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The Super Guide to the Fleischer Superman Cartoons
by Ross May
from Superman Homepage
This article is from Superman Homepage...a great site for all things Superman. Take a look when you can, you won't be disappointed, I'm certain!
Fleischer Studios, later called Famous Studios after being acquired by Paramount, produced seventeen Superman cartoons and were shown to audiences between 1941 and 1943. For those not acquainted with the history of entertainment, it was typical for movie theatres to show at least one short cartoon before the feature film, which has since been replaced with straight advertising. This was the original venue for the Superman cartoons, though they have appeared on television since then.
Superman's original medium was, of course, comic books, and his second venue was a radio program that began in 1940. Superman's first moving picture appearance, animated or live action, was in this series of cartoons. Their importance in making Superman publicly renown can not be understated. With only the comic books Superman would have been popular with children in America, but the radio and cartoon serials made the character so well known that he was soon recognized by all of North America, and then the entire world. Thanks in part to these cartoons his fame would snowball to create his lasting success and international stardom.
The cartoons are available today on VHS and DVD. The following text is what Bosko Video, a company specializing in the release of classic cartoons, has to say of the collection from its DVD release of the serials:
The character "Superman" was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. He first appeared in the 1938 June issue of "Action Comics," and was an immediate success with the public. Paramount Studios obtained permission to make a series of cartoons based on the comic strip. They contracted with Max and Dave Fleischer to produce them as the Fleischers were making the other cartoons Paramount distributed. The pilot cost $50,000. This is three times what "Popeye" cartoons of that time cost. Subsequent cartoons in the series had a budget of $30,000. Cost for all 17 of the "Superman" cartoons was $530,000. The familiar phrases, "Look, up in the sky!" and, "Faster than a speeding bullet," were created by the Fleischer Studio for these cartoons. These cartoons had the luxury of using pencil tests, and a special effects department that had been created for "Gulliver's Travels." The elaborate shading on the characters, the expert cutting of the action scenes, and the stylized designs of the backgrounds makes this one of the most elaborate and sophisticated fantasy cartoon series ever produced by any studio. They remain a landmark in animation history, and a legacy for generations. This series was transferred from original 35mm prints and negatives. Never before have prints of this quality been available from ANY source, including laser disk. We hope that you enjoy adding them to your collection.
The Voices and CharactersSuperman/Clark Kent: Clayton 'Bud' Collyer
Lois Lane: Joan Alexander
Narrator & Perry White: Jackson BeckNowhere in the credits (within the cartoons) are the voice actors listed, but they were likely never upset over that fact, especially Bud Collyer.
Bud Collyer had been the voice for Superman and Clark Kent on the radio program since its beginning, and he actually insisted on not being credited there, feeling that he would not be able to get any other roles. Not only was Collyer's concern very real, he correctly realized that any and every Superman actor would be typecast, something that has since been a component of the fabled "Superman Actors' Curse." Fans have loved Collyer's work for the way he was able to make Clark have a slightly higher pitch than his own voice, while his Superman possessed a deep, rich sound. Typically, the voice of Clark switches mid-sentence to Superman when he speaks, "This looks like a job for Superman!" Collyer would voice Superman for years on the radio series and return to the character for television cartoons, voicing him for the last time in the late 1960's. Starting in the 1940's, a mandate was passed from the comic book publisher stating that every attempt was to be made to create a faade that Superman was a real person. This ensured that Collyer would not be credited anytime in the foreseeable future. This mandate would continue for years and cause actor George Reeves much strife when he made public appearances as the man of steel, because he was never permitted to tell children that he was merely an actor playing Superman, and not Superman himself. Bud Collyer, however, relished his anonymity, which was easy to maintain since he only provided the voice of Superman.
The Superman radio program had run through two women who voiced Lois Lane already when Joan Alexander took the role. In fact she lost it after three months, and it was Bud Collyer who insisted that she be allowed to win it back by blind audition, which she did. Alexander was recruited along with Collyer from the radio program to voice her character for the cartoons. She succeeded her previous voice actors in being the longest running voice for Lois, continuing in the radio program and brought back with Collyer for future Saturday morning cartoons starring Superman. Though Lois has few lines in the cartoons, Alexander takes those sparse quips to make the character truly sound like a smart and witty female reporter.
Jackson Beck was the only recurring voice actor not brought over from the radio program. Instead, he started out working with Superman in the cartoons before crossing over to the radio adventures. Beck used his grand, booming voice to its full extent when providing the introductions as the narrator, not unlike Collyer's own method and tone when speaking as Superman. Most listeners require a trained ear and instantaneous comparisons to be able to tell that the narrator's terrific voice comes from the same man providing for the Daily Planet's editor Perry White, who, though solid and clear, is probably unmemorable to most listeners and is just an extra character, albeit a recurring one. That was probably the intention of Beck and the studio. In 1942 Beck was taken on at the radio program as a recurring character, and in 1943 a new narrator was required there, to which he was well acquainted with doing. Also of note, Jackson Beck served for a time as the vice president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors. Like Collyer and Alexander, Beck was invited to reprise his character's role for television cartoons until the late 1960's.
There are, of course, other characters who speak in the cartoons. Most, if not all, additional male voices were provided by Collyer and Beck. Besides Lois there were only three other female characters ever heard - the woman's voice calling out, "It's a bird," Jane Hogan in 'The Mummy Strikes,' and the title character in the final cartoon 'Secret Agent,' who seems to have usurped Lois's regular position as strong willed woman and damsel in distress. It is likely that Alexander voiced all of these.
The Introductions and Famous PhrasesEach cartoon opens first with the Paramount mountain and insignia, then changes to a picture of a darkened sky where Superman, as a blur, flies by several times before leaving the letters 'Superman' on the last pass. It is when he is flying that the audience hears the "It's a bird! It's a plane!..." quotations. Interestingly, this phrase has been constantly misquoted, even in the information provided by Bosko Video. Most people start the phrase by saying, "Look, up in the sky!" What is actually said between two men and a woman is:"Up in the sky, look! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!"
The voices are provided by each member of the cast. The more familiar, "Look, up in the sky!" was used later on the radio program.
