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Release Date: May 16th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1943

Max Fleischer's Superman

Overview -

Before Kirk Alyn and George Reeves, there was Max Fleischer’s Superman to dazzle early fans of the last son of Krypton. With exciting adventures and iconic beautiful animation, the seventeen theatrical shorts would define Superman for generations and inspire numerous creators in their efforts. On Blu-ray, this grand classic piece of animation is given a devistatingly terrible transfer made worse by the disc’s great-looking supplemental materials. At least the episodes sound good, but that's little consulation considering. Skip It

Make them exciting and visually bold, make them in brilliantly saturated Technicolor: This is a job for Superman! From their signature bullet-paced prologues to their muscular style to their stories steeped in heroics and wartime topicality, these 17 animated theatrical shorts produced by Max Fleischer (with the first nine directed by his brother Dave) set the tone for future screen versions of the Man of Steel's exploits, inspired animators for decades to come and, best of all, continue to pack a thrilling punch for fans. Superman's adventures in comic books were scarcely three years old when the Academy Award-nominated debut cartoon, Superman, burst onto the screen with its breakthrough look and vitality. The excitement still soars.

EPISODES (AND PREMIERE DATE):

 


  • Superman (Mad Scientist) – 9/26/1941
  • The Mechanical Monsters – 11/28/1941
  • Billion Dollar Limited – 1/9/1942
  • Arctic Giant – 2/27/1942
  • The Bulleteers – 3/27/1942
  • The Magnetic Telescope – 4/24/1942
  • Electric Earthquake – 5/15/1942
  • Volcano – 7/10/1942
  • Terror on the Midway – 8/28/1942
  • The Japoteurs – 9/18/1942
  • Showdown – 10/16/1942
  • The Eleventh Hour – 11/20/1942
  • Destruction, Inc. – 12/25/1942
  • The Mummy Strikes – 2/19/1943
  • Jungle Drums – 3/26/1943
  • Underground World – 6/18/1943
  • Secret Agent – 7/30/1943


 

 

SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE:

 

New Featurette – Superman: Speeding Toward Tomorrow – Superman’s exploits in the Fleischer series modernized the monomyth of the Greek godlike hero and expanded and romanticized the prevalent themes of sci-fi and fantasy. It was this combination of heartfelt storytelling, relatable heroes and amazing visuals that has endeared the Fleischer series to fans as one of the greatest superhero stories of all time. This featurette explores the visual storytelling as the lavish animation, with special attention paid to all the atomic age technology, pushes science fiction closer to becoming a powerful social and pop culture force.

 

Featurette – First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series – The Origins and Influence of This Groundbreaking Cartoon Series – A gathering of contemporary animators, comic book & animation historians, and legendary Fleischer artists examine these beloved shorts, focusing on the animation and the breakthrough techniques that created it, as well as studying the title character’s place in history.

 

Featurette – The Man, the Myth, Superman: Exploring the Tradition of Superman Heroes on the Page and Screen – A fascinating study of Superman-esque characters throughout history – in ancient myth, literature and film – that bring forth imaginative, super-human qualities, captivating audiences and enduring the test of time.

OVERALL:
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Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
145
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.33:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French
Release Date:
May 16th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

From his first appearance catching a crashing car in midair in National Comics, Superman has been a sensation captivating readers young and old for generations. From film and television to radio plays, Superman has excited fans on virtually every medium ever printed, shot, recorded, photographed, or uploaded. Before he'd make his grand cinematic outing in the late 1940s, his first genuine cinematic appearance was thanks to Max Fleisher’s 17-episode run of theatrical shorts that ran from 1941 to 1943. 

Blu-ray Appearance

Featurette Appearance

Max initially partnered with his brother Dave to produce the episodes for Paramount Pictures who held the rights at the time. As their relationship quickly soured and the pair parted ways, their company was restructured into Famous Studios half way into the run. Any production drama behind the scenes wasn’t felt in the final product. Through all of the episodes an impeccable unparalleled attention to detail was maintained producting captivating visuals for each adventure. Without these shorts we wouldn’t have the classic boasts of “Faster than a speeding bullet,” Superman might not have taken flight, nor would we likely have the Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm Batman: The Animated Series, at the very least not as we know it. 

