THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
January 9, 2014 posted by Steve Stanchfield

A Visit to “Scrappy’s Art Gallery” (1934)

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I hope that sooner-than-later the Scrappy cartoons are released on DVD or BluRay. They remain some of the hardest of series to see, along with the Krazy Kat’s produced by Columbia. The first Scrappy I saw was Holidayland. I bought from an ad that from 16mm dealer Cliff Thomas had in “The Big Reel” , a film collector’s newspaper, sometime around 1982. I used to call Cliff as soon as the The Big Reel arrived, usually not beating out the handful of other cartoon collectors. Cliff always had cartoons cheap, especially the more common titles.

I would love to hear about other collector’s experiences in collecting cartoons. I’m sure many of you have some great stories… and I’m sure some of your stories go back much, much further than mine! Whenever I went to a film show, I always felt like the ‘young’ person there!

I bought the first 16mm cartoon I ever had from Cliff, Christmas Night starring The Little King. Borrowing the projector at my high school, I was amazed at how much clearer a 16mm image was than the super 8 that I often struggled to focus.

scrappy-art-galler250The collectors all seemed to be very familiar with the Scrappy cartoons already. Every month, with the issue of Animania next to me that featured reviews of many of the Scrappy’s, I would pour through The Big Reel, hoping to find a few I didn’t have that were cheap enough to buy on a teenager’s budget. One of the first I got was Scrappy’s Art Gallery, an odd and unique short from 1934.

I’ve an advocate of having viewed a majority of a studio’s output before making a blanket judgement about the films that studio made. One writer dismissed the whole series of Scrappy cartoons as ‘largely unwatchable’. Now, there are some that are a little rough to get through, but that’s sort of like saying I’m never going to try another pie after a bad visit to Marie Callender’s.

So many fine artists ended up in the animation and film industry in the 30s, and it makes sense that some of that education would end up in the films. I’m sure many would have gone onto other careers had the economy been better. A group of core animators that worked at Mintz had come out from the East Coast, bringing both the sensibilities and experiences of New York with them as Mintz’s studio moved west. Artists making films about Art Galleries are not as common as one would hope, though there are a few.

The Scrappy cartoons I like best at the earlier ones that former Fleischer animator Dick Huemer directed, as well as the ones that his animator Sid Marcus directed soon after Heumer left for Disney.

Scrappy’s Art Gallery is an ambitious little film, taking great pains to be as technically good as they were more than likely rushing to make it under the budgets at Mintz. It features techniques in cel painting that don’t show up in any other Mintz cartoons to my knowledge, utilizing a simple idea in a series of clever gags. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes not as well, but the best moments in this short (the painting melting and the surprise soon after with Whistler’s Mother) offer the kind of magic that makes 1930s animation so fantastic. The ‘hot licks’ near the end is a personal favorite of mine; I really want those scenes near the end to be as great as some of the earlier scenes….

If you haven’t seen this one, I hope you like it.

Cheers! Steve

13 Comments

  • Steve Stanchfield wrote, “… I would love to hear about other collector’s experiences in collecting cartoons …”

    this isn’t much of a story, but it’s stuck in my mind over the years … I learned about mintz studios and the scrappy cartoons through leonard maltin’s “of mice and magic”. this was long before the internet, in the days of Blackhawk film catalogs and big reel.

    I started collecting films through the big reel, my intention was to collect scrappy cartoons. one day I saw a dealer who had a scrappy cartoon for sale (I don’t remember which one it was), so I called him up to make sure he still had it and to place an order.

    well, I was a shy socially inept young man, and long distance cost a fortune back then, etc, so I was surprised when the man engaged me in conversation about film collecting. at one point he asked me why I was collecting these films, and I replied that I really loved dick HUEMER. there was a pause from the man, and he replied something like “yes, yes. the old fashioned HUMOR in these cartoons is wonderful.” it was quite clear to me that he didn’t know who dick huemer was, and thought I meant dick HUMOR, but I was too shy to explain what I had meant.

    not much of a story, but I thought i’d share it.

  • Scrappy, Krazy and other pre-UPA Columbias used to turn up on Captain Satellite, an old-school 60s kid show on KTVU-2 Oakland. The good captain also offered serials made from Russian animated features and such modern novelties as the Marvel Super Heroes, Funny Company and Spunky & Tadpole.

  • One of my faves! Today I’m a little surprised at how many 16mm Scrappy cartoons I have accumulated over the years, all by the each, one at a time. Kinda love ‘em all, from the genuine gems (SRAPPY’S TRAILER) to the fascinating botch jobs (SCRAPPY’S ADDED ATTRACTION).