Here are the original credits for the first Superman cartoon as they appeared in theatres. A space represents a change in shots.
A Max Fleischer Cartoon
TechnicolorBy Arrangement with
comic strip created by
Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster
Dave Fleischer directed the first nine cartoons, all of which were produced before the studio was bought by Paramount and turned into Famous Studios. In the four earliest of these, his name is displayed alone on the final panel. There, a small, ringed planet can be seen underneath his name. In fact, the symbol looks exactly like the structure atop the Daily Planet building! Why this addition is present remains unknown. From the fifth cartoon on the director's name appears on the animators' and writers' shot in the credits, permitting no room for the symbol.
Not mentioned in these credits is scriptwriter and artist Jay Morton, who created the famous Superman introductions, descriptions, and taglines for these cartoons. It was he who wrote the, "It's a bird! It's a plane!..." line, as well as the following:
"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!"
"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to soar higher than any plane!"
"Faster than a streak of lightening! More powerful than the pounding surf! Mightier than a roaring hurricane!"
The numbers represent which episodes each quote appears in. As you might expect of the visual/audio medium, each sentence is represented with the object being described. The 'speeding bullet' sentence uses the same sky background as the one Superman zooms across. Indeed, there is no picture of a gun, and the small object hurtling in this instance is similarly coloured to those Superman flying shots, so the audience must decide for themselves whether the object being seen is actually a bullet or Superman speeding faster than one.
Some people say that the radio series is where Superman's famous phrases come from, but this is not the case, though it is understandable why there is confusion. Even in the comic books Superman was given various descriptions and exclamations of being "faster than X," or "greater than Y." The radio series took the concept of those descriptions and incorporated them into the narrator's introductions. Some of the descriptions come extremely close to being the same as the now famous lines, such as, "Faster than an airplane, more powerful than a locomotive, impervious to bullets." Jay Morton likely read the comic taglines and listened to the radio introductions as a basis for his own lines. It just happens that his phrases became the most popular, and were then adopted by the radio program and eventually by the comics as well.
The following is what the narrator tells us of Superman's origin, spoken only in the first cartoon:
"In the endless reaches of the universe there once existed a planet known as Krypton, a planet that burned like a green star in the distant heavens. There, civilization was far advanced and it brought forth a race of supermen, whose mental and physical powers were developed to the absolute peak of human perfection. But, there came a day when giant quakes threatened to destroy Krypton forever. One of the planet's leading scientists, sensing the approach of doom, placed his infant son in a small rocket ship and sent it hurtling in the direction of the Earth just as Krypton exploded! The rocket ship sped through star studded space, landing safely on Earth with its precious burden, Krypton's sole survivor. A passing motorist found the uninjured child and took it to an orphanage. As the years went by and the child grew to maturity he found himself possessed of amazing physical powers."
Kneitel and Sparber (writers of the first cartoon) might have written this back-story, but it seems more likely that Morton wrote it, as it is technically part of the introduction and seems to possess his personal flare.
Notice that there is no reference to the Kent family. In the original comics' back-story, the Kents discovered the baby Superman and did give him to an orphanage, only to return and then adopt him. The cartoon back-story would have viewers assume that Superman was raised in the orphanage. This change is probably due to time constraint more than anything else, and since the Kents would never appear it did not matter whether they existed or not.
Fans might be inclined to believe that the comment that Krypton, "burned like a green star," is an allusion to Superman's weakness, kryptonite. This could very well be the case, or it could be taken that Krypton had much plant life. Superman historians will point out that kryptonite did not appear in a Superman story until a June 1943 production of the radio program, two years after this first cartoon. Yet it seems that as early as 1939-1940 Jerry Siegel had envisioned an element called "K-metal" that would render Superman powerless. So, it is quite possible that Krypton's green colour in this cartoon is a reference to the as-yet unused kryptonite. After all, the planet is seen radiating a mysterious green light, probably not a good sign for any planet.
This is the phrase spoken after the back-story is completed. The image on screen shows Superman with his hands at his waist and his cape flapping in the wind. At the mention of Clark Kent, Superman morphs into his secret identity.
"The infant of Krypton is now the man of steel, Superman! To best be in a position to use his amazing powers in a never ending battle for truth and justice, Superman has assumed the disguise of Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper."
In subsequent cartoons, all of which did not contain the back-story, this same shot comes right after the "Faster than! More powerful than!" lines. Here is the description for the second cartoon, 'The Mechanical Monsters.'
"This amazing stranger from the planet Krypton, the man of steel, Superman! Empowered with X-ray vision, possessing remarkable physical strength, Superman fights a never ending battle for truth and justice, disguised as a mild mannered newspaper reporter, Clark Kent."
This cartoon happens to be the only episode where Superman employs his X-ray vision power, so in the remaining fifteen cartoons that same introduction is used but "Empowered with X-ray vision," is omitted.
The CartoonsFollowing is an intensive look at each cartoon. The dates provided are the release dates of each cartoon to movie cinemas. Notice that Isidore Sparber is sometimes credited as I. Sparber and William Turner is sometimes shortened to Bill Turner. These changes seem to have no reason, as each individual has enough room to display their full moniker in the credits.Superman
September 26, 1941
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Steve Muffati, Frank Endres
Story: Seymour Kneitel, I. Sparber
Musical Arrangement: Sammy Timberg
A mad scientist sends a letter to the Daily Planet threatening to use a destructive ray on the city at midnight. Lois already has a lead on the story, and knows that he is operating high atop a mountain. She pilots an airplane to get the scoop on the story, but is captured by the villain. The scientist uses his ray to destroy a bridge, and a newsflash describing the incident is listened to by the Daily Planet staff. Clark goes to a stockroom to change into Superman and leaps out a window, but as he is flying to the source of the ray it hits the Daily Planet building, causing it to fall over. Superman corrects the building and then takes on the beam itself, punching away the energy. The scientist turns his machine to full power, but that only thwarts Superman for a while before he reaches the source and twists the pistol of the machine, causing an overload. Superman rescues Lois and the scientist from the building as the weapon explodes. Superman tosses the villain in jail and Lois writes up the story for the Daily Planet.
