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Wanted: More Fleischer Cartoons

Wanted: More Fleischer Cartoons

The good news: Betty Boop has never looked better, thanks to
Olive Films’ new DVD and Blu-ray releases Betty
Boop: The Essential Collection
, Volumes 1 and 2, mastered in 4K from
original 35mm materials. The bad news is that it’s taken well over a decade for
someone to produce a legitimate DVD release of these cartoons, while bootlegs
of inferior quality have flooded the Internet. This has been the unhappy fate
of the Max Fleischer cartoon library for many years, sorry to say. Only the
now-defunct Republic Pictures Home Video company thought to release the
complete Betty Boop library on vhs and even on laserdisc.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds
of other short subjects from the Fleischer library that have yet to see the
light of day: the Talkartoons, which
gave Betty her first exposure (no pun intended)…the Screen Songs featuring the Bouncing Ball and such guest stars as
Ethel Merman, the Mills Brothers, and the Boswell Sisters…the Color Classics, Fleischer’s bid to
compete with Walt Disney’s Technicolor Silly
…the studio’s two-reel color “specials” featuring such characters
as Raggedy Ann and Andy…and most important, the Out of the Inkwell shorts of the 1920s starring Koko the Clown and
Max Fleischer himself.

Fortunately, many Koko shorts are available, along with
Fleischer’s early sound experiments with Dr. Lee DeForest, from Ray Pointer’s
Inkwell Images (click HERE).
It has taken this dedicated entrepreneur to bring about what no archive or
mainstream distributor has been willing to do, since most of these films are
now in the public domain. The late-silent Inkwell shorts are still under
copyright and were released both on vhs and laserdisc by Republic—but there’s
been no sign of them on DVD.

Many years ago, the annual silent film festival in
Pordenone, Italy mounted a major Fleischer retrospective and persuaded archives
from around the globe to loan their 35mm prints of Out of the Inkwell shorts. I was lucky enough to attend that year,
as did Max Fleischer’s son, director Richard Fleischer, who reveled in the
opportunity to see some of his father’s rarest and most entertaining creations for
the first time, with an enthusiastic audience. Spread throughout the festival
fortnight as added attractions, these vintage cartoons were a complete
delight—not a lemon in the batch.

Following the festival, the prints were sent back to their
homes in storage vaults around the world. This is something of a cultural
crime, it seems to me. These are important milestones in the parade of American
animation, as well as great entertainment. It’s even more infuriating that
readily-available cartoons like all those talkies are so hard to find, legally
or otherwise.

Perhaps if Olive enjoys healthy sales with its first two
Betty Boop releases, other Fleischer collections will follow. Wouldn’t that be

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Second and third your comments on the Fleischer Screen Songs, Color Classics, Two Reel Specials etc! I believe there is quite a hungry niche market for these! They are truly beautiful cartoons. Many of us have been waiting decades for something to happen so it is quite an occasion when it does! That said there was a problem with the post mastering of BETTY BOOP ESSENTIAL COLLECTION vols.1 & 2 which caused the image to be 'squished' horizontally. You can read about it here:

A shame since everything else on BETTY BOOP ESSENTIAL COLLECTION looks and sounds better than ever. Some can't detect a difference so here is a link with comparisons between an original animation drawing from BETTY BOOP'S MAY PARTY (as well as previous video versions) and the Olive disc.

Hopefully they can correct the problem by Vol.3 and, like you, I am always hopeful that we will one day see a DVD release of all the Fleischer's amazing cartoon series.


VCI has "Somewhere in Dreamland", a two-disc set of the public domain "Color Classics". Thunderbean has a very nice collection of "Noveltoons," a series produced after the Fleischers were booted from their own studio. Both are far superior to any other PD releases I've seen, with restored titles and commentaries.

But yes, too much Fleischer is still bottled up (including "Mr. Bug/Hoppity Goes to Town"). Along with Tex Avery's essential MGM shorts, George Pal Puppetoons, Scrappy, Krazy Kat, the Karel Zeman features, etc.

But hope springs eternal — We DID finally get the B&W Popeyes, UPA, a good chunk of Walter Lantz, and even "Sita Sings the Blues."

The crazy thing about Betty Boop is that she's thrived as a licensed property even with her films largely unavailable.


This is welcome news. LM does a thorough job informing us of these "lost" gems. Amazing how culture survives itself…Hopefully it will be gathered and restored for broad Public consumption.

Martin Grams

Add to that the recent discovery of the complete bound volumes of radio scripts from the 1930s BETTY BOOP radio program, which starred Mae Questel in the lead role. No recordings are known to exist but the scripts were recently found and being digitally scanned for archival purposes. A magazine article for SPERDVAC's "Radiogram" will no doubt appear in print, documenting the radio program, with a complete episode guide (including plot summaries, titles, airdates, cast, music cues, etc.) sometime next year.

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