I’ve been dying to show these for a few weeks now!
There will need to be of course a future article delving much, much deeper into this as a subject of Ted Eshbaugh, independent producer of wonderfully animated shorts, often advertisements for a product. As is the case with so many animators, he is often a footnote in the history books if mentioned at all, and really shouldn’t be.
Esbaugh is one of the pioneers of color cartoons. He was hired by Technicolor to ‘test’ the process for cartoons in both 2-strip and 3-strip processes. The first of these films, Goofy Goat (aka Goofy Goat Antics, 1931) is one of the first two-color cartoons in any process, made in two strip Technicolor. This still is from a great article available here.
It was followed by The Snowman, a surreal classic that, like Goofy Goat Antics has only been available in black and white for many years, along with his later Cap’n Cub (1945). Eshbugh’s most famous film, The Sunshine Makers (1935) was produced during the brief period Eshbaugh was at The Van Beuren Studios.
So far, more research hasn’t revealed the complete circumstances of Eshbaugh’s follow up to these cartoons, The Wizard of Oz (‘Copyrighted’ 1933 in the titles). What is clear is that Technicolor and J.R. Booth sponsored the short, and that it never saw a theatrical release.
The film was commissioned in 1932, just after the creation of Eshbaugh’s Snowman short. It is noteworthy for quite a few reasons. It was likely in production for Technicolor at the time Disney made their exclusive three-year deal with the company, putting Disney’s studio ahead in technology, and providing the first full color films seen in theaters. The film also starts in black and white, turning to color as Dorothy falls into the land of Oz, pre-dating the MGM classic by six years. Did Disney see some of Eshbaugh’s efforts at Technicolor, and with his deal relegate the film to obscurity? Could there have been rights issues between the members of the Baum families? Did anyone at MGM see this short? Is Eshbaugh’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’ truly the first full color cartoon? Certainly the lavishness of this film show off the new full color process beautifully- could a better test of the process be produced?
Maybe some day these questions will be answered – but for now, finally, I’ve posted below some ‘sneak peak’ frame grabs from a recent HD 35mm IB Technicolor film transfer of the cartoon, along with Eshbaugh’s Tea Pot Town (1938), also 35mm Technicolor. Click thumbnails below to enlarge. It was a thrill to transfer these beautiful prints and now to share them, finally in the full quality they deserve to be in. These will be featured later this year as part of the Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares, a BluRay compilation of animation from Thunderbean.
Also posted below are some frames from Sammy Salvage (1943), a Technicolor short made for the war effort. Besides full cartoons, Eshabaugh made slides, illustrated for children’s filmstrips, and produced short commercials for various products. I hope to have this new DVD compilation ready in September. How’s it look to you?