November 28, 1941
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Steve Muffati, George Germanetti
Story: Isidore Sparber, Seymour Kneitel
Musical Arrangement: Sammy Timberg
A bank is robbed by a giant flying robot, who takes the money to a secluded hideout containing many other robots and where a man operates a control panel. The Daily Planet reports that a jewel exhibit will be showing rare treasures to the public and that precautions have been taken to guard them against the, "mechanical monster." At the exhibit, Clark is inspecting the gems when Lois greets him. Suddenly, one of the robots breaks into the building and begins to steal the jewels. Lois gets inside the cavity of the machine where all the gems are being placed while Clark goes to a phone booth and calls the office. Upon exiting, Clark can not find Lois so he re-enters to change into Superman. Superman then chases the mechanical monster and uses his X-ray vision to spot Lois inside the machine. He wrestles with it in the sky, which causes him to plummet to the Earth and for it to lose the jewels, but luckily Lois hangs onto the robot. Superman crashes into power lines and requires time in freeing himself from them. Meanwhile, the robot reaches its master, who is enraged that the jewels have been lost. He ties up Lois and sets her on a platform that gets closer and closer to being submerged into a giant vat of smouldering metal. Superman untangles himself from the power lines and breaks into the lair. He defeats the numerous mechanical monsters, rescues Lois and captures the inventor. Lois writes up the story for the Daily Planet.
January 9, 1942
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Myron Waldman, Frank Endres
Story: Seymour Kneitel, Isidore Sparber
Musical Arrangement: Sammy Timberg
A billion dollars worth of gold is being shipped via train to the National Mint. Lois boards the train and says goodbye to Clark, as she is going to write a report on the event. An armoured car filled with masked men chases after the train. Two of the men board the train and wrestle the conductor and an armed guard. Lois hears gunshots and goes to the engine to investigate. She tries to stop the train but can not. At a station, a signalman waves a red lantern but the train speeds by. He uses Morse code to alert other stations that the train is running wild. The Daily Planet also receives this message and Clark decides to change into Superman. He reaches the train just as the criminals have diverted the tracks so it will collide with explosives. Superman uses his bare hands to move the tracks back onto the main course. The criminals then blow up a bridge as the train is crossing it, but Superman expertly guides it all back onto the track. Finally, the villains throw a bomb that destroys the engine and coal car, but not before Superman rescues Lois. The train begins rapidly rolling downhill, but Superman pulls it forward. The masked men use tear gas and gunfire on him, but he is undeterred and brings the train cars to their destination with the gold. Lois writes about the event for the paper.
February 27, 1942
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Willard Bowsky, Reuben Grossman
Story: Bill Turner, Ted Pierce
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergIn Siberia, scientists discover a giant dinosaur frozen in ice. They bring it America and display it in a museum, still encased in ice. The Daily Planet's editor receives a call from a professor saying that the monster might still be alive. At the museum Lois is getting a tour of the refrigeration unit when a can of oil falls into a generator, causing serious malfunctions. Workers race to get the system working again while the ice thaws and the dinosaur awakens. It breaks free of the ice and destroys the building, trapping Lois inside. The Daily Planet receives word of the event, and Clark changes into Superman. He frees Lois of the rubble, then uses a boulder to fix a dam that the creature broke. The dinosaur lumbers through a river and breaks through a bridge, which Superman supports and ties up with thick metal cords. Lois enters a sporting arena and reaches an upper level to take photographs of the beast. Superman hurls a metal cord from the bridge at the dinosaur, tying it up. It is close enough to Lois that it catches her in its mouth, but Superman pries its jaws open and rescues her. Superman subdues the creature and Lois writes about the adventure, saying that the dinosaur will be on display.
March 27, 1942
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Orestes Calpini, Graham Place
Story: Bill Turner, Carl Meyer
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergPolice headquarters are destroyed by the Bulleteers - three men who pilot a high tech bullet car/plane. The next day, from high atop a mountain outside the city, the Bulleteers announce that if they do not receive all the funds from the city treasury they will continue to destroy power plants, firehouses, and municipal buildings. Lois interviews the mayor who says that the city will not give in to any threats. Meanwhile, the buildings said to be targeted are barricaded and sentries are posted. The Bulleteers read in the Daily Planet that their demands shall not be met so they go out in their rocket and destroy a power plant, causing a blackout in the city. Lois, who was working late, drives off to investigate while leaving Clark behind. Clark changes into Superman and hits the rocket vehicle before it can punch through the treasury, but the ricochet causes it to fly wildly and breaks apart a building, sending heavy debris onto Lois's car. Superman saves her, and is then buried himself when the vehicle succeeds in toppling the exterior of the treasury. The Bulleteers park it and get out to loot. During this time Lois sneaks into the rocket vehicle and tries to sabotage the controls. The Bulleteers return and take to the sky, kidnapping Lois. Superman frees himself and goes after them, dismantling the vehicle. Superman saves the occupants as it crashes to Earth. Lois, once again, writes about the event for the Daily Planet.
April 24, 1942
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Myron Waldman, Thomas Moore
Story: Dan Gordon, Carl Meyer
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergAn observatory is seen sporting a giant magnet. The magnet activates and pulls a meteor close to Earth as city residents watch including Lois, Clark, and Perry. The fiery meteor falls from the sky, rolls along a street and splashes into the harbour. Later, the scientist responsible says he is aware that the mayor has instructed him to stop his experiments, yet he tells a squad of policemen and Lois on assignment that he will continue his research. He intends to use his magnet again to attract a meteor to within a mile of the Earth for examination, then send it back into space once his work is completed. The police rush at the astronomer, but he pulls a lever which activates a wall, locking the men out. The scientist turns on his machine, bringing the comet to Earth, but the police stop the generator and break electric cords in the power room, not realizing that now the comet will strike the Earth for certain. The comet hits another heavenly body which breaks apart, sending dozens of meteors crashing into the observatory. The scientist and the police officers escape, but Lois stays behind to telephone the Daily Planet. After overhearing the phone call Clark catches a taxi to the observatory. On the way there a large meteor nearly crushes the car. Clark changes into Superman and soars to the observatory. He lifts some debris that has Lois pinned, then attacks the giant comet but is unable to stop it. Superman uses a rope and his super strength to wind up the dynamo to create electricity, then tries to reattach the broken power cords. They will not reach so he grabs each end and uses his own body as a conductor. With the power back on, Lois activates the magnet and sets it to repulse the comet, which flies back into the sky. In a darkened room in the observatory Lois rushes to a figure who she thinks is Superman and plants a kiss. It turns out to be Clark, who switches on the lights and is much amused.
