Max Fleischer’s Superman appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. With great clean-up comes great responsibility – and this set dropped the ball.
Though not to a horrible extreme, I admit. Aspects of the image worked well.
However, Superman underwent a lot of grain reduction, and that impacted the entire package. Of course, it meant the shorts lost their “film-like” quality, as the essential lack of grain left them with a sterile quality.
In addition, these techniques impacted sharpness. While not truly soft, the cartoons tended to feel a bit tentative, and they lacked the fine detail that the source should impart.
All that said, the shorts still managed reasonable definition. Again, they failed to impart the clarity they should, but they remained fairly concise, albeit a little mushier than expected.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to mar the proceedings.
Colors usually worked fairly well, even if they didn’t excel. The hues lacked the range and impact I’d expect but they nonetheless felt largely positive.
Blacks appeared pretty deep, while shadows showed appealing smoothness. Ultimately, the shorts seemed more than watchable, but they nonetheless disappointed due to their overuse of grain reduction.
As for the shorts’ DTS-HD MA monaural audio, it seemed perfectly acceptable given the vintage of the material. Speech tended to seem a bit brittle, but the lines remained intelligible and without obvious edginess.
Music came across as somewhat shrill, and effects lacked real heft. However, these seemed typical for audio from the 1940s. While the soundtracks didn’t excel, they became more than adequate.
A few extras appear, and we open with a featurette called First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series. The 12-minute, 55-second piece features notes from filmmaker’s son Richard Fleischer, author Leslie Cabarga, cartoon historian Jerry Beck, animator/director Myron Waldman, Superman: The Animated Series director Dan Riba, animator’s son Leonard Grossman, S:TAS writers/producers Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, DC Comics librarian Allen Asherman, and writer Roger Stern.
The piece looks at the history of the Fleischer Studios, their various innovations and the tone of their work, their involvement with the Superman series, cast and audio, and reflections on Fleischer’s nine Superman shorts.
“Flight” provides a solid examination of its subject. We learn a lot about the Fleischer Studios and their impact on the Superman series. The show gets a little fluffy and praise-heavy at times, but it offers enough nice detail to work.
Speeding Toward Tomorrow spans 13 minutes, 20 seconds. It involves various personnel behind modern-day DC animated direct-to-video tales: director Matt Peters, producer Jim Krieg, supervising producer Rick Morales, and screenwriter Jeremy Adams.
“Speeding” discusses the Fleischer shorts, with an emphasis on appreciation. Though we get some insights about how the cartoons influenced overall Superman lore, praise dominates this lackluster program.
Finally, The Man, The Myth, Superman goes for 13 minutes, 37 seconds. It provides info from Once and Future Myths author Phil Cousineau, comic book historian Michael Uslan, Our Gods Wear Spandex author Christopher Knowles, DC Comics Senior Group Editor Michael Carlin, The Writer’s Journey story consultant/author Christopher Vogler, Superman on the Couch author Danny Fingeroth, and professor/author Thomas Andrae.
With “Man”, we take a look at mythological elements and themes in the Superman comics. This becomes a moderately insightful piece.
As our introduction to the character on the big screen Max Fleischer’s Superman presents a fairly entertaining series of animated shorts. While not winners across the board, they usually work pretty well. The Blu-ray comes with over-scrubbed visuals, adequate audio and a few minor bonus materials. I like the cartoons but picture quality disappoints.