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The Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s are among the most influential theatrical film productions in the history of animation and comic book media. They were produced by Max and Dave Fleischer (Dave as director) in between 1941-2 and subsequently, when Fleischer Studios dissolved after the first season of nine installments, they were tackled by Famous Studios from 1942-3, completing the next eight productions. These short films were shown in theatres as compliments to the screening feature films, and the Fleischers were given a big budget of $50,000; resulting in some of the most lavish, bright and meticulously plot-driven animated shorts produced during the golden age of American cinema. Originally distributed by Paramount Pictures, these seventeen shorts have garnered much praise as the first animated visual depiction of the Man of Steel, being in only three years of publication at the time, alongside his supporting cast of Lois Lane and Perry White. As such, the Fleischer shorts portray a Superman who is slightly different from his modern-age incarnation and, in my eyes, he is more of a representation of the original Superman of Earth-Two within the pre-crisis DC Multiverse (in which DC's golden-age characters reside). This Superman hails from a Krypton that was inhabited by a highly advanced civilisation before it's destruction, with abilities that far outweighed its Earthen counterparts, such as near-impenetrable skin, super strength and the ability to leap long distances in the blink of an eye.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
158 of 161 people found the following review helpful
Clearing Up The Confusion16 Jan. 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
I will not spend any time discussing the animated genius of these classic cartoon shorts since anyone visiting this page undoubtedly knows that already. However, since there have been many video releases of the Fleischer Superman shorts over the years, I feel it is necessary to clarify what is being offered with this latest edition. Having been considered part of the public domain for decades, these shorts have been issued numerous times on VHS and DVD with varying degrees of quality. The most notable DVD releases have been The Complete Superman Cartoons- Diamond Anniversary Edition released in 2000 by Bosko Video (now Image Ent.), and the Superman- The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection released in 2006 by VCI Video. Later that same year, Warner Bros. officially released all 17 shorts as bonus material split up between the Superman The Movie and Superman II DVD sets, which were also included as part of the 14-disc Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition and the 8-disc Christopher Reeve Superman Collection. WB's offering was unique in that it was the fist time that the Fleischer Superman cartoons were "remastered from superior, original vault elements." The result was more vibrant colors, top notch audio, and minimal amounts of dust and debris. While still far from perfect, it is the best these cartoons have ever looked.
This 2009 DVD set is nearly identical to the 2006 WB release, only this time as a separate stand-alone collection and the opening prologue to the "Mechanical Monsters" short corrected. For those who own the 2006 WB release, the only other new inclusion is "The Man, The Myth, Superman" featurette, which explores the archetype of superhuman heroes on the page and screen. The "First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series" featurette, which examines the history of the series, was also included as part of the 2006 release. It should be noted that WB's version has some minor edits to the beginning and ending title sequences (elaborated further in other reviews) that will be more apparent to purists than most buyers. Hopefully, this information unravels some of the subterfuge surrounding the different versions of these cartoons. Several decades after first appearing on the screen, the Fleischer Superman cartoons continue to be a benchmark for outstanding animation and are easily worth adding to anyone's video library.
82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Actually 3 and a half stars11 April 2009
Steven T. Siegert
- Published on Amazon.com
Finally, Warner Home Video has issued an official stand-alone release of the theatrical Superman cartoons from the 1940's. While it is exciting to finally have this set, it is far from perfect, and therefore you really need to take some things into consideration before you purchase this set. The title alone shows just how much homework Warner Home Video had done. Max Fleischer only produced the first 9 Superman cartoons. The remaining 8 were produced by Famous Studios after Paramount had took control of the Fleischer studio and removed the Fleischer brothers Max and Dave. Also, Famous continued producing new Superman cartons into 1943 before they decided to quit production.