May 15, 1942
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Steve Muffati, Arnold Gillespie
Story: Seymore Kneitel, Isidore Sparber
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergA Native American comes to the Daily Planet office and tells Perry, Lois and Clark that Manhattan rightfully belongs to his people. He insists that their paper write about this and order residents (presumably all non-Aboriginal residents) to vacate it. The three find the order to leave preposterous. The man threatens them that modern science will make them change their minds, then leaves. Lois follows the man to the docks where she steals away in the back of his motor boat. They arrive at a secret location, and the man spots her in the back. Without coercing or forcing her, he invites her into an elevator to witness something amazing. The elevator takes them to an underwater base, and there he traps her in a special chair to ensure that she will not interfere. He activates a machine that controls several cords with tuning forks on their ends planted in the ground. When charges reach the tuning forks, explosions and earthquakes result. After chaos erupts in the city Clark changes into Superman. Leaping into the sky, he notices that unnatural explosions are coming from the waterfront. He dives into the water and begins pulling out and dismantling the cords and tuning forks. The sabotage causes the machinery outside and inside the base to rupture, resulting in a hole. Water quickly gushes into the base and the scientist escapes to the surface in the elevator. Superman also goes to the surface and is ready to apprehend the man when the scientist tells him that someone is still in the base. Superman dives back into the water while the man sends a bomb down the elevator shaft. Superman rescues Lois and they escape before the bomb goes off. As the scientist makes his getaway in his motorboat, it is suddenly lifted out of the water by Superman, still holding onto Lois. Lois, as usual, writes about the event for the Daily Planet.
July 10, 1942
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Willard Bowsky, Otto Feuer
Story: Bill Turner, Carl Meyer
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergTremors are being felt on a populated island on which rests the volcano Mount Monokoa. Clark and Lois are sent to report from the island. Once there, Clark is not permitted to enter a restricted area because he lost his press pass. Clark goes to the police station and waits for the chief to return while Lois is told by an expert that the plan is to blast the rim of the crater facing away from the city on the island so when there is an eruption the lava will flow harmlessly into the sea. The eruptions begin before the explosives team is fully prepared, and falling boulders break a cord so they are unable to set off the dynamite. Clark hears the eruptions and changes into Superman, then stops a giant boulder from striking the city. He then gets Lois to safety and joins the broken cords, setting off the explosives. The lava starts flowing down the other side of the volcano. Later, Lois is writing about the event on her typewriter and Clark finds his missing press pass sticking out of her purse.
August 28, 1942
Director: Dave Fleischer
Animation: Orestes Calpini, Jim Davis
Story: Jay Morton, Dan Gordon
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergClark and Lois are outside a circus tent as Lois laments having to cover such a boring event. When the show is about to begin she heads inside and he heads to the Daily Planet. At the circus, a monkey accidentally opens a cage containing a dangerous, giant gorilla. Workers try to catch the beast, but it is stronger than their combined strength. The circus tent is nearly evacuated when the gorilla starts lumbering after a small girl. Lois gets the girl to safety, but now the beast is following her. Meanwhile, upon reaching the Daily Planet building Clark hears several sirens. He catches a taxi and tells the driver to see what the commotion is. Upon reaching the circus, Clark discovers that frightened elephants have broken several cages, allowing lions and panthers escape. Clark changes into Superman and begins rounding up the ferocious animals and subduing the elephants. The gorilla has cornered Lois on a high wire platform, and Superman leaps high to save her. Superman and the gorilla fall and hit electrical equipment, resulting in a fire. Superman tosses the gorilla into the high wire safety net, finally stopping the animal. Superman rescues Lois from the fire and later, as always, Lois writes about the event.
September 18, 1942
Director: Seymour Kneitel
Animation: Myron Waldman, Nicholas Tafuri
Story: Bill Turner, Carl Meyer
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergAmerica has built the world's largest bombing plane. Japanese agents stow away on the aircraft while it is being loaded. Later, members of the press are allowed to have a look around. Lois hides herself in a locker in order to have a firsthand account of what the plane's historic maiden flight is like. The plane takes off and the Japanese agents tie up the crew and take control. Lois exits the locker, sees what is happening, and radios the ground for help. The air force is about to send up fighter planes but the Japanese men drop a bomb on the runway, preventing them from lifting off. Clark changes into Superman, soars into the sky and enters the plane. He then rescues Lois from being let out through the bomb chute. After defeating two of the agents he is about to enter the cockpit when the last Japanese man smashes the controls, sending the plane hurtling toward the city below. Superman returns to the ground with Lois, then masterfully lowers the plane onto a city street. Later, Clark and Lois ride together on a carnival ride that resembles a small airplane.
