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 FleischersPopeye the Sailor, Superman, and Screen Songsas well as Little Lulu, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Herman and Katnip, Baby Huey, Little Audrey, and the anthology Noveltoons series.
Unlike the Fleischer Brothers, this studio proved to be a mere shadow creatively to their work as the films produced gradually declined into largely formulaic kiddie stuff. This especially applied after their original characters like Casper were sold to Harvey Comics (along with their October 1950 - March 1962 cartoons) and production budgets were slashed. There was a momentary ray of hope in 1964 when comic book veteran Howard Post assumed control with some creative films along with Shamus Culhane, but they soon left after internal conflicts. Eventually, Ralph Bakshi was hired in 1967, but he barely got going with his vision when Paramount's new corporate owners, Gulf+Western, began shutting the shorts department down.
With that, Paramount's involvement in animation came to a close until they became the distributor of DreamWorks Animation in 2006 who soon hit its artistic stride with great new animated feature films like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. Then in 2011, Paramount distributed the Oscar winning hit, Rango, with ILM producing and Paramount decided to reenter the animation game once again, with their first project being The Sponge Bob 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); shorts now owned by Warner Bros. through Turner Entertainment
- Superman (inherited from Fleischer Studios, 1942 1943); all shorts in the public domain
- Noveltoons (1943 1967); 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); character rights owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics, though Paramount retains control of the shorts
- Little Audrey (1947-1958); 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).
- Screen Songs (1947 1951; originally produced by Fleischer Studios 1929 1938); last seven shorts owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics
- Casper the Friendly Ghost (Initially appeared in three Noveltoons short subjects, graduated to a standalone series from 1950 1959); character rights and all standalone cartoons owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics, while the first three shorts are in the public domain
- Baby Huey (1950-1959); 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); character rights and shorts owned by Universal through DreamWorks Classics
- Modern Madcaps (1958 1967); 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); 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); still owned by Paramount
- Merry Makers (1967); still owned by Paramount
- Go Go Toons (1967); still owned by Paramount
- Fractured Fables (1967); still owned by Paramount
- Segments of Popeye (1960 1962; outsourced from King Features); owned by Hearst Corporation
- Segments of Felix the Cat (1958 1961; outsourced from 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
- 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 by the turn of the sixties, with slight improvements during Culhane's and Bakshi's tenures.
- 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.
- Catch-Phrase: 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.
- 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.
- 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 studios 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".