Animation History
March 1, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

8mm Looney Tunes

In a quick follow-up to my post on AAP last week, lets take a look how AAP, later United Artists (UA), exploited the pre-1948 Warner Bros. cartoons library to the home movie market. Hard to believe in this era of DVD and You Tube, that some of us grew up deprived of non-stop Looney Tunes, save for 8mm home movies sold in department stores and camera shops. We paid anywhere from $2.00 to $12.00 to get a silent, black & white version of a classic cartoon. One friggin’ cartoon. Here’s the somewhat attractive label on the box of one of AAP’s 8mm prints…

hollywood_daffy_8mm

United Artists knew it had a good thing when it acquired the AAP library in 1958. They kept selling 8mm films well into the 1960s. Here’s a excerpt (below) from their catalog, a color insert placed into every 8mm box they sold:

ua_homemovie
ua_homemovie2

Ken Films sub-distributed the UA line into the 1970s – and decades before the ugly box art on PD cartoon tapes, United Artists began abusing Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam in their own special way…

BB_ridesagain_box
UA_box_back

“Superimposed Titles adds to your enjoyment” – who knew?

22 Comments

  • Versus the intertitles of Castle Films.

  • Lovely!

  • Most interesting feature of being able to watch some of these films on 8mm releases?

    Several of the Blue Ribbons still had their original titles and were uncut.

  • It’s great to see the blog (re)start up. I’m reading the first several entries today…

    This topic is an evocative one . I had tons of Super 8 Looney Tunes (and Terrytoons and Columbia and Disney and other cartoons and movies). It’s amazing how things that were once so important are now discarded antiques. My last such purchase was a 9-minute version of STAR WARS. My single remaining projector has been untouched since the 1990s, wears a heavy coat of dust, and may no longer work at all.

    A complaint!: RSS readers don’t recognize the CARTOON RESEARCH feed, so I have to check the site manually for new entries, which consumes valuable seconds.

    • My apologizes in the delay in setting up the RSS feed. It’s coming.

  • Sniffles the Moose, huh? Funny.

    Yup, the Superimposed Titles made everything better.

    I had a few Castle/Lantz reels when i was a kid, fun memories.

    Thanx, Jerry. Congrats on the new blog. Lookin’ good!

  • The memory this brings back is of a similarly formatted Woody Woodpecker cartoon that came as a freebie with the Bell & Howell home movie set with camera and projector that my dad bought in the early ’60s. Dad being a frugal sort, buying other cartoons was out of the question, so that was the only cartoon we ever had. Whenever he set up the projector to watch our home movies, running that Woody cartoon to start the show was a regular ritual, but I got awfully tired of it. Something about Woody and a chicken, a hen house, eggs, bouncing ping-pong balls (?). Dreary black and white, no sound except for the projector motor, chopped down to near-incoherence to make it fit the running time… it was no way to watch a cartoon.
    A larger story might be how home video was something waiting to happen for many years, but the technology to make it practical wasn’t there yet. Black & white silent 8mm films were a poor substitute for seeing the original cartoons in color and with sound, but it was all we had in those days, and at least it was something, so there was a market even for poor subtitutes. Not to mention the studios’ own reluctance to release their product to the mass market. It was always interesting to peruse the Blackhawk catalog to see what was even legally available. (I remember borrowing a 16mm print of a MAN FROM UNCLE episode from a film collector I knew for a friend’s bachelor party in 1975. Besides the bother of having to rent a projector and hang up a sheet for a screen, the film collector was paranoid about my big mouth and the FBI catching wind of his mere possession of the reel.)

  • I had silent reels of “LEGEND OF ROCK-A-BYE POINT” and even a LITTLE ROQUEFORT cartoon but, as someone else said previous, these were all cut up and, well, silent. Another cartoon I had was an OSWALD cartoon from what I thought were the Walter Lantz years, a typical hunting title with a big dumb bloodhound, similar to that you would see in a Tex Avery cartoon, but I’ve not found the title anywhere, not even on the WOODY WOODPECKER AND FRIENDS collections. I remember running this film and thinking that it was always on the wrong speed, because the scenes of the dog running seemed kinda slow. Not having heard the cartoon with sound, I don’t know if that was indeed the proper speed for the dog to run. Tacked on the end was a small snippet of POPEYE in “I YAM WHAT I YAM”.

  • Dwight: I think your Woody cartoon was SOLID IVORY (1947). Pool player Woody loses his cueball to a mother hen, who thinks it’s one of her eggs. To get it back, he woos the hen by disguising himself as a rooster. Sound familiar?

    Kevin: I suspect your cartoon was THE RABBIT HUNT (1938), starring Jock the monkey as a hunter, aided by a bloodhound very much as you describe. This was marketed by Castle as an Oswald cartoon, even though the rabbit in it was not Oswald.

  • David: Yep, your description of SOLID IVORY sounds about right. I also remember with a slight shudder a bit in which the lady hen, smitten by the charms of Woody in his rooster disguise, pretties up… including a shot of her putting on nylons. Chicken legs just don’t seem right for that…
    Jerry: In another example of home video trying to happen before its time, the 1966 Sears Christmas catalog sold a cheap home-movie display device made in the form of simulated TV set with a built-in screen, and came with several reels of film in a round cassette format that could be inserted without threading or rewinding. They’re optimistically described as “movies” and in color, and include some Warners cartoons (Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester) as well as Bozo, Popeye, and even the Munsters (pretty darn current for Christmas ’66), as well as various others. I’m guessing they’re badly chopped up short excerpts of various programs, but still… home video is trying hard to happen.