    And, yes, my collecting days actually predate the Big Reel and Collectors World. Back then the challenge was to find older film collectors who would were willing to simply sell a cartoon or two, rather than a box load. Many of these veterans were generous with their time and very encouraging, but groaned at the idea of digging up an individual black and white one reeler for a fledgling hobbyist with a teeny budget. One of my earliest such memories is a phone conversation with a kind hearted fella in my own home town. I was trying to get him to part with a Columbia Krazy Kat or two. He was really only interested in moving what he said was the entire TV package, and kept lowering his price. Final offer, I recall, was just a couple hundred dollars, an insane bargain but still way past this kid’s bedtime. Never ended up with even one of his cartoons. Of course I roll my eyes today, but I also kinda relish the memory of this old timer at least trying to give a youngster a break.

  • Thanks, Steve, for mentioning the article Will Friedwald and I wrote about Scrappy cartoons for ANIMANIA. Well, somebody had to break the embargo on the dreaded “mostly unwatchable” B-studio cartoons- and dammit, it had to be us! Dismissing entire series/bodies of work without actually seeing the films first remains extremely and maddeningly common, even now.

  • I always wanted to be one of the guys who apparently got “The Big Reel” as soon as it came off the press and always managed to beat me two a film or two or three that I really wanted, no matter how quickly I called after getting the paper in the mail.

  • One particular Scrappy memory I have is just a few months after I met Steve (November 1987, yeah- when dinosaurs walked the earth). Scrappy was of particular prominence to him then- I associate him and Scrappy so much so that even now, when I think of Scrappy, I basically see Steve in my mind’s eye! So, on his birthday, January 10, I hand painted a big picture of Scrappy on a bright yellow (why not?) sweatshirt for him (it wasn’t hard, heh heh, cuz I’m an artist!). He wore that thing until it was sweatshirt vapor (nods to Seinfeld for borrowing the joke).
    Happy Birthday tomorrow, Steve! From his ‘other half’ Mary

  • Oh, do I wish I had the budget and the equipment to collect on film, because it seems that the privileged will continue to be able to keep toons alive beyond the established video dealers who continue to ignore our pleas. I’d collected only on tape or disk, and I kinda mourn the passing of the era when such collecting came away bearing much, much fruit. I’d been able to check out original network airings of “BEANY & CECIL”, even with the MATTY MATTEL sponsor link that is totally collectable even today by those of us who desire those Bob Clam-pett cartoons.

    The SCRAPPY cartoons were even in there somewhere, and I believe Will Freidwald was one of those making film-to-tape transfers at the time. Since then, those old VHS tapes had withered…as did my VHS equipment, but it was partially because of the tape or two that I’d gotten as swops that I, too, would really love to see the SCRAPPY cartoons revived and fully restored for official video release. Yeah, I know that my cries often go unheard, but wow, those kinds of releases would truly be enjoyable. Thanks for posting an example of one of the best of the SCRAPPY series. I mostly recall also checking them out at the then thriving Thalia Theater in New York City. The festivals there were better than reading any book on the subject, because they were often compiled by those who eventually wrote such books. Thanks, as always, for keeping all this stuff alive.

  • To any and all collectors of cartoon and sitcom material, I’d like ask for suggestions. I just finished moving from my apartment of 14 years and, much to the dismay of my helpers, I held on to many store-bought and home recorded VHS tapes. Even though many of them are now on dvd, there are many that aren’t, especially the later Warner titles released during the “Space Jam” era. Without going into too much detail here, I need to start lightening my load and really hate doing a thrift store dump with them. As I get my new place in order, I’ll compile a list of titles for any interested parties. I hope Jerry doesn’t mind me using his site as a Cartoon Craigslist. Thanks.

    • Have you thought of posting the list on the fourm of Internet Animation Datbase? I think that might be a better place.

  • I started collecting 16mm cartoons back in 1979.

    A fond memory was of one film convention where there was a table full of OFFICIAL FILMS Felix the Cat cartoons that were struck for TV. They were priced just right and my carry-on luggage was quite heavy when I returned home at the end of the weekend.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEVE!

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEVE!

  • I’d love to see the Scrappy films, too! Any chance of Thunderbean tackling this series, or are they locked away in studio ownership?

    • The latter. I was at Sony for many years and tried like hell to get those and other cartoons out, but to no avail. I did manage to sneak out a handful as extras with certain features, but they just can’t be bothered with “that old black-and-white shit,” as they so charmingly put it.

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