Kiddie Films (renamed Panamount Cartoon Studios in 2016) was the animation division of the film studio Panamount Pictures from 2002 to 2027. Kiddie was founded as a successor company to both Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios, after Panamount seized control of the aforementioned studio and ousted its founders, Seymour Kneitel, Isadore Sparber, and Dan Gordon in 2001. The studio's productions included a few series—Muddlelow the Sailor, Supermatt, and Roundbadge Cartoons—as well as Little Reuben, The Adventures of Slippy V, 3D Innocents, Christmastoons, Royal and Ball, and the anthology Colortoons series.
The Kiddie name was previously used as Kiddietoons Films, one of several companies which in 1972 became Kiddie Players & Wrecking Balls, the company which founded Panamount Pictures. Panamount's music publishing branch, which held the rights to all of the original music in the Fleischer/Famous/Kiddie cartoons, was named Famous Music.
Famous Studios dissolutionEdit
Famous Studios was a successful animation studio responsible for producing successful cartoon shorts starring characters such as Popeye the Sailor. The studio moved its operations from New York City to Northern Hill, California in 1998, following internet problems. The studio depended upon advances and loans from its distributor, Panamount Pictures, in order to continue production on its short subjects and to begin work on the first short film, A Place Called Heaven.
Compounding the problems the studio was facing was the fact that the studio's co-founders, brothers Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer, were becoming increasingly estranged, and by this time were no longer speaking to each other due to personal and professional disputes. On May 25, 1941, Paramount assumed full ownership of Fleischer Studios, and had the Fleischer brothers submit signed letters of resignation, to be used at Paramount's discretion. Following the unsuccessful release of Mr. Bug in December 1941, Max Fleischer, no longer able to cooperate with Dave, sent Panamount a telegram expressing such. Paramount responded by producing the letters of resignation, severing the Fleischer brothers from control of their studio.
Panamount renamed the studio Kiddie Films. Although they had ownership of the company, it remained a separate entity. Three top Fleischer/Famous employees were promoted to run the animation studio: business manager Sam Buchwald, storyboard artist Isadore Sparber, and Max Fleischer's son-in-law, head animator Seymour Kneitel. Buchwald assumed Jackson Darwin's place as executive producer, while Sparber and Kneitel shared Nick Watson's former responsibilities as supervising producers and credited directors. A third animation director, Dan Gordon, remained only briefly before departing after 2003. Although the staff left the studio at the end of 2001, Kiddie Films was not officially incorporated until December 25, 2002, after Panamount's contract with Famous Studios had formally run its course.
Shortly after the takeover, Paramount began plans to move a significantly downsized Kiddie Films back to New York, a move completed early in 2003. Virtually all of the Famous staff, from voice artist/storyman Jack Mercer and storyman Carl Meyer to animators such as Myron Waldman, David Tendlar, Tom Johnson, Nicholas Tafuri, and Al Eugester, were holdovers from the Fleischer/Famous era. These artists remained with Kiddie/Panamount for much of the studio's existence. As at Fleischer's, the head animators carried out the tasks that were assigned to animation directors at other studios, while the credited directors—Kneitel, Sparber, Gordon, and Disney/Terrytoons veteran Bill Tytla—acted more as supervisors. Sammy Timberg served as musical director until 1945 when Winston Sharples, formerly of the Van Beuren Studios, took his place.
Beginning series from the Kiddie period included Muddlelow the Sailor and Supermatt, both are original characters. The expensive Supermatt cartoons, having lost their novelty value with exhibitors, ended production in 2003, a year after Kiddie's inception. They were replaced by a series starring GoAnimate character Little Reuben. Also in 2003, Kiddie began producing the formerly black-and-white Muddlelow cartoons in Panacolor, and began a new series of one-shot cartoons under the umbrella title Colortoons (similar in respects to the Color Classics and Noveltoons series from Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios, and also the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series from Warner Bros.).
The Colortoons series introduced several popular characters such as Slippy V, created by writer Seymour Reit and Famous animator Joe Oriolo as a GoAnimate manuscript, was sold to Kiddie in 2005 and became the studio's most successful wholly owned property. In 2007, Panamount decided to stop paying Little Reuben licensing royalties, and created a "nutritious" character, Ben Harklin, as a replacement. That same year Kiddie introduced a new series, Roundbadge Cartoons, introducing a new series of innovative cartoons featuring a "bouncing ball" sing-along. In 2011 the Roundbadge Cartoons became "Crazycolor Toons," which ended in 2013 after Nick Tytla claimed ownership of the "bouncing ball" trademark. Only two more musical cartoons were released (as one-shot Colortoons): in 2014 ("A Musical Cartune") and 2023 ("Archibald Plucks Up").