Carrying on their work from radio, the cartoons were voiced by Bud Collyer as Superman/Clark Kent with Joan Alexander reprising her turn as impetious ace reporter Lois Lane. The stories may be simple enough and many of Superman’s most famous villains hand’t arrived in comics yet, but they’re fun adventures. They’re also interesting historic footnotes as the U.S. entered World War II, the Japanese and Germans became Superman’s primary antagonists. By the end of the war, chapter stories were taking center stage in theaters and Superman would leap onto live action with Kirk Alyn in 1948’s Superman… in glorious black and white. While that live action series is fun, it’s nothing as beautiful as the Fleishcer animation and the live action effects couldn’t produce the same sense of wonder and excitement. As good as Alyn was in the role, it’s was also hard to take him seriously in his Super Sweater.

It may have been a relatively short run at almost two and a half hours total, Max Fleisher’s Superman remains one of the best cinematic adventures. It wasn’t a cheap production and it wasn’t hastily put together to capitalize on a fad. David and Max and their intrepid team of animators took incredible care and time with every single cel of animation. Every frame are works of art done at a time when comic books were simply dismissed as “kids stuff.”

 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Well into the public domain, Warner Bros. owns the original film elements to give fans the newly restored Max Fleischer’s Superman 1941-1943 theatrical shorts. All seventeen shorts are pressed on a BD-50 disc (but barely uses half of the disc space). The disc is housed in an eco-friendly case with the Fleisher Studios / Famous Studios episode listings on the inside artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.

Video Review

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Blu-ray Appearance

Featurette Appearance

New restorations normally are supposed to leave a film looking better than ever, and given these shorts and past home video releases, there was room for a lot of improvement for Max Fleischer’s Superman. Sadly, these new transfers are a pool of liquid kryptonite. As folks may have heard around the interwebs elsewhere, the transfers are simply bad. Soft to the point of virtually no fine animation lines or details remain in the image or they leave it looking like a piece of recent retro-style animation. It has a frustrating soft appearance throughout each episode with fine film grain completely scrubbed away. It’s all the more frustrating that when you look at the Max Fleischer’s Superman: Speeding Toward Tomorrow featurette in the bonus features, there are numerous clips that look simply incredible with clean character lines and a natural grain structure. Even the colors in those clips look brighter and better in that featurette. With that note, this series simply deserved the best effort and ultimately that’s not what we got.

Audio Review

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Featurette Appearance

On the positive side of things, the DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono tracks for each episode are in pretty good shape. With little if any hiss or other age-related issues, dialog is clean, sound effects are active and engaging, and the music cues sound lively. Each adventure generally sounds quite good from one episode to the next, with that iconic narration setting the stage for the action to come. At least that’s some good news to report.

Special Features

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Blu-ray Appearance

Featurette Appearance

Bonus features are relatively light considering, but it’s fine stuff overall. In addition to the archival featurettes, the most important piece of the set is the previously mentioned Speeding Toward Tomorrow. While a fascinating look at the series’ animation styles and techniques, it does give us the most damning examples of how this series should look on Blu-ray instead of how the final masters appear. The other featurettes have appeared in previous Superman Blu-ray and DVD sets as well as WB’s own past DVD of the Fleischer series. 

  • NEW Max Fleischer’s Superman: Speeding Toward Tomorrow (HD 13:20)
  • First Flight: The Fleisher Superman Series (SD 12:55)
  • THe Man, the Myth, Superman (SD 13:37)

Blu-ray Appearance

Featurette Appearance

One of the best and most visually exciting representations of The Man of Steel crashes to earth on Blu-ray with a terribly disappointing Blu-ray release of Max Fleischer's Superman. While the audio is solid enough, the fact they scrubbed it of any film grain or imperfections in the animation cels leaves the image looking soft, smeary, with dull colors for an all around unsightly appearance. This is compunded when you look at the bonus features and the image there looks very appealing and natual for an 80 year old piece of animation! Given the 4K releases of the original Christopher Reeve films I was really excited to add this to my collection - a lot of air got sucked out of the room when I threw on this disc to review. To that end, unless WB reauthors the disc or offers a replacement, hold onto your old DVDs. Skip It