THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
July 20, 2017 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Scrappy in “The Battle of the Barn” (1932)

First, some Thunderbean News:

The Fleischer Classics Blu-ray/ DVD set is almost done! The final films were transferred for the set, and were waiting for one more scan to be sent back. Nearly everything is cleaned up for the set, and Im excited to see it all coming together.

On other notes (not animation related directly):

The Hollywood Rarities set is all done and in dubbing! The pre-orders will be sent this week and it will be on Amazon soon. There is also a release of Explorers of the World (1931) a rare documentary, being sold through Snappy Video- my old label resurrected and repurposed. Stills from the set and details here.

The older special discs have started going out- and were continuing to dub and send them.

Thanks to all for the nice responses from last weeks post on restoration. I have great hope for the future of preservation.


Onto Scrappy:

Every week about this time, I either have something I really want to show, have some news, or struggle to figure out what stuff from the archive here to show. In preparation for this space, I was in the closet that holds all the hard drives of all this stuff.

Anyone that has collected actual film prints for a long time is well aware of the heartbreak associated with finding a print in your collection is now in deteriorating in one form or another. One of my favorite Scrappy cartoons, The Battle of the Barn (1932) sadly is headed to the trash likely this week, the victim of advanced acetate deterioration (often called ‘Vinegar Syndrome’). I wasnt sure I had done a transfer on this film, but after going through a ton of stuff, I found that I had – although the results are varied since the print was already warping at that point.

I think the early cartoons in Columbia’s Scrappy series are fascinating to watch. Dick Huemer’s lively direction, silly gags and rapid, posy animation are all present in every film.

On two quick Scrappy-related asides, back in 2007, Joe Campana did a absolutely great photo montage comparing and combining new photographs of the a building with vintage photos of the Mintz staff posing in front of it here.

Also, make sure to visit Harry McCracken’s Scrappyland as well- its always a fun read! The last post has a great vintage publicity drawing, in pencil!

It appears that Battle of the Barn was actually produced much earlier than the cartoons that surround it. Both this film and Sunday Clothes feature the earliest version of the character; my guess is that Battle was actually the first film produced, with Sunday Clothes following. If that conclusion was correct, that would mean they were both produced somewhere before July of 1931. Battle was released at the end of May, 1932 as the twelfth film in the series. To my eyes, the first two shots of the film (and many of the shots of the Bully) appear to have been produced after the rest of the film – and feature the slightly smaller headed, more standardized version of Scrappy. There are a few shots of the bully that appear to have an earlier, simpler design as well. My thought is that this film wasnt acceptable in its first version and revised. If you look closely, youll notice that apart from a few shots that resemble the other cartoons in the series, the earlier version of Scrappy here doesnt have buttons on his pants, has a much bigger head. It would be interesting to see if Columbia has any correspondence with with the Mintz studio related to the decisions made at the beginning of this series.

Now, onto the film:

Theres nothing closer to a real war than children playing war, as caricatured in this epic cartoon. Scrappy’s “Scrappy Club” is invaded by a bully, kicking everyone out for no real reason. Scrappy declares war, recruiting his children minions, causing them great bodily harm throughout the film.

This film is closer to an Our Gang or other comedies starring children than resembling the cartoon series from other studios. The gags are fast and funny here, with sharp timing and clear execution.

Scrappy’s enthusiasm for war is made apparent early on. When Margie, the only girl among all these ruffians, wants to play, Scrappy tells her to scram, since War is for men. Of course, this turns out to be a great underestimation of Margies true skills.

A curiosity that seems to last throughout the series is Scrappys ability to change his eyes from a pie-eyed look to having pupils to allow various expressions.

From a technical standpoint, this cartoon is full of well staged shots, including some really fun moving background shots featuring characters running toward the camera – and even one with a line of them being mowed down in perspective!

My favorite gags here resemble moments that would be right at home in a Fleischer cartoon. There’s a really cute gag that involves Scrappy being shot at over and over, losing a hat, and coming back up with a different hat each time, only to have it knocked off. Another great gag has the children all trampling a chicken, causing it to bury itself in an impromptu grave. The egg it was sitting on hatches moments later, and, seeing its mothers untimely death, buries itself next to its dead mother! Another somewhat gross gag has one of the children in the bunker itching, with two bugs jumping out in a call to war before jumping down another childs shirt!

Sadly, the print was already warping pretty badly when I transferred it. I do hope that someday I can find another print of the film- its easily one of my favorite Scrappy’s- and Ive had this print for over 30 years. Goodbye, old friend! Have a good week everyone!

14 Comments

  • Hi Steve, Considering the warping, the print looks pretty good, nice sound too and at least you save it! Thank you for sharing

  • God, I just love the character designs from this period of Scrappy. It’s like all of them are made out of marbles. So weird and good.

    • I like the design in this and Sunday Clothes best I think. The first shot of Scrappy looking around with the paper hat on is one of my favorite things in any cartoon ever.

  • Wow! This one is great and new to me!

    • Hey Dave! It’s been one of my favorites all these years- thanks so much for sharing so many of yours for film transfers!!

  • Seems that Dick Huemer and Sid Marcus alternate between the pie-cut eyes (Huemer) and black pupils (Marcus) for the characters. It’s also fascinating to hear Scrappy’s voice change drastically within the first minute of the film.

  • Thanks, Steve – always liked that one and hadn’t seen it in 30+ years. Alas, I lost a fair number of Fleischer and Van Beuren cartoons to the dreaded vinegar syndrome.

  • Love this one…I have a print. This and Yelp Wanted are audience pleasers!

  • Margie would later gain worldwide fame as the grande dame of the video game industry, Ms. Pacman.

  • Hello again Steve. It is a shame that film stocks that were supposed to be better than nitrate are anything but that Just keep doing the film preservation like you have been. It is well worth it and appreciated. Thanks

  • You’re right about the OUR GANG reference, and that might be because of the way the gags are set up. Some of the best and wildest OUR GANG episodes are centered around certain quick cuts and camera angles, almost following the kids in a chase or in some other adventure, seeing life from their point of view, no matter how contrived. Mid-1930’s cartoons would also see some kind of violence inflicted on a character and the camera following the character as he or she is tossed around or reacts to what just happened. Boy, would I love to be able to buy a complete collection of classic SCRAPPY cartoons, so we can see cartoons like these analyzed as obsessively as we’re seeing the DePatie/Freleng cartoons on disk now. Thanks, as usual, for sharing this.

  • I found the chicken gag very sad, though I enjoyed the entire film

  • Hey, Steve, I found some 35mm prints on eBay of the following cartoons: Terrytoons’ “Nonsense Newsreel” (1954), NFB’s “George and Rosemary” (1987), Columbia’s “The Egg Hunt” (1940) and Famous Studios’ “Spooking with a Brogue” (1955). Are you interested in transferring any of these prints?

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