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Wanted: More Fleischer Cartoons

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin October 3, 2013 at 1:22PM

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.
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An example of Fleischer innovation: in this scene from "House Cleaning Blues" (1937), Betty is drawn and inked on a cel, but everything surrounding her is a live-action set, made of paper maché and cardboard! This is one of the later 1930s cartoons not yet available on DVD or Blu-ray.
An example of Fleischer innovation: in this scene from "House Cleaning Blues" (1937), Betty is drawn and inked on a cel, but everything surrounding her is a live-action set, made of paper maché and cardboard! This is one of the later 1930s cartoons not yet available on DVD or Blu-ray.

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.

This trade advertisement for Fleischer’s "Out of the Inkwell" series dates back to 1919
This trade advertisement for Fleischer’s "Out of the Inkwell" series dates back to 1919

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 nice?

This article is related to: DVD Reviews, Max Fleischer, Betty Boop