sound effects, which got worse during the 1967 cartoons. "The Trip", "The Fuz" and "My Daddy the Astronaut" are most infamous for the limited amount of sound effects used.
  6. Simplistic, angular, and rigid character designs, which also all suffer thick outlines. Herman, Katnip, Popeye, Little Audrey, Moe Hare, and Tommy Tortoise got impacted by this the most.
  7. Extremely slow pacing for most of the shorts, making the jokes fall flat or drag out for too long.
    • Most of the shorts of this era (especially those of the Herman and Katnip series) still rely more on gratuitous over-the-top violence instead of slapstick.
      • As with most of the Famous Studios shorts from the previous years, most of the gags remain to be predictable and overused, while also rather violent and realistic.
  8. The Popeye Cartoons, while it wasn't affected by the downsizing and still remained superior, have not only gotten weaker but gotten worse in this era due to the above flaws in terms of animation budgets, flanderization of many characters like Olive Oyl, Bluto, and even Popeye himself, more bad episodes than good, etc.
  9. Most of the new characters introduced in this era (most notably Professor Schmaltz, Luigi, Jeepers and Creepers, The Cat, and Kozmo the Space Kid) come off as bland, annoying, or rip off traits of other characters from more popular studios. By 1959, due to Paramount selling their better-known characters such as Casper and Little Audrey to Harvey Comics, almost all of the characters (besides Little Lulu) are one-offs, giving them no room for character development.
    • None of the characters introduced in the era after 1959 have made revival appearances after this era due to their poor reception from audiences.
  10. This era lacks any originality, as many of the shorts (especially Seymour Kneitel's shorts) in this era rip-off previous Famous Studios cartoons or even material from other studios, almost to the point of blatant plagiarism:
    • "Sportickles" is a rehash of the 1941 Merrie Melodies cartoon "Sport Chumpions".
    • "T.V. Fuddlehead" is a rip-off of the 1957 Terrytoons cartoon "Topsy TV".
    • "From Dime to Dime" is a rip-off of the 1957 Moe Hare and Tommy Tortoise cartoon "Mr. Money Gags", which is also a rehash of the 1956 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Barbary Coast Bunny".
    • "The Mighty Termite" is a rip-off of the 1948 Porky Pig cartoon "The Pest That Came to Dinner".
    • Both "The Plot Sickens" and "Harry Happy" are ripoffs of the Herman/Henry/Bertha shorts and the 1955 Daffy Duck cartoon "Stork Naked". The earlier short also rips off the Baby Huey cartoons.
    • "Counter Attack" is a rip-off of the 1954 Herman and Katnip cartoon "Of Mice and Menace".
    • "Turtle Scoop" is a rip-off of the 1955 Snapper cartoon "News Hound".
    • "In the Nicotine" is a rip-off of the 1954 Buzzy the Crow cartoon "No Ifs, ands, or Butts".
    • "Be Mice to Cats" is a rip-off of the 1956 Herman and Katnip cartoon "Mouseum".
    • "Miceniks" is a rip-off of the 1956 Herman and Katnip cartoon "Mousetro Herman".
    • "The Phantom Moustacher" is a rip-off of the 1946 Daffy Duck and Porky Pig cartoon "Daffy Doodles".
    • "Busy Buddies" is a rip-off of the 1955 Moe Hare and Tommy Tortoise cartoon "Rabbit Punch".
    • "The Kid From Mars" is a rip-off of the 1945 Little Lulu cartoon "Magica-Lulu".
    • "Silly Science" is a rip-off of the 1953 Looney Tunes cartoon "There Auto Be a Law".
    • "The Inquisit Visit" is a rip-off of the 1960 Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd cartoon "Person to Bunny".
    • "Giddy Gadgets" is a rip-off of the 1954 Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd cartoon "Design for Leaving".
    • Both "Funderful Suburbia" and "One Weak Vacation" are rip-offs of the 1952 Katnip cartoon "City Kitty".
    • "Good and Guilty" is a rip-off of the 1959 Casper cartoon "Not Ghoulty".
    • "Electronica" is a rip-off of the 1952 Tom and Jerry cartoon "Push-Button Kitty".
    • "Homer on the Range" is a rehash of the 1961 Tom and Jerry cartoon "Tall in the Trap".
    • "Space Kid" is a space-style rehash of the 1933 Popeye cartoon "Sock-a-Bye Baby".
    • "The Sheepish Wolf" is a rip-off of the Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf cartoons of Looney Tunes, as well as the 1942 Looney Tunes cartoon of the same name.
