THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
February 14, 2019 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Finding Frames For “Flip The Frog”

It’s been blizzardly and icy one than any one thing, and that’s slowed down everything around here. I know a lot of readers here here are experiencing this as well..I wish everyone well — be careful out there driving!

I had hoped to write about the Puppetoons this week, but I’m just not there in what I want to show yet… so, for this week I’ll show a little progress on Flip the Frog.

We’re scanning the final elements for the whole project now, and have the better part of the first half of the series all cleaned up. Having another batch of material to look at this week has been really exciting- especially hearing some new ‘fanfare’ music on the front of some of the films.

I very much prefer to do scans personally, but this recent batch was done in Los Angeles. The final group of films mostly consists of things that need a rescan, or a missing soundtrack from additional elements.

For all of you following the long saga of Thunderbean’s attempts at reconstructing (as much as possible) the definitive versions of the original cartoons in the Flip the Frog series, you know it’s been a long road. Being close (or at least much closer) has all of us smiling over here.

The hardest thing for me about any of these projects (especially whole series) is trying to do as complete of a job as possible. It seems that if this material exists, it should be accessible and part of the ‘official’ set if there’s a way to do it, so I’ve taken that task pretty seriously when it comes to trying to exhaust all possibilities in making each film as complete to the original version as possible.

The Flips have been difficult in this way, since sometimes there is audio missing, sometimes original title sequences missing, and sometimes small sequences edited out of various masters and prints of the films. Sometimes there are multiple versions of the same film— all with slightly different re-edits. It’s a nightmare for a film completionist, but also a fun challenge at times.

My friend David Gerstein is very much a Flip-o-holic and researcher on the Flip project. As I’ve been writing this tonight we’ve been working on comparing notes on all the elements we know of that include the fanfare music, a piece of the soundtrack that is heard under the MGM Lion on many of the original release versions. This is generally missing from nearly every reissue print of the series. I’ve really enjoyed hearing these, and enjoy trying to find them even more. The first cartoon I know of in the series that includes a fanfare is Laughing Gas (1931). The MGM Lion is heard roaring on the Master-positive element on Flip’s Lunch Room (1933) without the fanfare music, so my guess is that it had stopped either there or before that film. Almost all 16mm prints are missing the fanfare except for a few older prints.

As of last night, we’ve now heard all the elements we’ve scanned — and the hunt now continues by borrowing all the other track elements from UCLA of the cartoons that we don’t have the fanfare for. In addition to the music, here are some frames from the beginning and ending leader of the prints that are amusing to see (and of course were never intended to be seen by an audience). Click to enlarge.

Here is also a new installment of these fanfares; most have probably not been heard since their original showings. Included is the opening music from What A Life featuring an accordion in the fanfare. This music was the *only* sound on the master composite print of this title, oddly enough. I’ve also included a rare title card from Pony Express — inverted (black words on a white background) but the original title card, from the collection of Mark Kausler. I’ve put the 35mm soundtrack behind it — and it appears to be a unique recording of the theme.

Enjoy — Happy Valentines Day – and Puppetoons next week!

15 Comments

  • Between this and Rainbow Parades, would you be able to combine volumes in later single-disc “complete series” Blu-ray releases for Amazon for those who didn’t pre-order said sets? Thanks in advance.

  • Hi Steve,

    Any chance you can include these extra bits that were not meant to be seen on the set? Having never handled real film I think it’s interesting to see the extra/extraneous bits included on them. I wouldn’t mind them being part of the presentation of the whole cartoon! But using them to make a separate track would work, too.

  • Steve:

    I don’t have to tell you how excited this makes me for the resulting set. I must ask again, though, are you going to make this a blu-ray/DVD combo since the WILLIE WHOPPER set was originally released that way? Or is FLIP going to be issued as a complete set in blu-ray only? No matter which way, I will thoroughly enjoy the set.

