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Famous Studios (renamed Paramount Cartoon Studios in 1956) was the animation division of the film studio Paramount Pictures from 1942 to 1967. Famous was founded as a successor company to Fleischer Studios, after Paramount acquired Fleischer Studios and ousted its founders, Max and Dave Fleischer, in 1941. The studio's productions included three series started by the Fleischers— the immensely successful Popeye the Sailor, Superman, and Screen Songs—as well as Little Lulu, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Herman and Katnip, Baby Huey, Little Audrey, and the anthology Noveltoons series.

Despite the immense popularity of the Popeye series at the time of the Fleischers' downfall and the volume of personnel initially inherited from its predecessor, Famous' output gradually proved unable to attain the heights of the Fleischers' best-known work. Lacking Max Fleischer's technical ambitions and threatened with both increased Executive Meddling from Paramount and decreasing budgets post-WWII, head "directors" Seymour Kneitel (a former animator and Max Fleischer's son-in-law, partially installed as a studio head to bar Fleischer from attempting to sue Paramount) and Izzy Sparber (a former storyboard artist) increasingly ousted or marginalized more experimental animators and directors (most notably Popeye animator Jim Tyer and director Dan Gordon, whose shorts, confined to the studio's first two years, featured a relentless energy and fourth-wall-demolishing gags equivalent to, or even exceeding, those of contemporary Looney Tunes and Tex Avery shorts in scope and absurdity) and opted for safer, more formulaic output as the forties advanced. By the end of the decade, the pair had both issued studio-wide "timing guides" that forced animation directors to time finished animation at a slow, evenly-paced cadence (thus flattening the studio's attempts at slapstick in ensuing years) and imposed stifling market-researched sensibilities upon the corresponding shorts' comedy: if a given gag tested well in three audience screenings, Kneitel and Sparber would effectively strongarm the studio's storymen to include said gag in every ensuing picture. When compounded with the increasingly child-oriented sensibilities of the studio's original characters (such as Little Audrey and, most infamously, Casper the Friendly Ghost), Famous' output had largely declined into simplistic, heavily formulaic kid's faire by the early fifties.

In 1956, however, Paramount, increasingly dissatisfied with Famous' output, reduced the studio's budgets further (catalyzing the dismissal of several longtime Fleischer staffers, among them Izzy Sparber) and assumed control of its management entirely, subsequently rebranding it "Paramount Cartoon Studios". The formerly-popular Popeye series, having long descended into highly-repetitive narratives focusing on Popeye and Bluto feuding over Olive Oyl, was finally discontinued during this period, while Famous' remaining original series rapidly declined into extremely crudely-drawn Limited Animation virtually comparable to Hanna-Barbera's contemporary TV output in quality. Following the sale of their remaining characters to Harvey Comics in 1959, Famous/Paramount was essentially left creatively adrift, alternating between increasingly dull kid-oriented one-shots and more adult-oriented shorts such as the noir parody "Cool Cat Blues", none of which proved overly successful. Owing to Sparber's dismissal, Kneitel became the studio's sole creative producer during this period, exacting an immense workload which only succeeded in exacerbating his long-standing cardiovascular issues. Resultantly, Kneitel suffered another heart attack in 1964, which ultimately proved to be fatal; following his passing, comic book veteran Howard Post and, subsequently, Shamus Culhane assumed creative control in his wake. Despite the low staff morale and even-lower budgets plaguing the studio during this period, both men are frequently viewed as having revitalized the studio's long-decimated output creatively; Culhane in particular produced the overtly experimental "My Daddy the Astronaut", a short written and animated in a highly-stylized manner reminiscent of a young child's illustrated journal. By 1967, however, Culhane had departed over creative conflicts and left Ralph Bakshi, formerly of Terrytoons, as the studio's lead director, but he only completed a small handful of shorts (among them the psychedelic "Marvin Digs", centering on a teenage hippie's fraught relationship with his temperamental, conservative father) when Paramount's new corporate owners, Gulf+Western, began shutting the shorts department down, extinguishing the final remnants of what had once been Fleischer Studios.

With that, Paramount's involvement in theatrically released animationnote  was limited to occasional releases of movies from other studios until its acquisition by Viacom in 1994, when they started co-producing and distributing features based on or serving as pilots for Nicktoons (and one MTV film, Beavis And Butthead Do America). This was accompanied in 2006 by a distribution pact with DreamWorks Animation who soon hit its artistic stride with great new animated feature films like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon (2010) (DWA films would move their distribution to 20th Century Fox in 2013 and move again with their acquisition by Universal's parent company in 2019; ironically, much of the Famous Studios output released between October 1950 and March 1962 was acquired by DWA in its 2012 purchase of Classic Media, the successor to Harvey Comics). Then in 2011, Paramount co-produced and distributed the Oscar winning hit, Rango, with ILM handling animation duties. Soon after, Paramount Animation was launched as an imprint responsible for Nicktoon movies and other projects, with their first release being The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, a sequel to The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.

