A young lady plays a stone age 'piano'.

STONE AGE CARTOONS

Medium: Theatrical Animation
Produced by: Fleischer Studio
First Appeared: 1940
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When we think of the cartoon schtick of usng prehistoric animals as a cave person's substitute for modern conveniences, such as a small elephant, whose nose stands in for a vacuum cleaner, or a sharp-beaked bird, whose bill works as a phonograph needle, naturally, what comes to mind is The Flintstones. But a little over 20 years before Hanna-Barbera produced the "modern stone age family", moviegoers …

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… had already seen it in the Stone Age cartoons, produced by Max Fleischer's studio (Gulliver's Travels, Screen Songs) for a brief period in 1940.

The first of the Stone Age cartoons was Way Back When a Triangle Had Its Points, which the Fleischer studio released on January 26, 1940. Like most Fleischer products, it was directed by Dave Fleischer, Max's brother, who had been with the studio since the beginning, back in the Out of the Inkwell days. There weren't any recurring characters, but the various voices were done by Jack Mercer (Popeye the Sailor) and Mae Questal (Betty Boop).

The Stone Age returned less than two months later, with the release of Way Back When a Nightclub Was a Stick (March 15). Then came Granite Hotel (April 26), Fowl Ball Player (May 24) and more. They increased in frequency, to the point where less than two weeks was going by between them, until all of a sudden, after only a few months, they stopped.

A total of 13 were made altogether. The last one was Way Back When Women Had Their Weigh, released September 26, 1940. Tho by that time, the studio was making a few full-color cartoons, such as the Gabby and Hunky & Spunky series, all of the Stone Age cartoons were black and white. The phrase "Way Back When" appeared in five of their titles.

The studio lasted only a couple of years after dropping the Stone Age series, and never revisited it. Famous Studios, built on its wreckage, never touched the series at all. The Stone Age cartoons came and went so quickly, they scarcely made a mark on the animation field — except in pioneering one motif that The Flintstones later made famous.

— DDM

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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Max Fleischer Productions.