What, no Thunderbean Thursday? Our dear friend Steve Stanchfield is fully occupied this week, dutifully wrapping up the school semester at the College For Creative Studies in Detroit, where he teaches animation, so he’s handed over today’s spot for some fun Cartoons On Film updates from yours truly. I’m glad to be back posting here, as it’s been a long time!
In related news, Steve has also been busy over the past couple months helping to finish build the upcoming Cartoon Roots: The Bray Studios Blu-Ray/DVD combo master with his special Thunderbean touch. I’m extremely thankful for the collaboration and loan of talents, and I’ll get to more about that project in just a moment… but first, watch this video:
Five years ago this June, I launched the Bray Animation Project website. The site has served two important functions: based on feedback from casual online surfers and academics alike, it has been a helpful educational tool; second, its existence online has helped to promote the historical significance of the Bray films, and most thrillingly, has also helped lead to the discovery of more of the obscure films, and even some original artwork. I’m an optimistic film archivist and firmly believe there are *many* legendary animation rarities out there just waiting to be found, some of which we consider ‘lost’ films. It simply takes time, good sleuthing skills, an abundance of patience, and a bit of luck to make new rediscoveries.
That leads me to share some fun news about a couple recent additions to the Bray Animation Project archives. These are two rare and obscure Bray cartoons that I wasn’t quite sure I might ever see: When Knights Were Bold (L.M. Glackens, 1915) and Otto Luck to the Rescue (Wallace Carlson, 1917). Since many early films were reprinted for nontheatrical rental in later decades, there’s often a chance of finding smaller gauge copies (i.e. 16mm) even when the original 35mm nitrate negatives and prints were long-ago discarded or have likely deteriorated by now, if any still exist at all.
In the case of these particular finds, the Glackens subject was acquired in the form of a 28mm print—28mm being a very early “safety film” format for nontheatrical use, popular in the 1910s and 1920s, but virtually obsolete by the 1930s.
The Wallace Carlson “Otto Luck” cartoon was printed up as part of the famous Kodascope Libraries, which was basically the 1920s equivalent of Blockbuster Video. The print is on 1925 stock, looks and luckily still projects beautifully to this day. Kodak, at the time, collaborated with various film studios to reduce their films to the 16mm format and offer them for rental or outright sale to interested nontheatrical parties. That meant, in the decades before home video, if you wanted to rent a projector and films to show at a birthday party or for your school or church, outfits like Kodascope and many other such entities had older (and sometimes current) films on hand to rent out.
While I’ve acquired films that were literally pulled out of midwestern barns after 90 years of being forgotten, these particular finds happen to come from other longtime collectors who own all kinds of films; not specific to any one genre. This goes to show that films of this nature are sometimes already held in private or institutional archives of ‘general’ film collections, and simply remain there quietly and without much attention until they find their way to niche specialists who can properly identify the films, understand their significance, and are specializing in and heralding specific genres, such as in the case of my working exclusively with early animated films.
It’s my hope that these—and many other cartoons in the collection—can make their way to home video in the future. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, the long-awaited initial Blu-ray and DVD of new Bray Studios cartoon restorations will be available in the coming weeks, and that’s a huge relief. There were several factors, most of which were out of my control, that contributed to delaying its production and release for several months. Either way, it’s so satisfying to see the project come into the final stretch of wrapping up. There will be more news about its general release here on Cartoon Research in the near future — but for now, here are a couple fun teaser images and videos for you lucky readers!
P.S. See Cartoon Restorations LIVE!
This summer I will be presenting a special theatrical screening of my film restoration efforts at the Animation Block Party film festival. I will highlight the film preservation process during a Cartoon Restoration Showcase, Saturday July 30th at BAMcinématek, featuring a Q&A with my moderator, Cartoon Research editor Jerry Beck.
BAMcinématek is located at the Peter Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. The ABP 2016 Cartoon Restoration presentation will include exclusive new digital restorations of films from Max Fleischer and Bray Studios. Keynote titles include Diplodocus (J.R. Bray, 1915), Bobby Bumps’ Pup Gets Flea-Enza (Earl Hurd, 1919) and Dinky Doodle in The Pied Piper (Walter Lantz, 1924).
So once again – The 13th annual Animation Block Party is July 28-July 31 2016 at Rooftop Films & BAMcinématek. Don’t miss it!