For starters, the project was started by the Max Fleischer studio, a cartoon studio that originated in New York (but later moved to Miami to produce feature films). The studio head was Max Fleischer, and his brother Dave was the lead director. The Fleischers were under contract to produce theatrical cartoons for Paramount Pictures. The Fleischers had success in the 1930's producing cartoons that starred characters like Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor, the latter of which was adapted from a newspaper comicstrip started by E.C. Segar. With the growing popularity of the Superman comicstrip, Paramount had interest in making theatrical cartoons based on the series. While cartoons of this era were typically musicals and/or comedies, the Superman comicstrip was action-based. Therefore, these Superman cartoons were the first action-based animated films ever produced. The Fleischer brothers were not interested in producing the Superman cartoons, and when they were approached by Paramount, they quoted a budget so high, they were certain that Paramount would reject it. However, Paramount accepted their proposed budget for the series, and so the Fleischer brothers began work on the Superman cartoons. The first Superman cartoon was produced in 1941 on a budget of $50,000. Just imagine how much money that is if you apply today's inflation rate. The remaining cartoons had a budget of $30,000. Also, the first Superman short, just simply titled "Superman" was nominated for an Academy Award in the category Best Short Subjects: Cartoons. The last cartoon produced at the Fleischer studio was "Terror on the Midway". Once production continued at Famous Studios, Superman was put in plots that related heavily on American involvement in World War II. Superman fought the Japanese in the shorts "Japoteurs" and "Eleventh Hour", and fought the Germans in "Jungle Drums" and "Secret Agent". The stereotypes in these cartoons, especially the Japanese, may be offensive by today's standards, but during the war years, they boosted the morale of American movie audiences. The last Superman cartoon, "Secret Agent" was released in 1943.
Now, based on my rating, here is what is good about this set. The colors are really bright and are really attractive to the human eye. In terms of picture quality, Warner has done an outstanding job and no one has reached this level of picture quality yet. Also, "Terror on the Midway" is a complete version. Most versions floating around on public domain releases are missing footage at the beginning, and utilize still pictures while the soundtrack plays. Also, the prologue for "The Mechanical Monsters" has been corrected from the previous versions released by Warner Bros. The version of "The Mechanical Monsters" previously released by Warner borrowed its prologue from the first Superman short. What is unique about the prologue for "The Mechanical Monsters" is that it is the only time it is mentioned in the prologue that Superman has x-ray vision.
Now for the bad. The source materials Warner Bros. used on this set are in really rough shape. There are scratches throughout these films. Also, Warner expressed a real lack of quality control as the intros to most of these films have been altered. During the prologue of the first Superman short, there is an audio glitch. The line "Superman fights a never ending battle for truth and justice" is heard as "Superman fights a never ending battle for truth-justice". There are two cartoons that have the wrong prologue placed at the beginning. The cartoons "Eleventh Hour" and "Jungle Drums" borrow their prologue from the first Superman cartoon. Strangely, the audio glitch is not present in the prologue used for "Eleventh Hour" while it is present in the prologue to "Jungle Drums". The rest of the cartoons on this set have their correct prologues, but there are other audio issues. Many of the cartoons on this set have the incorrect Superman theme music playing over the opening credits, most notably on all of the Famous Studios shorts. "Japoteurs" borrows its opening credits music from "Electric Earthquake", you just have to listen as the title of the cartoon appears, you can hear the same sound effects heard over the title screen for "Electric Earthquake". The cartoons "The Magnetic Telescope", "Showdown", "Destruction, Inc", "The Mummy Strikes", "The Underground World" and "Secret Agent" have truncated music playing over the opening credits; basically by cutting the theme music short as the credits end before the entire piece of music accompanying it. As a result, the sound effects originally heard during the title screens for "The Magnetic Telescope" (an electrifying sound) and "Destruction, Inc" (an explosion) are gone. Lastly, only 3 cartoons have their original Paramount end logo, being "Superman", "The Arctic Giant" and "Electric Earthquake". However, there is a cut in the audio at the end of "Superman" as it fades to the Paramount end logo. Also, the other 14 cartoons on this set seem to have the end logo from "Superman" tacked onto them.
