Here’s a sort-of summary of the events of the week:
• It’s been a period here of working nearly around the clock to get some of the Thunderbean projects finished; Fleischer Rarities is still receiving some extra treatment to make the material look as good as possible. I’ll be talking a lot about this set this next week. It really needs to get out the door by the end of the weekend at least, so it’s a dash to improve what I can and have a set that I’m pretty happy with.
By the end of the each project, I always feel different about the films than I did going in. Everyone working on the cleanup sees the animation frame by frame. One of the coolest things is seeing the thought process through the drawings of the animators.
When you have a print that has a good amount of damage, doing all the cleanup manually doesn’t work very well, and requires aggressive passes of automatic cleanup (often two or three). The digital restoration programs compare frames from before and after the particular frame that needs to be cleaned up, and fill in information missing from the frame. With animation or fast action (in live action), it’s much harder since the program, comparing frames, often thinks the lines around the characters are dirt and removes them. This requires going back to the frame and manually putting things back in.
One of the shorts on the Fleischer Rarities set, It’s the Cats is from a rare 35mm nitrate print. It has its flaws, but even with the flaws, it’s a beautiful copy of the film, and I’ve enjoyed working on the digital cleanup- although it was pretty slow going through this particular film.
Something especially noticeable while going through this particular film frame-by-frame is that often the animation is approached from a cartoonists standpoint rather than an animation one. The individual frames in many of the scenes read beautifully as stills, but in action the very individual drawings are lost since their expressions are only on the screen for a single frame. Here’s a little example from early in the picture (click to enlarge):
• It’s been an equally enjoyable experience to work on the Flip the Frogs, although in different ways. Working with materials in excellent condition overall is really nice in that it doesn’t require spending as much time in manual cleanup frame by frame, and that’s always a good thing. The fine grain materials on the Flips are often nearly as beautiful as the negatives, and much more complete. We’re scanning the negs that exist anyway, since they deserve to be preserved in their full quality since they’ve been lucky enough to have survived this long. We’ll be working on getting the last of the films scanned in the coming weeks for this set, and will be posting more pictures as the sent is finished.
• Rainbow Parade corner: This week, I was lucky enough to win an eBay auction for a rare print of Parrotville Fire Department, the second of the ‘Rainbow Parade’ cartoons. It’s a pretty hard one to find, but what was especially cool about this print is that it appears to be in nearly mint condition – in 35mm! I’ll post stills when it’s scanned. We had previously scanned an also very rare 16mm print of the film, and recently a collector in the UK lent me a really nice super 8mm print of it, also with original titles.
We’ve been working a lot on the Rainbow Parade set as this film turned up, so it’s happily been added to the elements that have started to be scanned.
We’re still looking for original titles on some of the shorts, so, I thought I’d put a call out to the collectors here just to see if anyone has (or has heard of) a print that exists with with original titles on any of the following. If you do please let me know!
The shorts we’re looking for original titles on are:
Pastry Town Wedding
Parrotville Old folks
Scotty finds a home
Pretty frequently when I’m working on cleanup on these projects, I’ll put on a soundtrack to a vintage cartoon. Van Beuren’s Opening Night was one of the shorts this past week that was playing while the Fleischer shorts were getting some extra scrubbing. I think it has an especially good soundtrack, and is one of the best of the Cubby Bear cartoons. Here’s the version that appears on the Thunderbean ‘Cubby Bear’ Blu-ray. One of the prints used for the set had a few fade out frames of the ‘Radio Pictures’ logo at the beginning, something missing from every other copy of the Cubbys I had seen – so it was clear that it was on at least that film originally. This version includes the Radio Pictures title, very likely pretty close to how it originally appeared, at least on the early shorts in this series. The print used here is courtesy of the Tommy Jose Stathes collection.
Have a good week everyone!