It’s a busy week over here as we work on getting materials scanned for the Willie Whopper project as well as cleaning up several other projects at the same time. I’m really looking forward to putting together a post about these films and materials, and will as get the final films scanned that are here, and then happily send them back to their proper owners.
I’ve always enjoyed the technical side of working on these things, but only to a degree – a big part of me just wishes every film was in perfect condition and that the best material was available without looking very hard for it. Then again, sometimes the challenge of finding the great stuff is part of the fun!
This particular period, now, is really noteworthy in that the technology for high quality scans is greatly improving the ability to preserve films. While costs are still high for the best possible equipment, they’ve come down considerably in just a handful of years, making it much more possible to at the very least preserve the materials that are leaving the planet a little faster. I think we’ll see even more changes in the next ten years. Being able to scan film at 4k (to film image quality) is something we’re very interested in doing, especially when dealing with master materials.
If we’re able to do so at this juncture, material of the original quality will be around for the next generations to see and enjoy. Even though we won’t be releasing this stuff in 4k, it makes some sense to me to do so when the rarest material is pulled – who knows when it will be looked at again, and you never know when it’s too late. I was recently talking with our own Jerry Beck on this very subject. His advice is the same – to do what you can to preserve these now – sometimes it is now or who knows when for preservation.
On other notes, I’m hoping to make it out to Cinefest this weekend… it really depends on everything coming together in the next day or so. If I make it, say hi to me. I’ll likely be hanging out with the cartoon folks, including David Gerstein, Tom Stathes, Thad Komorowski and others. If there’s a cartoon playing on a monitor, you’ve likely found one or all of us.
Cinefest is one of the older film shows in the country, and this is it’s last year. I’ve gone a few times, and have been lucky to see some of my good friends there. Besides amazing movies being shown (many with live accompaniment) the dealer’s room is chock full of all sorts of movie stuff. There isn’t a ton of actual film there these days, but there’s always some – and often impromptu shows in hotel rooms of some of the new things (and old things) collectors have managed to acquire. It’s a great time, so if you’re in the area or can make the hike, it’s totally worth going to!
So… enough assorted ramblings.. and onto this week’s cartoon!
Columbia’s Scrappy cartoons are my favorite series, especially the cartoons from 1931 through 1935. I think one of the reasons I like them so much is that there seems to be every intention to have Scrappy be a terrible person in one respect or another. While all 30’s characters seem to do some things for the humor in the gag, Scrappy seems to do some things intentionally to hurt others, especially his little brother. It’s sure hard to like a character that is ill tempered and doesn’t get punished, but he’s happy and likable just the same.
In The Bad Genius (1932), Scrappy’s ownself interests guide him to do terrible things to his crafty little brother. The kid is a prodigy, playing violin to levels only seen in true savants. It’s Scrappy’s duty in this adult free world to get the kid to a show attended by an all animal audience (perhaps borrowing footage from a Krazy Kat cartoon). When Oopy is knocked unconscious, rather than taking his little brother to the hospital, Scrappy runs to the concert event and strings his brother up, having chickens control his otherwise lifeless body. If that isn’t one of the meanest things in any cartoon, I don’t know what is. I always loved the animation of Oopy when the curtain opens- it’s funny in pose and timing, and really unexpected.
The mischievous fish and dog in this cartoon seem to show up in quite a few Scrappys from this period, generally making Oopy and Scrappy’s life just a little harder.
Dick Heumer (credited on this print as “Heumor”) directed this early one, and the Fleischer influence is quite clear. There’s always a handful of gags in each of these films that stand out, along with lots of clever timing and fun personality-filled poses. I especially like how Scrappy’s eyes can change from pie-eyes to pupils whenever he needs to look in a direction… that’s a real trick, but somehow works ok here. This is a transfer that’s just a little dark, from a print I’ve had for many years. Be sure to watch in HD if your computer is fast enough.
P.S. No post about Scrappy is complete without a plug for Harry McCracken’s Scrappyland – your one stop shop for all things Scrappy, Yippy, Oopy and Margie. Harry is still updating it regularly – so check it out today. Have a good week everyone!