October 16, 1942
Director: I. Sparber
Animation: Steve Muffati, Graham Place
Story: Jay Morton
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergA man in a Superman costume is seen robbing stores. This person is of course not Superman, but a criminal who dresses as Superman and delivers his earnings to his boss. Several newspapers report on the Superman robberies, including the Daily Planet. Lois does not believe that Superman is the perpetrator. An office boy gives Lois and Clark two tickets to the opera, telling them that the editor wants them to cover it. At the opera Clark falls asleep. At the same opera the Superman criminal sneaks around stealing jewellery and such without people noticing it. One woman does realize and screams as the thief starts hustling away. Lois leaves her seat to investigate and runs into the perpetrator. They scuffle and she accidentally rips off his 'S' symbol. Not having seen the man's face in the light, Lois now believes Superman really is behind the robberies. She calls the police while Clark changes into Superman. On the roof, Superman faces the criminal who fires several shots from a gun at him. The criminal gets so afraid that he tries to get away and falls over the side of the building, but Superman catches him. Lois and the police see that there is a real and a phony Superman. Superman and the impostor go to see the crime boss. Once there the boss does not realize that Superman is the real deal, but after he knows he activates a trap door that drops Superman into a chasm. The two criminals push a desk over top the door and seal themselves inside a vault. Superman escapes the chasm and opens the vault, but the criminals are not there anymore after having used a torch to make a new exit. They are getting away in a car and nearly collide with a police car with Lois inside. Before the two cars can crash, Superman jumps in between them and apprehends the criminals for the police. Later, Clark is dozing off at the office when Lois returns, ready to type up her report on the event.
November 20, 1942
Director: Dan Gordon
Animation: Willard Bowsky, William Henning
Story: Carl Meyer, William Turner
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergLois and Clark have been interned at Yokohama, Japan. Every night at eleven Clark changes into Superman and removes the bars from his window, then goes out and sabotages various vessels, machines, bases etc. He then returns to where he is supposed to be a prisoner and replaces the bars. Lois wonders if it could be Superman who is behind the sabotage acts. After many nights and failed attempts at catching Superman, Japanese soldiers place up signs in English warning Superman that if he commits any more acts of sabotage then Lois will be executed. Superman, however, does not spot the signs and destroys a large ship. It is only afterwards that he notices one of the signs. As Lois is about to be killed by a firing squad, Superman appears and shields her from the bullets. He defends them both from the soldiers, then takes her away. Later, Lois is getting interviewed and photographed on a ship as she is returning home. She tells the reporters that Clark Kent is still in Yokohama, but Superman promised her that he would look after him. In Yokohama, when the clock strikes eleven explosions erupt. Superman is still sabotaging.
December 25, 1942
Director: I. Sparber
Animation: Dave Tendlar, Tom Moore
Story: Jay Morton
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergA security guard for a munitions plant is killed and his body is dumped into a swamp. A radio tells of the discovered body, and Lois decides to investigate by going undercover and getting a job at the plant. There, she overhears mentions of a suspicious sounding meeting. Lois listens in on a manager telling two workers that they did good work in disposing of the watchman. She also hears that dynamite charges are connected to a switch that will be thrown by the new night watchman. One of the men spots Lois and they chase her through the building. Lois is finally caught and placed inside a torpedo with dynamite. The new watchman sees what is going on and attempts to rescue Lois but is buried under scrap metal released from a heavy magnet. The torpedo is sent out to testing waters where onlookers believe that there are no explosives in it (not to mention no human). The torpedo is fired at an old barge, but Superman emerges from the scrap metal and takes the torpedo out of the water. He frees Lois, then goes after the men responsible. He decks them all and destroys watchman's switch, ensuring that the planted explosives can not go off. At the same time, one last man has taken a truck filled with TNT and driven it down a hill towards the plant, jumping out to save himself. Superman takes control of the vehicle and drives it off a cliff. Later, the criminals have been apprehended and Lois removes the watchman's hat and fake hair, revealing him as Clark Kent.
February 19, 1943
Director: I. Sparber
Animation: Myron Waldman, Graham Place
Story: Jay Morton
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergAn ancient Egyptian specialist, Dr. Jordan, is found dead at a museum. His assistant, Jane Hogan, is found guilty of his murder. A colleague to them both, Dr. Wilson, calls Clark and tells him that he has important information on the matter. Clark tries to hide his scoop from Lois, but she realizes that the phone call was about something juicy so she follows him. At the museum Dr. Wilson relates the history of an embalmed king and his guards. The pharaoh was a young lad who died, and his giant warriors were so faithful to him that they drank poison so that they could protect him in death. Dr. Jordan had excavated these mummies and reconstructed their burial chamber in the museum. Studying ancient formulas, he created a serum he called the fluid of life. Dr. Jordan injected the guards with this fluid, but never reached any results. He also tried to open the outer casket of the pharaoh, which was booby trapped by poisoned needles. Clark opens the casket while anticipating the needle, causing light to emanate from a jewel on the pharaoh's sarcophagus. The light reaches the guards and animates them. One of them throws Clark into a casket, who breaks out as Superman. He rescues Lois and Dr. Wilson from being hurled into a raging fire by the guards and defeats them. Later, Clark for once writes about the story as Lois has been hurt and her arms are in bandages, looking very much like a mummy's wraps.
March 26, 1943
Director: Dan Gordon
Animation: Orestes Calpini, H.C. Ellison
Story: Robert Little, Jay Morton
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergNazi soldiers in white costumes are pretending to be deities to a group of native Africans. Their base exists inside two giant hollow statues with heavy artillery. A plane containing a pilot and Lois is fired on by the Nazis, taking them down. At the crash site the dieing pilot gives Lois the coordinates of an American fleet on a piece of paper, and tells her to destroy the document. Before she can do so she is captured by the Africans, but still manages to hide it under a rock. Lois is interrogated and refuses to give any information. For this, the Nazis allow the natives to burn Lois alive on a pyre, with hopes that she will relent to save her life. The paper is found by one of the Africans, and the Nazis leave Lois to them and the fire. The Nazis radio a submarine fleet, giving the location of the American vessels. As Lois is beginning to succumb to the heat, Clark and his own pilot fly over, spotting the fire and the crashed plane. Clark parachutes onto a cliff overlooking the fire and changes into Superman. He rescues Lois and fights the Nazis on top of the statues, but a heavy door with a broken handle prevents him from entering the base. Lois disguises herself in the white costume of a fallen soldier and enters the base from ground level. She tries radioing American forces but one of the Nazis sees through her disguise. The Nazi tries to destroy the radio console but Superman enters just in time to stop him. Just as the German submarines are about to fire on the American ships, planes bomb the submarines, thus ending their threat. Adolf Hitler, alone, listens about the event on his radio.
