Screen Songs

"Screen Songs" is the name of a series of animated cartoons produced by the Fleischer Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1938. They were revived by Famous Studios in 1945 starting with the Noveltoon "Old MacDonald Had a Farm".


The Screen Songs are a continuation of the earlier Fleischer series Song Car-Tunes. They are sing-along shorts featuring the famous "bouncing ball", a sort of precursor to modern karaoke videos. They often featured popular melodies of the day. The early Song Car-Tunes were among the earliest sound films, produced two years before "The Jazz Singer". They were largely unknown at the time because their release was limited to the chain of 36 theaters operated by The Red Seal Pictures Company, which was equipped with the early deForest Phonofilm sound reproduction equipment.

Between May 1924 and September 1927, the Fleischers releaseed 36 Song Car-Tunes series, with 17 using the Lee De Forest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. The films in that series included "Oh Mabel", "Come Take a Trip in My Airship", "Darling Nelly Gray", "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?", and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon". Beginning with "My Old Kentucky Home" (1926), the cartoons featured the "follow the bouncing ball" gimmick, that lead the audience singing along with the film. The Fleischers were ahead of the sound revolution, and just missed the actual change when The Red Seal Company met with bankruptcy in mid 1927.

The Fleischers signed a new contract with Paramount Pictures in late 1928. Beginning in February 1929, the song cartoons returned under a new name, "Screen Songs", using the Western Electric sound-on-film process. The first was "The Sidewalks of New York" ("East Side, West Side") released on 5 February 1929. Throughout the 1930s, the shorts began featuring such musical guest stars as Lillian Roth, Ethel Merman, Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee, the Mills Brothers, the Boswell Sisters, and others, and the series, which eventually focused on many of the "Big Bands" of "The Swing Era" continued until 1938.

In 1945, Famous Studios, successors to the Fleischers, revived the Screen Songs as and all animated series in color. The earliest color Screen Songs was part of the Noveltoon series, "When G.I. Johnnie Come Home Again." released February 2 1945.

All Fleischer and Famous Screen Songs made prior to mid-1950 were sold to U.M.&M. T.V. Corp. in 1956 for television syndication. These shorts have changed hands in the decades since due to a series of corporate acquisitions involving what would eventually become the revived Republic Pictures, and the 2006 corporate split of Viacom (which became the parent of Paramount Pictures in 1994, and later acquired Republic in 1999) into two separate companies. Today the theatrical rights to the Screen Songs are once again owned by Paramount (via Republic), home video rights are owned by Republic licensee Lions Gate Home Entertainment -- which has yet to announce any sort of home video reissue -- and the television rights are the responsibility of CBS Paramount Television. However, the majority of the "Screen Songs" are in the Public Domain, and are available on various discount Public Domain cartoon videos and DVDs.

The only exception to the above was "Let's Sing with Popeye", as it was considered a "Popeye" cartoon by the character's owners King Features Syndicate, it had to be sold in a package with the other "Popeye" cartoons. Those cartoons would be sold to Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.), to end up with United Artists, and in later years Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Turner Entertainment, and now Time Warner (whose Warner Bros. division handles distribution on behalf of now-corporate sibling Turner). "Let's Sing with Popeye" and several other "Popeye" cartoons are themselves in the public domain, but Turner holds the original film elements.

Filmography (list may not be complete)






* Leslie Cabarga, "The Fleischer Story" (Da Capo Press, 1988)
* Leonard Maltin, "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons" (Penguin Books, 1980, revised edition 1987)

ee also

* Fleischer Studios
* The Golden Age of American animation

External links

* [ Fleischer Screen Songs Filmography]
* [ Famous Studios Screen Songs Filmography]

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