Theatrical short subjects series:

  • Popeye the Sailor (inherited from Fleischer Studios, 1942 – 1957). Possibly the primary cause (from Paramount's financially-oriented perspective) of the studio's existence, the series retained its immense popularity until the mid-'50s despite its eventual degeneration into Strictly Formula narratives centering on the Popeye-Bluto-Olive love triangle. Shorts now owned by Warner Bros. through Turner Entertainment, who inherited the shorts from MGM, who inherited them from United Artists, who inherited them from Associated Artists Productions which purchased the shorts in 1956 (some are in the public domain).
  • Superman (inherited from Fleischer Studios, 1942 – 1943). Cancelled by Paramount due to both declining popularity and their high-budget production, which proved incompatible with the financial downsizing Paramount was increasingly imposing upon Famous during this period. All shorts in the public domain but WB owns the original film elements and all authorized home media releases come from them (as owners of DC Comics)
  • Noveltoons (1943 – 1967). A series of (primarily) one-shot shorts designed as a testing ground for potential new recurring characters; notable for originating several of Famous' most well-known original characters (such as Herman, Katnip, Baby Huey and, most famously, Casper the Friendly Ghost), alongside a slew of more obscure recurring figures (such as the Bugs Bunny-reminiscent Blackie). Characters, trademarks and cartoons produced from October 1950 to March 1962 owned by Universal Studios through DreamWorks Classics though all other shorts remain with Paramount or are in the public domain
  • Little Lulu (1943 – 1948). An adaptation of the then-popular comic strip. Notably fluctuated in tone and structure between more moralistic shorts (in which Lulu confronts a mistake or misjudgement of hers via an oft-musical dream sequence) and purely-comedic instalments (which frequently hinge on the deadpan comedy elicited by Lulu's bizarre character design). Character rights owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics, though Paramount retains control of the shorts; though a few of them are public domain.
  • Little Audrey (1947-1958). A hastily-concocted (courtesy, bizarrely, of pioneering former Disney animator Bill Tytla, then employed as a director/producer at the studio) replacement for Lulu, albeit with an infamously grating Signature Laugh; her shorts primarily revolved around the formula of Audrey garnering moral lessons through dream sequences, as with several earlier Lulu shorts. Character rights and shorts produced from October 1950 to 1958 owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics, though all cartoons prior to that are still owned by Paramount or are in the public domain
  • Raggedy Ann: Appeared in two shorts made by the studio: "Suddenly It's Spring" (1944), and "The Enchanted Square" (1947). Both shorts are in the public domain.
  • Screen Songs (1947 – 1951; originally produced by Fleischer Studios 1929 – 1938). Primarily revived as a means of filling Paramount's release schedule in a lower-budget form, although several shorts nonetheless featured Famous' earliest experimentation with modern design in the mould of the then-ascendant UPA. Last seven shorts owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics. Many from 1947-October 1950 in the public domain
  • Casper the Friendly Ghost (Initially appeared in three Noveltoons short subjects, graduated to a standalone series from 1950 – 1959). Became Famous' most popular and prolific original character during the early 1950s, thus receiving a 3-D outing in 1954's "Boo Moon". Character rights and all standalone cartoons owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics, while the first three shorts are in the public domain alongside two made afterwards
  • Baby Huey (1950-1959). An unusually large, nigh-invulnerable duckling confronts the ostracism of his average-sized duckling peers while (often semi-accidentally) thwarting a hungry fox targeting him as food. Character rights and all shorts from October 1950 to 1959 owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics, with earlier shorts in the public domain or still with Paramount
  • Kartunes (1951 – 1953); all shorts owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics
  • Herman and Katnip (1952 – 1959). A violently antagonistic cat-and-mouse duo conspicuously similar to Tom and Jerry. Initially originated within the Noveltoons series in 1950, although Herman himself debuted in 1944. Character rights and shorts owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics
  • Modern Madcaps (1958 – 1967). A series of more satire-oriented shorts targeted at an adult audience, employing heavily-stylized Limited Animation in the vein of UPA (although their tone is arguably closer to Jay Ward's work). Character rights and shorts from 1958 to March 1962 owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics, and all other shorts remain with Paramount
  • Jeepers and Creepers (1960); character rights and shorts owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics
  • The Cat (1961). A Film Noir homage featuring an anthropomorphic cat employed as both a private eye and a pianist ("music's just my hobby"). Character rights and shorts owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics
  • Swifty and Shorty (1964 – 1965; originated in 1963 as Ralph and Percy); still owned by Paramount
  • Honey Halfwitch (1965 – 1967). Created by Howard Post. Still owned by Paramount
  • Merry Makers (1967); still owned by Paramount
  • Go Go Toons (1967). A new series of one-shot shorts intended as a replacement for the Noveltoons series. Still owned by Paramount
  • Fractured Fables (1967); still owned by Paramount

Television series:

  • Segments of Popeye The Sailor (1960 – 1962; outsourced from King Features); owned by Hearst Corporation
  • Felix the Cat (1958 – 1961; produced for King Features and Trans-Lux); now owned by NBCUniversal
  • The New Casper Cartoon Show (1962 – 1963, produced for Harvey Films); now owned by NBCUniversal
  • Segments of King Features Trilogy (1963 – 1965; outsourced from King Features); owned by Hearst Corporation
    • Twelve of the Paramount-produced shorts in this series were released theatrically in 1962 under the title Comic Kings
  • The Mighty Thor segments of The Marvel Super Heroes (1966; outsourced from Grantray-Lawrence Animation); now owned by Disney (coincidentally Paramount was the original distributor of the 2011 Thor film).