    • That TV was a spinoff of the Kenner give-a-show movie projector. The gimmick was that you could surf from one channel to another. Each reel had two cartoons side-by-side on what I guess was 16mm film; turning a know moved one or another into the shutter.

      Sears also had, briefly, a Home Movie catalog. Most of it was straight from the old Blackhawk Bulletin, page layouts almost intact. I remember the cover had a nickelodeon motif with portraits of Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy. “The Old Time Stars Shine Again.”

  • “Gary Grant”?

  • Given how dialogue-heavy it is, A WILD HARE must have been interesting to watch in a silent 8mm version. The only such film we had when I was a kid was a 50′ Abbott and Costello reel titled HAVE BADGE, WILL CHASE, which was an extract from the climactic chase in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KEYSTONE KOPS. Bell & Howell made a deal with Castle Films, and for years, every B&H projector sold came with that 50′ Abbott and Costello reel. I used to buy these kinds of films as I got older. Try and explain to kids today why it seemed so cool to have a black and white silent 50′ condensation of a Heckle and Jeckle cartoon. (Well, okay, maybe that wasn’t cool even back then, but I enjoyed it.)

    • “A Wild Hare” had white supertitles against a black background, which made them easy to read. They were abbreviated and sometimes left out if the visuals seemed to work on their own. At one point Elmer catches a skunk in his rabbit trap. The skunk, a bit shyly, elbows Elmer and says “Confidentially, I . . . you know.” (Catchphrase of the day: “Confidentially, it stinks!”). The 8mm has no caption there, so it looks like the skunk is coming on to Elmer.

  • Jerry, thanks for posting this! Like some of your other commenters, I got a real twinge of nostalgia out of this item. I’ve got a few years on you, and did most of my growing up (such as I’ve done) in the Midwest, so my experience wasn’t precisely the same as those of some others. For me it wasn’t a Looney Tune, but a Disney short: MICKEY AND THE BULL, which I now know was a b&w, silent, 8mm excerpt from MICKEY’S RIVAL. It was the only one we had, not because my parents were frugal, but because they had already spotted a fanatic in the making and were exercising caution. But I loved that thing, literally, to pieces: I held it up to the light to see how the little figures moved from one frame to the next, and ran it over and over on our projector until the sprocket holes fell off. Again, this is just nostalgia, and now that I have vast quantities of beautiful color and sound transfers of classic cartoons at my fingertips (many of them thanks to you!) it would be silly to pretend that I want to go back to those days. But I’ll never forget the joy that little film brought me — as in so many areas of life, hunger makes a healthy appetite. And I earnestly hope I never get so spoiled that I start taking these things for granted, and lose that sense of joy that started me on this road in the first place. Many thanks again for this piece and everything else, and keep up the good work!

  • My first view of Betty Boop was from one of these. A realtor selling homes for a subdivision circa 1960 had a model home for the the adults to wander through. In the garage he’d set up a projector on what I think was a sheet. The only flash I remember is Betty Boop coming out of the Inkwell. That would be my one and only vision of Boop until the late 70s when she began appearing on some PD VHS tapes.

  • Back in the ‘sixties, I used to rent silent 8mm films from two places in Kenmore / North Buffalo: Renner’s and The Delaware Camera Mart. The Camera Mart took a $3.00 deposit and the film rental was something like fifty cents for the weekend. Renner’s had no deposit, but the film rental rates were steeper.

    The Camera Mart had the rental prints, loose, in a cardboard box under a counter, while Renner’s put all the 200′ reels into SCOTCH recording tape boxes and wrote the names on the sides in magicmarker on top of masking tape. (I rented “The Shell Shocked Egg” from Renners, as I recall.)

    Ah, memories…

  • Donald Benson sent me this picture of some early AAP 8mm home movie boxes. He writes:

    These preceded the Ken/UA boxes; my parents got these (early 60s) but I never saw any but the Ken/UA versions in stores. “Curses” was a live-action Vitaphone comedy short with nobody I recognized. It was a western spoof and had nothing to do with the box art.

    Never saw any color Looney Tunes from Ken/UA. And never saw Ken/UA in any of the catalogs — only in department stores and Kmarts.

    app_boxes

  • I still have EVERY Ken-distributed B&W silent 8mm UA film released in the vast Shokus Archives. I also have a telecine to properly transfer these, and can post some on YouTube in case anyone is interested. BTW, AAP also released their titles in 8mm MAGNETIC SOUND. I have a print of “Gruesome Twosome” in B&W that still plays great. I’ve attached a scan of the box art (below).

    BTW, we can add a discussion of the history 8mm cartoon market to our next broadcast on 3/20 if anyone is interested in hearing about it. That might also make a great show in itself.

    gruesome

  • In 1966 I graduated to a standard 8mm sound projector. There were quite a few Looney Tunes released in color and sound on 8mm from one company, and the beauty of these (and they were uncut) was that they were mounted on 100′ reels rather than 200′, and the price was roughly half what Castle was charging for cartoons of the same length mounted on 200′ reels. I do not remember what company it was that did this — I don’t think it was AAP or UA. They didn’t last into the Super 8 era.

  • Weird that Slyvester is advertised and pictured for “A Gruesome Twosome” in one of the ads as he wasn’t even in that cartoon.

  • I recently got my first Bugs Bunny cartoon in 8mm off of Etsy yesterday called “Buckaroo Bugs”, one of my all-time favorite. I showed it on my vintage Kodak Super Showtime 8 movie projector and it looks good in black & white but it had some captions on there. This was a butchered version of the 1944 WB short. AAP distributed it as a home movie unit outside of TV distribution. I shared it on Facebook, but I’m afraid not to upload the 8mm version on YouTube because WB gets booted for copyright for showing a silent 8mm version.

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