1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
WB Finally Provide the Fleischer Superman Theatrical Shorts with an Official, Authorised and Remastered Release!,
This review is from: Max Fleischer's Superman [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
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. At this time of the character's publication, Superman was merely portrayed as leaping and jumping and it was the Fleischer series of shorts that gave him his famous flying ability, as this would apparently look far more visually aesthetic than having him leaping everywhere in a somewhat limited manner. Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander provide the voices of Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane, respectively, in the same vain as they voice their characters in the 'Adventures of Superman' radio show and, subsequently, during the first season of the animated, Filmation produced 'New Adventures of Superman' in 1966.
Regarding plots, the generic make-up of each short generally includes having Lois becoming embroiled in some sort of trouble whilst attempting to scoop a lead story ahead of Superman's altar-ego, Clark Kent. He, then, changes in the shadows to Shelley Timberg's iconic musical score, into the Man of Steel before dispatching of the story's villain(s) or threat(s). In the first series of nine shorts, produced by the two Fleisher brothers, the plots are driven with a more science-fiction theme with robotic machinations, Godzilla-esque beasts and mad scientists bent on global corruption. The second series of eight shorts, which were handled by Famous Studios on behalf of Paramount, turn away from science-fiction elements and focus more on war-time topicality, having Superman go up against stereotypical portrayals of Japanese saboteurs and Nazi soldiers, with Hitler, himself, making a cameo appearance at the end of 'Jungle Drums'. It must be noted that, of course, these portrayals can be seen as grossly stereotypical and racially offensive by today's standards. However, it is important to remember that this type of war-time propaganda is part of our world history and it must be seen through the eyes of a 1940s audience. Lest we forget, this was a time in which the whole world was up in arms and the Nazi threat was all around. The world has moved on, and the racial stereotypes presented here are simply a reminder of a time in which the world was heavily divided. As such, this particular DVD set has been deemed as 'intended for the adult collector and...not suitable for children'. Because of all seventeen shorts falling into the public domain after their copyright policies were not renewed, there have been a plethora of home video releases on VHS and DVD, which still continue to be churned out to this day. However, these releases are neither official nor authorized by the current owners of the master prints (Warner Brothers) and they are usually of variable quality.
This two-disc DVD set, entitled 'Max Fleischer's Superman: 1941-1942' and released in April of 2009, is the first official and authorized set of the Fleischer shorts, distributed by Warner Brothers and 'remastered from superior, original vault elements'. The animation has been cleaned up to a more than reasonable standard, and the rotoscopic motion of the characters seem much more fluid, with environments that show detailed precision. As opposed to the many unofficial releases in circulation, this set is a true testament to the Fleischer brothers, presenting their work in the way these iconic short theatrical films should be seen - in vivid and bright detail. The seventeen entries, lasting 145 minutes in total, are presented over two disks, with the first disk holding the first nine instalments of the series produced by Fleischer Studios, and the second disk holding the eight remaining Famous Studio-produced series of shorts. There are optional subtitles provided for the English hard-of-hearing and for the French-speaking audience, and the shorts are presented in full-frame format, 'preserving the aspect ratio of their original theatrical exhibitions'. Regarding special features, Warner has provided an exclusive sneak peek at the, then, upcoming DC Universe animated feature 'Green Lantern' on the first disk, which gives some background information on the origins of the Green Lantern character, as well as storyboard concepts and cast and crew interviews exploring their motivations for crafting the film. On the second disk, two featurettes are provided, lasting roughly ten minutes or so each. 'The Man, the Myth, Superman' explores the tradition of superhuman heroes on the page and screen, stretching from the ancient Roman and Greek myths of Hercules and Mercury to the more contemporary comic-book adaptations that are so prevalent in both literature and in the media. The final featurette, entitled 'First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series', explores the origins and influence that these shorts have had on past, present and future interpretations of the Man of Steel and on animation and storytelling in general.
Among the many DVD releases that contain the Fleischer Superman shorts, this official and authorized set stands tall above the rest. For golden age animation fans and lovers of comic-book lore, 'Max Fleischer's Superman: 1941-1942' finally provides these historic theatrical thrills with a worthy outlet and gives the heartened collector an appreciative nod in the process.
(1 customer review)