Overall, I can't discourage anyone from buying this set, but personally, I am once again disappointed by Warner Bros. lack of quality control. In terms of presenting these films as close to original as possible, I actually prefer The Complete Superman Cartoons - Diamond Anniversary Edition as the only thing they did to alter these films was briefly super impose the original theatrical release date for a few brief seconds at the beginning of each cartoon. If anyone from Warner Home Video may be reading this review, please learn from the people who put together the Diamond Anniversary Edition. There is a lot of cleanup to do, and hopefully if enough people bring these issues to Warner Bros' attention, they will issue replacements.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
What Re-mastering?4 May 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
Here we go again folks! NONE of these animation masterpieces were re-mastered! Why lie on your box art???!!! In fact, Warner's used the same generic musical closing on almost everyone of these cartoons!!! Why is that wrong, you might be asking? Because, every one of these films had their own, unique musical closing cues at the fade out! Through their tinkering, now the same music over and over. It is obvious and annoying! And on the image, If they took the time to clean up the frames one at a time like Disney does to their films, then we would have something to cherish. Instead, take a look at the dirt and debris left on MAGNETIC TELESCOPE for example! HORRIBLE! If you already bought the Superman Collectors Set with all of the movies and these thrown in, you are better off not spending the extra dough. O.k. Warner's, why not do this set right. Really re-master them and as a bonus, give us SUPER-RABBIT (Which you own!) STUPOR DUCK (Which you own) Popeye with Bluto as Superman in SHE SICK SAILORS (Which you own!) etc. etc. Heck, contact me and I will give you more Superman parody cartoons that you could ad! Save your hard earned cash Super-fans.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Warner Still Can't Get It Right!23 May 2009
Scott T. Rivers
- Published on Amazon.com
For an "authorized" release, "Max Fleischer's Superman" is a sloppy, lackadaisical effort. Animation aficionados have been waiting for a definitive collection of the 1941-43 Superman cartoons, yet Warner Home Video cannot be bothered. Apart from correcting the introduction to "The Mechanical Monsters," Warner simply reissued the same altered versions found in the special editions of "Superman" and "Superman II." Only two of the 17 cartoons were left unscathed: "The Arctic Giant" and "Electric Earthquake." Steven T. Siegert's excellent Amazon review touches on all the things wrong with this DVD set. However, the main problem lies in Warner's cynical, quick-buck attitude — they own the original film elements (which can be seen in their "TV's Best Adventures of Superman" videocassettes) yet refuse to give these animation classics the proper presentation and respect. Bosko's "Complete Superman Collection" remains superior because it offers the original theatrical versions without audio tampering. If Warner had any integrity, they would recall the DVD set and start from scratch.
38 of 48 people found the following review helpful
These are CENSORED!12 April 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
Yes, these are in my opinion the greatest cartoons ever made. And yes, the picture on this release is clearer than on any other stand alone release. But I can't recommended this disc due the the many problems present. Others have gone into detail on how the opening and closing credits are wrong, and how there are ocassional drop-outs of sound. To all this I'll add the following which I believe has not been mentioned elsewhere. Having borrowed a copy from the library I just watched the first episode. In addtion to the problems previously mentioned I noticed that this set has been censored. The first episode contains the line spoken by Clark Kent to Perry White: "Don't you think that's a dangerous job for a woman" On this set the last three words have been edited out. I refuse to purchase any item that the politically correct thought police have excised to conform to their dogma. I want to see works of culture as they were created. Not how some Big Brother deems they should be presented. I should note that some other releases of these cartoons also contain this bit of censorship. But complete versions do exist. I haven't watched any other episodes yet, so I'm not yet aware of any other possible censoring.
Warner Bros -- Clean up your act. Present these cartoons complete and unedited. You can do it. Until then I'm hoping people don't reward Warners for releasing butchered prints when they can do it right.
P.S. I had to delete a previous review of this item that I posted a while back before I was aware of the censorship issue.