  • Animation Bump: The studio began with very lush animation in the mid-forties, followed by a gradual decline through the fiftes and a sharp drop off into an extremely crudely-drawn limited style around 1957-58, with slight improvements during Culhane's and Bakshi's tenures.
    • Any scene animated by John Gentilella (Johnny Gent), a mainstay on the post-1943 Popeye shorts, or Marty Taras, a major animator on the Herman and Katnip and Baby Huey shorts circa 1947-56, also qualifies, given both animators' recurring ability to create fluid and characterful work within the confines of the oft-uninspired material and stultifying timing of much of the studio's post-1947 work.
  • Black Comedy: When their shorts aren't being lighthearted and sentimental, they can be downright mean spirited and nasty in their humor, which in turn is aided by how violently the gags in shorts like Herman and Katnip are played out.
  • Bloodless Carnage / Family-Unfriendly Violence: Arguably the most prominent aspect of the cartoons. Herman and Katnip and Baby Huey cartoons in particular have some of the most painful-looking violent gags in any cartoon ever.
  • Catchphrase: Katnip's "Dat sounds logical!"
  • Clever Crows: Buzzy Crow, who is usually paired with dimwitted Katnip Cat. Katnip tries to eat Buzzy as some form of cure for something, so Buzzy fools him into trying some other "cures", resulting in Amusing Injuries.
  • Deranged Animation: Jim Tyer was an animator for the studio in its early years before leaving for Terrytoons. The Popeye cartoons he worked on often showed his uniquely crazy animation style.
  • Endless Winter: The cartoon Suddenly It's Spring from 1944, features Raggedy Ann pleading with Old Man Winter to relent, so that the sun may shine upon her owner, who lies abed deathly ill from the lack of sunlight.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: The rationale behind the re-made Popeye shorts.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: One of their shorts from 1955 is called Poop Goes The Weasel. At the time, Poop didn't have the same connotation as it does today.
  • Limited Animation: The "Modern Madcaps" series, an attempt by Famous to transition into the then-hot UPA style of animation.
  • Never Had Toys: Fit to Be Toyed features a company CEO who is obsessed with toys, even during board meetings. Once brought to a shrink, the cause is determined to be father not allowing him to play with toys in his childhood.
  • Public Domain Animation: 80 of their cartoons (including many of their Popeye shorts) have entered the Public Domain and are free to view online.
  • Screwed by the Lawyers: Paramount stopped making Little Lulu cartoons when Famous tried, and failed, to buy the rights to the character from Marge. They got around it by creating Little Audrey.
  • Shot-for-Shot Remake: Many of their Popeye shorts were blatant remakes of earlier Fleischer ones.
  • Something Else Also Rises: In "Sheep Shape", when the wolf sees the singing senorita, he does a Wild Take, and has two soda bottles he was holding erupt in a mountain of fizz.
  • Spin-Off: Herman and Katnip originated from Noveltoons. Additionally, Honey Halfwitch was spun off from the Modern Madcap short "Poor Little Witch Girl".
  • Strictly Formula: The studio's cartoons are notorious for how formula-driven they were, although part of this was the result of Paramount's frugal budgets and explicit forbidding of the studio taking artistic risks—this was an attempt to prevent the studio from going through another financial meltdown like what had happened with the two Fleischer Studios animated features. Lee Mishkin, an inbetweener for the studio, even has a quote about it:
    "I think the problem lay in the attitude of the management. The bosses would go to screenings with a list of all the gags in a film on a clipboard. They'd put a check after each gag that got a laugh and use it in the next picture. If a gag got a laugh in three pictures in a row, it became a standard and they'd use it in every picture after that. They had a real nuts-and-bolts approach to making films."
    • It is important to note that by the 60's, when Howie Post (and later, Shamus Culhane) got on board with the studio, they deliberately started leading the studio in a more anti-formulaic, experimental direction, with shorts like "My Daddy The Astronaut" (notably designed to look like a child drew the whole film, with a kid narrating it and the soundtrack all done by harmonica), "The Plumber" and "The Opera Caper", but by then it was too little, too late.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Done in "Sheep Shape", in which the titular black sheep Blackie disguises himself as a Carmen Miranda-esque dancer to seduce Wolfie (and thus re-acquire $10,000 previously stolen by the latter).