June 18, 1943
Director: Seymour Kneitel
Animation: Nicholas Tafuri, Reuben Grossman
Story: Jay Morton
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergThe Daily Planet finances an expedition led by a man named Henderson to investigate caverns that were discovered by his father. Clark and Lois accompany him, and at the entrance to the caverns Lois and Henderson depart in a boat and will meet Clark inside later. While unloading the boat inside the caverns it drifts away, forcing Lois and Henderson to chase it. Later, Clark enters the caverns and can not find his companions. He goes on foot into a large, lit cavern, and finds that they have been taken hostage by half human, half bird people, and are about to be lowered into a molten substance that will turn them into statues. Clark changes into Superman, rescues them, and exits the bird people's domain. He throws a bomb at the cavern entrance, sealing it off and preventing them from getting out. Back at the Daily Planet, Perry White commends Lois on her story before burning it, saying that nobody would ever believe it.
July 30, 1943
Director: Seymour Kneitel
Animation: Steve Muffati, Otto Feuer
Story: Carl Meyer
Musical Arrangement: Sammy TimbergClark is at a drugstore when a car crashes through the window while chasing another vehicle. The occupants get out, steal another car, and continue their chase with guns blazing. Clark jumps onto the back of the car. Police in a squad car spot the chase and save the woman driver being chased while the villains, along with Clark, get away. It turns out that the villains are saboteurs, either directly working for or sympathizing with the Axis cause. The woman was a spy who now must get a list of their names and plans to Washington. A police escort takes her to the airport but is ambushed by the villains. The woman drives through the shoot-out onto a mechanical rotating bridge where two of the saboteurs have been waiting. They trap her on it by activating the bridge. An accident causes her to fall unconscious on the tracks where giant rollers move the bridge. Meanwhile, Clark has allowed himself to be captured and tied up by the saboteurs, and once the last of them leave he changes into Superman and traps several of them in an elevator. He soars to the bridge and saves the woman by pushing the mechanical bridge back, taking the rollers off the tracks. He personally flies her to Washington, then takes back to the sky while the American flag flaps proudly in the wind.
Superman/Clark Kent: Clayton 'Bud' Collyer
Lois Lane: Joan Alexander
Narrator & Daily Planet Editor (Perry White): Jackson Beck
End NotesI hope you found these notes informative and entertaining. My personal opinion of all the cartoons is that a lot of care was put into them. Though the stories are often sub par, on several occasions they are quite fun and exciting. Strictly thinking of the artwork and animation involved, they are quite amazing to watch, particularly many of the stunts that Superman completes. His detailed actions are much more exciting than in any of the more recent Superman cartoons. If you are a Superman fan and want to experience pure, Golden Age excitement, then these cartoons will be a joy to watch.I recommend to anyone who read this article to check out the Superman Homepage information on the Superman radio program, as a lot of its history connects to these cartoons. I also recommend looking up Fleischer Studios in a search engine to find out more about the company and people who created these serials. Most importantly of all, if you have not already seen these cartoons go in search of a copy of them.
References'The Complete Superman Collection: The Paramount Cartoon Classics of Max & Dave Fleischer.' Bosko Video. 1991.Markstein, Don. 'Don Markstein's Toonopedia- Max Fleischer Studio.' - "http://www.toonopedia.com/fleischr.htm"
Rozakis, Bob. 'Kryptonite.' - "http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/bobro/105695684482145.htm. 2003".
Tollin, Anthony. 'Superman on Radio.' - "http://www.supermanhomepage.com/radio/radio.php?topic=r-radio".
Superman (1940s cartoons)From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe title card from the firstSuperman animated short produced by Fleischer Studios.The Fleischer & Famous Superman cartoons are a series of seventeen animated Technicolor short films released by Paramount Pictures and based upon the comic book character Superman, and making it his first animated appearance.
The pilot and first eight shorts were produced by Fleischer Studios from 1941 to 1942, while the final eight were produced by Famous Studios, a successor company to Fleischer Studios, from 1942 to 1943. Superman was the final animated series initiated under Fleischer Studios, before Famous Studios officially took over production in May 1942.
Although all entries are in the public domain, ancillary rights such as merchandising contract rights, as well as the original 35mm master elements, are owned today by Warner Bros. Entertainment. Warner has owned Superman publisher DC Comics since 1969.
By mid-1941, brothers Max and Dave Fleischer were running their own animation studio, and had recently finished their first animated feature film, Gulliver's Travels; they were also well into production on their second, Mister Bug Goes to Town. Not wanting to risk becoming overworked (which could compromise the quality of each project), the Fleischers were strongly (but quietly) opposed to the idea of committing themselves to another major project, when approached by their studio's distributor and majority owner since May 1941, Paramount Pictures. Paramount was interested in financially exploiting the phenomenal popularity of the then-new Superman comic books, by producing a series of theatrical cartoons based upon the character. The Fleischers, looking for a way to reject the project without appearing uncooperative, agreed to do the series—but only at a (intentionally inflated) per-episode-budget number so exorbitantly high that Paramount would have to reject them, instead. They told Paramount that producing such a conceptually and technically complex series of cartoons would cost about $100,000 (in 1940s dollars) per short; this was about four times the typical budget of a six-minute episode of the Fleischers' popular Popeye the Sailor cartoons of that period. To the Fleischers' shock, instead of withdrawing its request, Paramount entered into negotiations with them, and got the per-episode budget lowered to $50,000. Now the Fleischers were committed to a project they never wanted to do—with more financial and marketing support than they had ever received for the projects they had done.
The first cartoon in the series, simply titled Superman, was released on September 26, 1941, and was nominated for the 1941 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. It lost toLend a Paw, a Pluto cartoon from Walt Disney Productions and RKO Pictures.
The voice of Superman for the series was initially provided by Bud Collyer, who also performed the lead character's voice during the Superman radio series. Joan Alexander was the voice of Lois Lane, a role she also portrayed on radio alongside Collyer. Music for the series was composed by Sammy Timberg, the Fleischers' long-time musical collaborator.