    I can empathize with your struggle to find the most accurate opening to each cartoon. I’ve seen restorations of the Hal Roach shorts comedies over the years, and I’d always been puzzled as to why the MGM lion portion differs from short to short, no matter what the period. I wonder how hard it was to find accuracy in this area, especially since shorts like “A TOUGH WINTER” has a completely silent opening credit where fanfare similar to the short that came before it should have been featured, and others feature a Leo Lion roar similar to that which appeared in the latter 1930’s or early 1940’s. I saw teh same regarding the WILLIE WHOPPER cartoons, but just assmed that these cartoons changed hands so often that finding the absolute originals must have been an unsolvable task. However, the results were amazing, and I noticed that the sound on the blu-ray was superior to the standard DVD, although it is nice to have both available in one package.

    Can’t wait to hear furtehr news, especially if FLIP is that much closer to being in our hands this year.

    And I’m glad that you’ve increased your staff on these projects. I look forward to the magnificent PUPPETOONS news coming next week–or whenever it comes.

  • Hi Steve,

    I have a question – in showing the leader I do not see an “start disc” card. So does this mean the the Flip Cartoon sound tracks were made for Sound Film only with not Disc counterpoint? Since MGM was still making both versions in the early 30’s

    Henry S.

    • Cinephone was produced as both sound on disc as well as optical tracks. Disney managed to get out of the Cinephone contract by 1930- and his association and partnership with Iwerks started soon after. Powers deal with Disney for use of the Cinephone system gave a large percentage of the profit directly to Powers– a deal that Walt made much to the dismay of his brother Roy, and it took those years to get out of that contract legally.

  • I’m lost. I pre-ordered SO long ago, I can’t recall what I wanted or what was being released. I don’t want to MISS anything. What’s a mother to DO??

    • If you’re referring to POPEYE IN TECHNICOLOR, frankly I’ve been wondering about that myself. I pre-ordered last August, as I’m sure you did; when I inquired in October, I was assured that P IN T would be available in November–or at any rate in time for the holidays. (The copy I pre-ordered was meant as a gift, but oh well.) In December I read that January was the new ETA, and now we’re halfway through February. To be fair, a year wasn’t specified, and maybe the Warner Bros. color Popeye BluRay release stole this one’s thunder(bean). Or someone needs to slip Steve Stanchfield some spinach.

    • “To be fair, a year wasn’t specified…”

      Okay, now THAT is being too generous. 😛 An update on when Popeye in Technicolor will be finished and sent out would be very much in order at this point.

  • It feels like we’re finally getting close to something significant.

  • So approximately, when will the Flip Blu-Rays be ready for released? Summer, early Fall?

  • “Africa Squeaks” is so clear and astounding in sound quality! Cinephone is very clear when you actually scan elements from the original source. I imagine this is the same for Disney’s own as well during the time the corporation leased Cinephone equipment from Powers.

    ‘Steamboat Willie’, the most popular Cinephone title seems to be absolutely dreadful in audio quality, master by master. It thankfully improves in ‘The Galloping Gaucho’, but with ‘Steamboat Willie’, it’s not a good title to demonstrate Cinephone’s competitive advantage; the audio is also a few semitones off as well, presumably what makes me think is a fault in the recording equipment.

    • Yeah, the way SW was mastered sounds like an awful See ‘N’ Say toy being messed with.Heck, it sounds like one new out of the box! The cow mooing in that short sure sounds like it.

      Western Electric or even RCA Photophone would have been a been a better choice given it’s quality…..but apparently Walt had to gag and vomit at those demonstrations. It also would have made it easier to make a proper copyright notice on the films as well if used with WE or RCA.

      The colony theater people weren’t wowed enough by a Screen Song compared to Steamboat Willie. It just doesn’t add up. Walt was TOO popular.

  • I’m really excited for this set, and I’m glad you’re taking the time to get it right and make it as complete as possible. I pre-ordered the set, and I’m fine waiting for it to be complete and done right.

  • Steve,
    I have a Flip The Frog question. I have heard that TECHNO-CRACKED was originally filmed in early Technicolor, but was never seen by moviegoers that way, and that it was converted to black and white just before theatrical release. Does or did ever a color print exist of that Flip cartoon, or is it all a myth?
    Please write back

  • It appears to be a myth. There *is* an odd slide/ title card that says ‘Technocracked in color’ and I bet that is where that rumor started….

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