    • "Travelaffs" is a rip-off of the Tex Avery travelogue cartoons of Merrie Melodies.
    • All of the Honey Halfwitch cartoons rehash off of the Sabrina the Teenage Witch Archie comics at the time.
    • All of the Sir Blur cartoons rehash off of UPA's Mr. Magoo.
  11. Many of the final cartoons starring the classic crew relied heavily on recycling stock footage from older cartoons, making the footage not blend well with the new style.
  12. By 1959, Paramount ended up selling all of the earlier 1950-58 cartoons to Harvey Comics, disallowing them from using the main cast (such as Casper, Herman and Katnip, Little Audrey, Baby Huey, and Moe Hare and Tommy Tortoise) after that year. To replace the characters, several rip-offs were made, most notably Goodie the Gremlin, who is a rip-off of Casper, Skit and Skat, who are rip-offs of Herman and Katnip (which in return are rip-offs of Tom and Jerry), Sir Blur, who is a rip-off of Mr. Magoo, and Mortimer Tortoise and the Hare, who are rip-offs of Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare.
    • While Paramount would later attempt to sell their 1958-62 cartoons to Harvey Comics again, this flopped miserably, as they were rarely shown in syndication at the time until The Harveytoons Show.
  13. After 1958, budget cuts were also made towards the coloring process, resorting to cheaper alternatives, such as Paramount ceasing the use of the more superior three-strip Technicolor color process in favor of cheaper single strip color processes such as Eastmancolor until late 1963.
    • While not necessarily a bad thing, most of the cartoons in this era suffer from dull, dark, or washed-out colors.
  14. After 1960-61, the majority of the old voice actors, with the exceptions of Jack Mercer, Allen Swift, Eddie Lawrence, (Mercer and Lawrence would leave Paramount by 1965), Cecil Roy and Mae Questel (Roy and Questel would leave Paramount by 1963), all departed from Paramount's Theatrical work. This would lead to new voice artists coming in such as Dayton Allen (in "Grateful Gus"), Bob McFadden (in "Miceniks"), Corinne Orr (in "Phantom Moustacher"), and Joe Sliver, while not bad voice artists, but around this period, some of the voice actings started becoming an occasional hit or miss.
  15. Overuse of Native American stereotyping in these cartoons, to the point where it isn't funny and comes out as tasteless.
    • In comparison, most other theatrical cartoons of the time either didn't use these stereotypes or used them at a minimum.
  16. Many of the characters who were retired in this era such as Casper, Herman, Katnip, and Baby Huey ended their Golden Age careers on rather sour notes.
  17. Due to Paramount's new owners, Gulf+Western starting the process to shut down the studio before completing their last shorts, which shut down on December 31, 1967; on the day of the release of the studio's last short and Fractured Fables finale, "Mouse Trek", Paramount didn't have an animation studio of its own again for years until 2011, when they founded Paramount Animation, despite almost of their movies (except for the SpongeBob film sequels) receiving mixed-to-negative reception.
  18. Numerous bad or mediocre shorts scattered everywhere during this era like:
    • "Katnip's Big Day" (which ended Herman and Katnip's career at Paramount on a sour note)
    • "Parlez Vous Woo"
    • "Nearlyweds"
    • "Lion in the Roar"
    • "Right Off the Bat" (which was a horrible premiere for Modern Madcaps)
    • "The Blacksheep Blacksmith" (which ended Modern Madcaps on a terrible note)
    • "And So Tibet"
    • "From Dime to Dime"
    • "I Want My Mummy" (which started Shamus Culhane's tenure at Paramount Cartoon Studios on a sad note)
    • "In the Nicotine"
    • "Harry Happy"
    • "Mini-Squirts"
    • "Jumping With Toy"
    • "Trash Program"
    • "A Balmy Knight"
    • "The Opera Caper" (which started Ralph Bakshi's tenure and ended I.Klein's career at Paramount on rather sad notes)
    • "The Crystal Brawl"
    • "Casper's Birthday Party" (which ended Casper's career at Paramount on a poor note)
    • "Huey's Father's Day" (which ended Baby Huey's career at Paramount on a sour note)
    • "Travelaffs"