Rotoscoping, the process of tracing animation drawings from live-action footage, was used minimally to lend realism to the character's bodily movements. Many of Superman's actions, however, could not be rotoscoped (e.g., flying, lifting very large objects, etc.). In these cases, the Fleischers' lead animators—many of whom lacked training in figure drawing—animated "roughly" and depended upon their assistants (many of whom were inexperienced animators, but trained figure-drawers) to keep Superman "on model" during his action sequences.
The Fleischer cartoons were also responsible for giving Superman perhaps his most singular superpower: flight. When the Fleischers started work on the series, in the comic books, Superman could only leap from place to place (hence the classic phrase, "able to leap tall buildings in a single bound"). After seeing the leaping fully animated, however, the Fleischers deemed it "silly looking", and asked Action Comics' (which would later become DC Comics) permission to have him fly instead; the publisher agreed, and wrote the flight ability into the comics from then on.
Transition from Fleischer to FamousThe Fleischers produced nine classic cartoons in the Superman series before Paramount took over the Fleischer Studios facility in Miami and ousted Max and Dave Fleischer. By the end of 1941, the brothers were no longer able to cooperate with each other, and the studio's co-owner Dave Fleischer had left Florida for California, where he would eventually become the new head of Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems studio. After the Fleischers were removed from the company, Paramount renamed the organization Famous Studios, placing Seymour Kneitel, Isadore Sparber, Sam Buchwald, and Dan Gordon in charge of production. The sleek look of the series continued, but there was a noticeable change in the storylines of the later shorts of the series. The first nine cartoons had more of a science fiction aspect to them, as they involved the Man of Steel fighting robots, giant dinosaurs, meteors from outer space, and other perils. The later eight cartoons in the series, which were all Famous Studios productions, dealt more with World War II propaganda stories, such as in Eleventh Hour, which finds Superman going to Japan to commit acts of sabotage in order to reduce the morale of the enemy; meanwhile, an angered Adolf Hitler had a cameo role at the end of Jungle Drums after Superman foiled another Nazi plot.
Japoteurs was the firstSuperman short to be produced byFamous Studios, but was released without any screen credit to Famous Studios; the screen credit card stated, simply: PARAMOUNT Presents SUPERMAN In TECHNICOLOR.The first seven cartoons originated the classic opening line which was later adopted by the Superman radio series and in the live-action television series a decade later: "Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!" (The radio series also eventually used the cartoon series' theme music.) However, for the final two Fleischer-produced cartoons and the first of the eight Famous Studios-produced cartoons, the opening was changed to "Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to soar higher than any plane!". For the remaining Famous Studios-produced cartoons, the opening line was changed again to "Faster than a streak of lightning! More powerful than the pounding surf! Mightier than a roaring hurricane!" This series also featured a slight variation of the now-classic exclamation (also from the radio series): "Up in the sky, look! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!".
Later historyFamous Studios ended the series after a total of seventeen shorts had been produced, replacing it with a series of shorts based upon Marge's Little Lulu. The high cost of the series kept it from continuing in the face of budgetary restrictions that were imposed after removing the Fleischers from the studio. The first cartoon had a budget of $50,000 (equivalent to $779,265.31 in 2012), and the other sixteen each had a budget of $30,000 (equivalent to $467,559.18 for each of the eight other Fleischer cartoons and $421,663.80 for each of the eight Famous Studios cartoons), bringing the total cost of the series to $530,000 (equivalent to $7,893,049.21 in 2012). In addition, Paramount cited waning interest in the Superman shorts among theater exhibitors as another justification for the series' cancellation.
The rights to all seventeen cartoons eventually reverted to National Comics, who licensed TV syndication rights to Flamingo Films (distributors of the TV series The Adventures of Superman). All eventually fell into the public domain, due to National failing to renew their copyrights; thus, they have been widely distributed on VHS, laserdisc, and DVD. Nonetheless,Warner Bros., via parent Time Warner's ownership of DC Comics, now owns the original film elements to the cartoons.
Related worksA 1944 Famous Studios Popeye the Sailor cartoon entitled She-Sick Sailors parodied the Superman cartoons, two years after production on the cartoons had ceased. In this cartoon, Popeye's enemy Bluto dresses up as Superman to fool Olive Oyl, and he challenges Popeye to feats of super-strength that "only Superman" can do. The musical score for She-Sick Sailors includes echoes of Sammy Timberg's Fleischer/Famous Superman score.
The previous year, Merrie Melodies did a parody starring Bugs Bunny called Super-Rabbit.
In a rare move for a competing studio, Leon Schlesinger Productions, producers of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies (which were distributed by WB), featured Timberg's Superman theme in Snafuperman, a 1944 Private Snafu cartoon Schlesinger produced for the U.S. Army.
Paramount's involvement in the Superman franchise did not end with the sale of the cartoons. In 1995, after being sold to Viacom, Paramount's television syndication unit absorbedViacom Enterprises, and as a result, Paramount now held the TV rights to the third and fourth Superman films, along with the Supergirl film (which up to that point had been held by Viacom). Full rights to Superman III and Supergirl are now with WB, but Paramount still has some partial rights to Superman IV (as part of the Cannon Films library), and TV distribution is now held (on Paramount's behalf) by Trifecta Entertainment & Media.
InfluenceThis section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2011)The robot's rampage in The Mechanical Monsters influenced later animated works.In 1985, DC Comics named Fleischer Studios as one of the honorees in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great for its work on the Superman cartoons. Writer/artist Frank Miller cited the influence of Max and Dave Fleischer, including them among a list of prominent Golden Age comics creators whose work he acknowledged at the end of his 1986 comics series, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The series strongly influenced the creation of the acclaimed animated television series Batman: The Animated Series, as well as the similar-lookingSuperman: The Animated Series. Award-winning comic book artist Alex Ross has also listed the shorts among the inspiration for his take on Superman's look.
