I’m happy to *finally* announce that the new Blu-rays, Mid Century Modern, Volume 1 and 2, have arrived— so it seemed like a good day to talk about them a little…
We’ll be working on getting the the pre-orders and other special orders out in the coming days. We’ve been behind for a while, but as of this week we have managed to get caught up with everything done so far. Since we finally have everything out the door (and because I get a lot of requests) We’re also offering all the ‘special’ sets again for one week only, including the Popeye In Technicolor special Blu-ray set not previously announced here.
Details on the ‘special’ sets are on the IAD forum.
Details on the Popeye set are here.
The scans for the first ‘Mid Century Modern 1’ were the first we had done in HD, back in 2010. The move was prompted by a drop in the price at the post house that had the HD telecine. Not long after that, the whole facility closed down, and for well over a year we were using the Telecine there, even though the studio was closed, except for the accountant! It was strange period of time, with my Telecine guy coming into the place he used to work at to scan cartoons. We enjoyed that period since there were so many fun films to scan. I remember doing those particular scans in the winter, and shoveling show to get the otherwise unused door open one of the days of the scans.
Originally, both of these sets were started out of wanting to have better versions of many of the films to show in the history of animation class I teach at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. I had prints of some of the films, and not-so-great video copies of others. Projecting the not-so-good ones prompted me to try to get better versions, and I found that the students also wanted to see these some of the films that weren’t available.
Amid Amidi’s excellent Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation (2006) is an absolutely essential book, and increased interest in seeing many of these shorts. So many of the beautiful images in the book were meant to be seen in movement, and so the requests began to borrow things I didn’t have to scan.
The film collector community was amazing in lending some really beautiful material for both sets, much of it in original Technicolor prints. Of special importance were the contributions of Collin Kellogg, Dave Kirwan, Jerry Beck, and of course Mark Kausler. We owe all of them a round of applause for continued efforts in collecting and allow access to otherwise inaccessible materials.
Mike Kazaleh’s fun package art for Mid Century Modern 2 has been adapted for the Blu-ray, and the commentary tracks for the DVD versions appear on all as well. The commentary tracks include Jerry Beck, Mike Kazaleh, Amid Amidi and Dave Kirwan.
The first volume, Mid Century Modern Volume 1 (DVD released in 2012), has been out of print for a while now. It was originally mostly scanned in HD, with the digital cleanup done in standard definition. For the Blu-ray, we cleaned everything up again, adding some new films, and the scans that had been done in standard def had to be redone in HD. The icing on the cake for me was being able to scan many of the 50s Nash commercials produced by Walt Disney productions, with designs by Tom Oreb and others. These beautiful spots (scanned and cleaned up in 2k) have never been seen in HD before, unless you were lucky enough to see one of the rare screenings of 16mm prints. I was happy to add spots from the same series to many of these segments. I love this set.
Some notes on some of the films on Volume 1:
Destination Earth (John Sutherland productions,1956): An especially striking short produced for promotion produced for the American Petroleum Institute. The film was produced by a fantastic animation team: As usual for a Sutherland short of this vintage, it was directed by Carl Urbano. The story siby Bill Scott, Michel Amnesty and George Gordon, with production design by To Oreb and Vic Haboush. Animators include George Cannata, Ken O’Brien and Tom Ray. This scan is from a stunning 16mm IB Technicolor print, one of three I bought in the mid-80s from film dealer Jerry Nelson’s Big Reel Ad. I sold the other two prints since they were not quite as good. I think I bought them for $12 or $15 each! It was especially fun cleaning up with short last year- there was almost always a beautiful layout to look at!
Big Tim (1949) has been discussed here before. It’s one of UPA’s non-commercial shorts that is easily as well-produced as their theatrical shorts for Columbia.
Planet Patrol (c 1959/60) is produced by Grantray Lawrence. This beautiful print was loaned by our own Jerry Beck for the collection, and a little color correction brought out the absolutely beautiful color of the original short. Animation archeologist extraordinaire Mike Kazaleh had some interesting observations back in 2013.Other shorts on the set include a beautiful 35mm Technicolor print of The Magic Fluke (1949), UPA’s rare The Sailor and the Seagull (1949) restored in HD from the materials at the US National Archives, A reel of Drive-In spots, and an extensive section of commercials, including the rare Soundac ‘TV Weatherman’ interstitials produced for local TV stations to run. The commercials section is something I’ve particularly happy with on the set.
I feel like both sets are a really good primer in late 40s into the 50s animation design. Along with the Jolly Frolics DVD set (essential) you have pretty amazing examples of a period that still may be the single biggest influence on today’s animation industry. The menu is similar to the DVD edition, but the quality of the new scans and cleanup is stunning.
And, here are some stills from the set (click to enlarge):
Mid Century Modern, Volume 2 is essentially the same as the DVD version, with a lot of improvements made to steadying some of the films. This volume is also quite stunning quality-wise. Here is the trailer we made for it on the original release in 2013. The HD marks an improvement in quality, especially in the beauty of the color materials.
I like both sets a lot, and I’m very happy to finally have these long-awaited Blu-rays out. Thanks too to everyone for your help and patience(!) in supporting these projects. We couldn’t do any of this stuff without all of your help!
Here are the Amazon links for those who didn’t get the pre-order:
Have a good day everyone!