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The animation was good until mid-1957, but then looked okay until 1959.
    • The awkward animation and music can make for unintentional comedy.
      • The animation can be good in some scenes, especially Gene Deitch-directed shorts as well as other animators like Al Eugster and Dante Barbetta (despite their angular animation), Tom Golden, Chuck Harriton, Doug Crane and Jim Tyer.
  2. Passable music from Winston Sharples, especially in "Mr. Money Gags" and "Sick Transit"; despite downsizing its studio orchestra.
    • Likewise, many of the title tunes remain catchy, such as the ones used for Noveltoons and Modern Madcaps during this era.
  3. While Goodie the Gremlin (a gremlin counterpart to Casper), Sir Blur, Beetle Bailey, Snuffy Smith and Barney Google, Renoir the Matchmaker, Nudnik, Honey Halfwitch, Swifty and Shorty are far from being perfect when compared to the classic cast, they are somewhat entertaining and unique for what they are (especially for Nudnik since his clumsiness can come across as hilarious).
    • On that related note, there are some decent characters in this era such as;
      • Little Audrey
      • Moe Hare and Tommy Tortoise
      • Popeye (despite being reduced to a punching bag)
      • Baby Huey (except for his last apperance in "Huey's Father Day")
      • Katnip (despite being a rip off of Tom Cat)
      • Little Lulu
      • Olive Oyl (to a lesser extent in certain episodes)
      • Casper the Friendly Ghost
  4. Despite the downfall in quality in all of the Paramount series, the Popeye cartoons, Little Audrey cartoons, the Moe Hare and Tommy Tortoise cartoons and Little Lulu cartoons (who returned for two brief appearances in 1961 and 1962 after a long absence from 1949-1960) got impacted the least from the downsizing.
    • A few of the new short-lived series (such as "Swifty and Shorty", "Fractured Fables", "Go-Go Toons" and "Nudnik") introduced in this era are passable at best.
  5. It explores the possibilities of television, pitching various experimental cartoons such as two episodes of the Krazy Kat TV series, Mighty Thor TV series, Popeye the Sailor TV series, Felix the Cat (TV series), Segments of King Features Trilogy, adapting Muggy Doo into a pilot (which would later be picked up for the Milton the Monster Show), and also being the producer for a few Gene Deitch Rembrandt Films cartoons, including the Academy Award-winning series Nudnik.
  6. The majority of the shorts written by voice actor and comedian Eddie Lawrence, particularly the shorts he wrote for the Swifty and Shorty series, which he voice acted in, are surprisingly decent and even funny at times despite the weak animation.
  7. The cartoons would slightly improve themselves when both Gene Deitch and Howard Post took over the direction of the studio following Seymour Kneitel's passing, although this improvement is rather small. However, the cartoons would have more creative plots and slightly less predictable gags.
    • It got much better once Shamus Culhane (a veteran of the Fleischer Studios) and later on Ralph Bakshi helped take the studio in a different direction and made the majority of the shorts treat limited budget liability into a unique asset; despite the fact that Culhane had a poor start on the Modern Madcaps series and Ralph Bakshi's tenure didn't last long.
  8. Out of all the 7 directors behind these shorts, both Gene Deitch's and Dave Tendlar's shorts are considered to be impacted the least out of the directors of this period.
  9. The UPA-style Paramount opening logo from 1957 to 1966 (Cat in the Act to The Blacksheep Blacksmith) looks very creative. See the image above.
  10. There are still a decent amount of good shorts (usually those with the classic cast early in this era, storyboarded by Irv Spector and Gene Deitch prior to 1961, or during 1967). They include:
    • "Little Audrey Riding Hood" (which started this era on a high note)
    • "Kitty Cornered"
    • "Hill-billing and Cooing"
    • "Sleuth but Sure"
    • "Swab the Duck"
    • "Insect to Injury"
    • "Pedro and Lorenzo"
    • "Spooky Swabs" (which ended Popeye's career at Paramount on a high note)
    • "Pest Pupil"
    • "Grateful Gus" (which ended Dave Tendlar's career on a decent note)
    • "Okey Dokey Donkey" (which ended Spunky's career at Paramount on a good note)
    • "Chew Chew Baby" (which ended Izzy Sparber’s career on a good note)
    • "Dawg Gawn" (which ended Little Audrey's career at Paramount on a good note)
    • "Mr. Money Gags" (which ended Moe Hare's and Tommy Tortoise's careers at Paramount on very high notes)
    • "L'Amour the Merrier"
    • "You Said a Mouseful"
    • "La Petite Parade"
    • "Munro"
    • "Top Cat"
    • "Abner the Baseball"
    • "Bouncing Benny"
    • "Frog's Legs" (which ended Little Lulu's career at Paramount on an okay note)
    • "Anatole"
    • "Samson Scrap" (despite having terrible voice acting by Allen Swift)
    • "Mouse Blanche" (which ended the Comic King series on a decent note)
    • "Self Defense...for Cowards"
    • "Hobo's Holiday"
    • "A Leak in the Dike"
    • "Here's Nudnik"
    • "The Itch"
    • "Poor Little Witch Girl"
    • "Les Boys"
    • "Sick Transit"
    • "Throne for a Loss"
    • "Space Kid"
    • "Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature"
    • "The Trip"
    • "Think or Sink"
    • "My Daddy the Astronaut"
    • "Brother Bat" (which ended Honey Halfwitch's career at Paramount on an okay-ish note)
    • "The Stuck-Up Wolf"
    • "Robin Hood-winked" (which ended the Noveltoons series on a decent note)
    • "High But Not Dry"
    • "The Plumber" (despite having a half-bad ending)
    • "A Bridge Grows in Brooklyn"
    • "I Remember Nudnik" (which ended Nudnik's career at Paramount Cartoon Studios/Paramount on very high note)
    • "Keep The Cool, Baby" (which ended Chuck Harriton's direction career in good note)
    • "The Fuz"
    • "Marvin Digs" (which ended the Go-Go Toons series on a great note)
    • "Mouse Trek" (which ended the Fractured Fables series, Ralph Bakshi's career at Paramount, and the studio's catalog all on high notes)
  11. Little Lulu finally returns for only two more cartoons in the Noveltoons and Comic Kings series' "Alvin's Solo Flight" and "Frog's Legs" after a 13-year absence since the original Little Lulu series ended in 1948.