The robot robbery scene from "The Mechanical Monsters" short has been echoed by several later works. In 1980, Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, created an identical robbery with a similarly functioning robot in the last episode of the second Lupin III TV series, a robot design he used again in his feature film, Castle in the Sky. The elements of the scene were borrowed again in 1994 for The Tick (animated TV series), specifically, The Tick vs. Brainchild (season one, episode 9), this time with the robbery committed by Skippy, a cyborg dog. The 2004 feature length movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (which Paramount released in several territories, WB also distributed in a few countries) kept the setting in the 1940s, but scaled up the scene from a single robot robbing a jewelry exhibition to an army of gigantic robots stealing city infrastructure. The movie gave a nod to its source following the robbery with the newspaper headline, "Mechanical Monsters Unearth Generators."
A 1988 music video for the song "Spy In The House of Love" by Chrysalis Records recording artists Was (Not Was) borrowed footage extensively from Famous' Secret Agent episode.
AvailabilityThe Paramount Superman cartoons are widely available on VHS, DVD and online.
The first "official" home video releases of the series were by Warner Home Video in 1987 and 1988, in a series of VHS and LaserDisc packages called TV's Best Adventures of Superman. Four volumes were released, where each volume contained 2 selected episodes of the classic 1950s TV series Adventures of Superman (one black & white episode and one color episode), plus a selected Max Fleischer Superman short (marking the first "official" release of such as Warner holds the original film elements).
Among the best reviewed of these various releases was a 1991 VHS set produced by Bosko Video, the somewhat incorrectly titled The Complete Superman Collection: Golden Anniversary Edition - The Paramount Cartoon Classics of Max & Dave Fleischer released as two VHS volumes which featured high-quality transfers from 35mm prints. The Bosko Video set was later issued on DVD by Image Entertainment as The Complete Superman Collection: Diamond Anniversary Edition in 2000. The Bosko Video release was not associated with DC Comics or their parent company Warner Bros.
Another DVD was Superman: The Ultimate Max Fleischer Cartoon Collection from VCI Entertainment released on May 30, 2006, a month prior to the release of the film Superman Returns. DVD features included: all 17 animated shorts digitally restored in Dolby Digital 2.0 audio; a bonus cartoon: Snafuperman (a 1944 Warner Bros. wartime parody of the Fleischer cartoons, featuring Private Snafu and produced for the U.S. Army); "Behind the Cape" synopses and fun facts with each cartoon; a DVD fold-out booklet with notes on the series; bios of the voice actors, producer Max Fleischer, and Superman; a bonus trailer for the 1948 Superman serial with Kirk Alyn; and a recorded audio phone interview with Joan Alexander (the voice of Lois Lane). This release, like the Bosko Video release, was not associated with DC Comics or their parent company Warner Bros.
A more "official" release from restored and remastered superior vault elements was released on DVD on November 28, 2006 as part of Warner Home Video's Superman film re-releases. The first nine cartoons were released as part of the four-disc special edition Superman: The Movie set, and the eight remaining cartoons were included on the two-disc special editionSuperman II set. The entire collected Fleischer / Famous cartoons were included in the box sets The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection and Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition, where both sets also included a 13 minute short documentary on the history of these cartoons, entitled First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series. This documentary (which was included on the Superman II two-disc special edition DVD) features interviews with surviving members, relatives and biographers of the animation and production team, also contemporary animators such as Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series), Paul Dini and Dan Riba (Superman: The Animated Series) who detail the influence these cartoons have had on their own works. Upon this release though, there was controversy by some consumers over why Warner's chose to release these animated shorts amongst the Superman films DVD releases instead of packaging them as their own complete individual DVD release.
In December 2004, Warner made the shorts (albeit with the Paramount logos stripped out of the opening and closing sequences) available for free download in mp4 format on its Toonami Arsenal Web site. They posted one episode per day with the final episode, "Secret Agent", going live on New Year's Day 2005.
Another came on July 1, 2008, when Warner Bros. released the shorts on iTunes, via their DC Comics sections. Fourteen of the shorts are available for $1.99 for every two, while the other three are all in one video for the same price.
On April 7, 2009, yet another release was made, this time a collection of all the cartoons released by Warner Home Video as the first authorized collection from the original masters, titledMax Fleischer's Superman: 1941-1942 with a suggested price at $26.99; the set included one new special feature in the form of "The Man, The Myth, Superman" featurette, along with an old special feature seen in the Superman II 2006 DVD release entitled "First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series".
List of filmsAs all of these cartoons are now in the public domain, free downloadable links from the Internet Archive have been provided.
Fleischer StudiosTitleOriginal release dateNotesSuperman (a.k.a. The Mad Scientist)September 26, 1941The short film Superman is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveThe Mechanical MonstersNovember 28, 1941The short film The Mechanical Monsters is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveBillion Dollar LimitedJanuary 9, 1942The short film Billion Dollar Limited is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveThe Arctic GiantFebruary 27, 1942The short film The Arctic Giant is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveThe BulleteersMarch 27, 1942The short film The Bulleteers is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveThe Magnetic TelescopeApril 24, 1942The short film The Magnetic Telescope is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveElectric EarthquakeJune 15, 1942The short film Electric Earthquake is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveVolcanoJuly 17, 1942The short film Volcano is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveTerror on the MidwayAugust 26, 1942The short film Terror on the Midway is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveFamous StudiosTitleOriginal release dateNotesJapoteursSeptember 18, 1942The short film Japoteurs is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveShowdownOctober 16, 1942The short film Showdown is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveEleventh HourNovember 20, 1942The short film Eleventh Hour is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveDestruction, Inc.December 25, 1942The short film Destruction, Inc. is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveThe Mummy StrikesFebruary 19, 1943The short film The Mummy Strikes is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveJungle DrumsMarch 26, 1943The short film Jungle Drums is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveThe Underground WorldJune 18, 1943The short film The Underground World is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveSecret AgentJuly 30, 1943The short film Secret Agent is available for free download at the Internet ArchiveSee alsoCartoon portalComics portalSuperhero fiction portalReferences
I hate to say this, but this wonderful production team only made 17 episodes, which is a great treasure and a loss to all of us Superman buffs.
I will never forget the stunning imagery, the power and force of these cartoons. I do believe they stirred my heart and mind and helped me to find courage to face some pretty hefty obstacles.
Rest in peace Max and Richard Fleischer and all the crew and cast of this wonderful animation series.
My next and last Superman post will be tomorrow.
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