Western Animation / The Mad Scientist

"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 Earth, just as Krypton exploded. The rocket 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. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, the infant of Krypton is now the Man of Steel: SUPERMAN! To best be in a position to use his 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."
The Opening Sequence

The Mad Scientist note  is a 1941 theatrical cartoon produced by Fleischer Studios, and the first of the Superman Theatrical Cartoons.

The short was nominated for the 1942 Academy Award for cartoon short subjects (losing out to the Pluto the Pup short Lend a Paw).

This short has slipped into the Public Domain, and can be viewed here.


  • Animation Bump: Compared to the Fleischers' previous flop of a series, Stone Age, the animation quality of this first short is a HUGE upgrade in contrast. (This is in part because its comparative budget at the time was so high, it may as well have been infinite.)
  • Artistic License Physics:
    • Okay, how would leaning the building back up to its original position not cause it to fall back again, since the reason it fell in the first place was heavy damage from the laser cannon!
    • Punching a laser in order to deflect it. This looks like a job for the Rule of Cool!
  • Aside Glance: Clark Kent winks at the audience at the end.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Lois, which is rather bizarre in a short that's otherwise fairly realistic.
  • Bowdlerise: Several home video copies of the first short (even Warner's "Authorized Edition" and Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition DVDs) cut short the scene where Clark asks Perry White, "Don't you think that's a dangerous mission for a woman?"
  • Collapsing Lair: The scientist's lab after Supes overloads the cannon.
  • Death Ray: Complete with a great big Jacob's Ladder, and an elevator-floor gauge for showing its Power Level.
  • Digital Destruction: The version included on Warner's DVD compilation has an audible jump in the prologue ("Superman fights a nevereding battle for truth-justice"), and also makes one of Perry White's lines sound garbled. A prolonged pause also occurs in between the closing shot and the Paramount logo.
  • Mad Scientist: But of course!
  • Mickey Mousing: When Supes is punching the laser back to its source.
  • No Name Given: The eponymous scientist.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The vulture pet of the Scientist looks out of place; it would fit better in a typical slapstick cartoon.
  • Oh, Crap!: "It's Superman!"
  • Parrot Pet Position: The Mad Scientist's bird sidekick, shortly.
  • Public Domain Animation
  • Rotoscoping: Prominently used to animate the characters. It is pretty rough here, but it would improve as the series ran its course.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Scientist when Supes starts overcoming the laser.
    "I don't believe it! He isn't human!"
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Scientist's laser cannon.