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Fleischer Studios (1941 to 1942)
Famous Studios (1942 to 1943)

Title Cards 1940's Cartoon.jpg
Superman (1940s cartoons)


September, 26 1941
Original Channel
Original Run
9/26/1941 – 7/30/1943

Based On
Max and Dave Fleischer
Executive Producer(s)

The Superman animated cartoons were a series of seventeen animated Technicolor short films released by Paramount Pictures and based upon the newly released comic book character Superman.

Production Information

The first nine 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.[1]

Although all entries are in the public domain, ancillary rights (as well as the original 35mm master elements) are owned today by Warner Bros. Entertainment and its Warner Bros. animation division (which manages WB's vast animation holdings, in addition to making new productions), a sister company to Superman publisher DC Comics since 1969.

Distribution Information

Paramount was interested in cashing in on the phenomenal popularity of the new Superman comic books by producing a series of theatrical cartoons based upon the character. The Fleischers hoped to discourage Paramount from committing to the series, so they informed the studio that the cost of producing such a series of cartoons would be about $100,000 per short—an amazingly high figure, about six times the typical budget of a six-minute Fleischer Popeye the Sailor cartoon during the 1940s.[2] To their surprise, Paramount agreed to a budget of $50,000.[3] This was half the requested sum, but still three times the cost of the average Fleischer short. So, needless to say, the Fleischers were committed to the project.

About the Shorts

The first cartoon in the series, simply titled Superman, was released on September 26, 1941, and was nominated for the 1942 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. It lost to Lend 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 extensively to lend realism to the human characters and Superman.[2] Many of Superman's actions, however, could not be rotoscoped (flying, lifting very large objects, and so on). In these cases, the Fleischer lead animators, many of whom were not trained in figure drawing, animated roughly and depended upon their assistants, many of whom were inexperienced with animation but were trained in figure drawing, to keep Superman "on model" during his action sequences.[4]

The Fleischer cartoons were also responsible for Superman being able to fly. When they started work on the series, Superman could only leap from place to place (hence "Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" in the opening). But they deemed it as "silly looking" after seeing it animated and decided to have him fly instead.


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!
Opening Narration

However, for the final Fleischer-produced cartoon and first two of the nine 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!
Opening Narration

With the changeover to Famous Studios and the loss of the Fleischers, the opening line of the cartoon series was changed to:

Faster than a streak of lightning! More powerful than the pounding surf! Mightier than a roaring hurricane!
Opening Narration

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!
General Narration

Principal Cast

Episode List:

Fleischer Studios

    Ep #         Episode Name        Air Date    
1     Superman (a.k.a. The Mad Scientist)         September 26, 1941    
2     The Mechanical Monsters         November 28, 1941    
3     Billion Dollar Limited         January 9, 1942    
4     The Arctic Giant         February 27, 1942    
5     The Bulleteers         March 27, 1942    
6     The Magnetic Telescope         April 24, 1942    
7     Electric Earthquake         May 15, 1942    
8     Volcano         June 10, 1942
9     Terror on the Midway         August 28, 1942    

Famous Studios

    Ep #         Episode Name        Air Date    
10     Japoteurs         September 18, 1942    
11     Showdown         October 16, 1942    
12     Eleventh Hour         November 20, 1942    
13     Destruction, Inc.         December 25, 1942    
14     The Mummy Strikes         February 19, 1943    
15     Jungle Drums         March 26, 1943    
16     The Underground World         June 18, 1943    
17     Secret Agent         July 30, 1943    


  1. Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons. New York: Oxford University Press. Pgs. 303-305. ISBN 0-19-516729-5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Maltin, Leonard (1980, rev. 1987). Of Mice and Magic. New York: Plume. Pg. 120 - 122
  3. Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons. New York: Oxford University Press. Pg. 304.
  4. Maltin, Leonard (1980, rev. 1987). Of Mice and Magic. New York: Plume. Pg. 120 - 122
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