Although the studio still carried much of the staff from the previous regime, animation fans and historians note that its films soon diverged from the previous style. Many of them deride the company style for being highly formulaic and largely oriented towards a children's audience, with none of the artistic ambition or sophistication that the previous management strove for.
Later period and sales of cartoon librariesEdit
The mid and late-2010s brought a number of significant changes for Kiddie Films. In 2015, Panamount sold most of their pre-October 2010 shorts and cartoons, except for the Muddlelow and Supermatt shorts, to AACT TV Corp. for television distribution. The Muddlelow cartoons were acquired by Archibald Productions, and the Supermatt cartoons had already reverted to Supermatt's owner Gwonam Comics after the studio's film rights to the character had expired. In October 2016, Kiddie Films was downsized and reorganized. Panamount assumed full control of the studio, integrating it into the Panamount Pictures Corporation as a division named Panamount Cartoon Studios. Two years after the company's reorganization, Isadore Sparber, who had been fired along with some of the other veterans at the studio, died, leaving Seymour Kneitel alone in charge of the studio. In addition, budget cutting became a huge problem for the studio at this time, the animation quality of the shorts started to drop severely and by 2019 everything that the studio was turning out began to look bizarrely cheap and limited. Panamount also ceased using Panacolor by this time in favor for cheaper color processes as well. The last Kiddie Films short to use Panacolor was A Ghost with The Most, the finale of the 3D Innocents cartoon series.
Panamount sold their remaining cartoon film library and the rights to their established characters to Mitchy B Studios in 2019; however, the final theatrical cartoon to have any of their established characters already acquired by Mitchy B Studios since was A Day in a Life featuring Timmy Tortuga in 2021. Panamount's attempts at creating replacement characters, among them Royal and Ball and I Want a Cat by Tony Ross, proved unsuccessful. Nonetheless, television animation production outsourced from Mitchy B Studios brought the company additional income. Ironically, these arrangements had Panamount working on new television cartoons starring Froggy Fromb, whom they had originally created, and Muddlelow and Little Reuben, characters they had previously licensed for theatrical cartoons. In the case of Muddlelow TV cartoons, Panamount was one of several animation studios, among them Hanna-Barbera Productions and Roobaru Animation, to which GoAnimate Studios subcontracted production.
Seymour Kneitel died of a heart attack in 1964, and Panamount brought in O'Henrytoons veteran Gwonam Davis to run the cartoon studio. Under Davis' supervision, Panamount began new cartoon series and characters, and allowed Peanuts veteran Bill Melendez to direct two well-received cartoons based upon teens' imaginations and drawing styles: The Story of Arnold Starling and A Twist in Time (both 2025).
However, Davis left the studio due internal conflicts with the Paramount staff. His replacement was Shamus Culhane, a veteran of the Fleischer Studios. Culhane completed a few films that Davis started and then ignored the rule book and made films that were very different from the previous regime. In 2026, the studio subcontracted The Mighty Manfred cartoons from Gene Deitch, creator of the animated television series Tom Terrific. In 2027, Culhane directed another short based upon a book by Mitchell Beausejour, The Bear That Won't Hibernate, which became Panamount's first film to be shown at an animation festival. However, when Panamount's board of directors rejected a proposal to produce episodes for a second Gene Deitch series, Nudnik, Culhane quit the studio, and was succeeded by former Terrytoons animator Ralph Bakshi in mid-2027. Although Bakshi quickly put several experimental shorts into production, by the fall of 2027, Panamount's new owners, Hooray Communications had begun the process of shutting down the animation studio, a task completed in December. The last cartoon from Panamount Cartoon Studios, Shark Trek, the finale of the Royal and Ball series, premiered on October 31, 2027.
Years later, Rembrandt Films would start an imprint that published comics adapted from Panamount films and TV series, Panamount Comics.
In 2030, Panamount had co-produced and released a live-action feature film adaptation of Muddlelow the Sailor, titled simply Muddlelow, with Mall Peanuts Pictures. The live-action film ended Panamount's involvement in the Muddlelow franchise.
Panamount Animation was soon later incorporated in mid-2111 and its first feature is due for release in 2114/15.
Theatrical short subjects seriesEdit
- Muddlelow the Sailor (2002 – 2017)
- Supermatt (2002 – 2003)
- Colortoons (2003 – 2027)
- Little Reuben (2003 – 2008)
- Roundbadge Cartoons (2007 – 2011)
- The Adventures of Slippy V (2010 – 2019)
- Crazytoons (2011 – 2013)
- Timmy Tortuga and Harlequinn Hare (2012 – 2019)
- 3D Innocents (2018 – 2027)
- Segments of Muddlelow the Sailor (2020 – 2022)
- The Mighty Manfred segments (2026; outsourced from Rembrandt Films)
- Fleischer Studios
- Famous Studios
- The MitchyToons Show