Shorts with Their Own Pages

Popeye the Sailor

Noveltoons

Modern Madcaps

  • "From Dime to Dime"
  • "The Blacksheep Blacksmith"

Trivia

  • Despite the reputation of the studio in recent years, the shorts have since gained a cult following on both public domain home media and in animation circles.
    • Abner the Baseball is displayed at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Very few cartoons in this era have been released to home media. Most of the cartoons that were sold to Harvey Comics ("Little Audrey Riding Hood" until "Hi-Fi Jinx") were released to DVD using their prints from The Harveytoons Show, which often lack their original titles and endings, are played at PAL speed, and few of the cartoons appear to be unrestored with upgraded color hues (much like the dubbed versions of Looney Tunes cartoons). On the other hand, "Space Kid" is the only cartoon in this era that wasn't sold to Harvey Comics to be restored for a Paramount DVD (in this case, the DVD release of the 1982 Nick Nolte/Eddie Murphy film 48 Hrs).
  • In 1955, Paramount put their cartoon and shorts library up for television sale. U.M. & M. TV Corporation acquired the majority of all theatrical shorts. However, the Popeye cartoons were sold separately at a higher price.
    • In June 1956, Paramount sold the black and white Popeye cartoons to television syndicator Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.), one of the biggest distributors of the time, for release to television stations, with the color cartoons being sold a year later.
      • However, unlike the pre-August 1948 Warner Bros. cartoons they were distributing, a.a.p. was asked to remove the Paramount logos and "Paramount presents" title cards, so the cartoons were given an a.a.p. opening title card similar to the Warner Bros. cartoons, using a version of the Popeye theme music introduced in "Olive Oyl For President" in 1948. These cartoons would now be owned under Warner Bros. via their ownership of Turner Entertainment.
  • During "Here's Nudnik", Gene Deitch originally wanted his Nudnik character to have somber blues music as his main theme. But Paramount Cartoon Studios (the producer of Nudnik) wanted something more cartoonish and convinced Deitch to use more upbeat music. The song, "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" became the standard theme for Nudnik in later entries of the series.
  • Paramount signed a three year deal with Kodak for printing the cartoon release prints in their Eastmancolor process. This began with the final Noveltoon release of 1959, Out Of This Whirl (which is also the final cartoon in the original Harveytoon package). Paramount would return to Technicolor printing in late 1963.
  • The studio’s last cartoons were distributed well into 1968, and most of them came and went in theaters without public attention beyond movie listings in newspapers.

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