Just in time for the holiday, let me introduce you to two lost “Noveltoon” cartoons by Paramount/Famous studios, the same company that created all the classic Casper the ghost cartoons, as well as Little Audrey, Baby Huey, and others. It’s also the direct descendant of the studio that created Betty Boop, the old Popeye cartoons, and the old Superman cartoons, formerly known as Fleischer Studios. This post also ties in with my Crashed Pilots posts because these were clearly intended to be a series of cartoons that just never took off. All left-side images are from “The Wee Men”, the first of the two cartoons, while all right-side images are from “Leprechauns Gold”, the second of the two.
Both cartoons feature the same group of wizened old leprechauns, and the same young whippersnapper leprechaun (poor kid, he’s only 121 years old) making shoes in the same hollowed out tree.
Both cartoons also feature the same villain, who lives in the same wonky looking house.
I am unable to find any history on these cartoons, so I have no idea if they were unpopular, or if the studio execs decided to can them despite their popularity, or what the story may have been. Many sites claim that they are the same cartoon and that the name was simply changed in France. This is completely wrong. While both cartoons are confusingly similar, they are nonetheless very clearly two separate cartoons.
“The Wee Men” introduces us to the shoe-making leprechauns and tells us that the young one has just reached his 121st birthday and is now officially a man. (Which makes one wonder how a handful of identical old men of seemingly identical age came to have custody of a youngster, with no women around. Are they hiding a cloning machine behind that big fireplace? Are they some kind of sea-sponge that reproduces by budding?) Our young hero then sets out to deliver shoes to the poor. The greedy villain (we know he’s evil because he has pointy ears) catches the hero and forces him to lead him to the pot of gold. The hero tricks the villain, who then seemingly dies of a heart attack. The end. Everybody (else) lives happily ever after.
In “Leprechauns Gold” it is time for the leprechauns’ infrequent gold washing ceremony, where they make a big fuss of washing every gold coin (which has all been kept in a hole in the floor, so you wouldn’t think it’d be THAT dirty…). Now, in the previous cartoon, the gold was hidden next to an old dead tree, but in this cartoon it’s hidden under the floor. Did they decide the old tree stump was a dumb idea? Did they forget where they hid it last time? Who knows. Trouble arises when they realize that there are no potatoes in their stew (they didn’t realize that when they were putting everything into the pot?). The youngster takes a gold coin to buy some spuds, which shocks the dickens out of the old fogies. Why, doesn’t this whippersnapper know that leprechaun gold is strictly for bribing villains to let you go? Heaven forbid that said villain gets one less coin!
The fogies then tell the youngling that a nearby widow puts out potatoes for them, so he goes to fetch them. When he gets there he finds the villain from the previous cartoon (back from the dead? Evil(er) twin?) trying to foreclose on the poor widow’s house. He lets the widow’s young daughter catch him so that she will get the pot of gold to pay off the mortgage. The villain steals it (after tearing up the mortgage), but it turns into a swarm of bees and chases him away. Home secure, the young girl gives the gold back to the leprechauns, and everyone is once again happy ever after. …(We assume…)
The Wee Men (1947)