Going pretty simple this week here at TB Thursday; things are going quite well and busy as heck, with lots of things rounding important milestones. The biggest change will be moving Thunderbean back out of its current basement dwelling and back into a small office again. We’re all celebrating that!
The new scans that are getting done are looking beautiful; Five projects are coming to conclusions at almost the same time right now, with three others getting closer and closer. Things are still bottlenecking with me at the helm; having the orders out of my personal hands should make it much easier to get to working on new stuff sooner than 10 at night most of the time! I’ve heard that Monday some of the unscanned ‘Flip’ soundtracks will be done along with additional elements of others that may or may not have the opening music track I’m pining so much to hear.
My absolute favorite elements are working with original camera negatives. These are of course the origin materials of films, and are generally much, much sharper than all material to follow. In cartoons, a really good negative can be especially amazing.
As expected, they come with their share of issues though. Since reissues often feature new title sequences, many are missing the original title cards if the distributor has gone all the way back to the camera material. Sometimes the original negative has been battered pretty well too, having been used to run prints sometimes rather than making a fine grain. Because of this, some are really dirty, or worse, have torn sprockets, scratches or are even missing frames. To keep the film in sync with the soundtrack, the camera negs, if torn and repaired, sometimes contain slug frames- black frame inserts.
As we’re working our way through the Flip the Frog’s, the original negs are overall so nice that you just wish *all* cartoons looked this good. The fine grains are pretty darn nice too, but when you see the camera material you almost cry.
I thought it would be a nice thing to share The Caveman with Willie Whopper, from the Willie Whopper Blu-ray project a few years back. This was an especially fun one to do despite the amount of work. We scanned five elements to get the material for the final version: The original camera negative, a 1960 fine grain (made by later distributor Modern Sound Pictures), the finegrain soundtrack (from the 30s) and two different 1940s 16mm prints. This was an absolute gem to have in its original materials since it featured the somewhat rare use of Iwerks’ version of multi-plane photography to add depth, three years before The Old Mill. The effect here is quite beautiful in the first few shots of Wille swinging on the vines. The Fleischer veterans working on the film must have been especially happy with this effect.
The camera negative was beautiful, but required extensive spiffing up to get it there. The actual material was pretty physically beat in terms of surface wear and scratches, but none of it deep enough to really hurt the emulsion of the film. I spent a good five hours or so carefully cleaning this material and fixing the splices. Most were falling apart as it was coming off the reel, so I used special tape splices in the place of the cement ones. Pretty frequently the cement splice had left residue that was crusted or stained on the next layer of film that it was wound with, so that took probably the most time to clean up. The OCN was missing the titles and the first shot, so that was taken from the 1960 finegrain. The titles were borrowed from film heroes Mark Kausler and Chris Buchman. I don’t remember right now if it was Mark’s or Chris’ in the final… but pretty sure it was Mark’s element. The soundtrack in the final is from the finegrain 30s track.
I’m pretty sure much of the digital work was done by me on this film if memory serves.Looking at it now, there’s a few things I see that I would fix a little more, but it looks overall really nice; when they look this nice it is a sort of a joy to spiff them up a little more digitally. I think I ran a single pass of white dirt removal and did the rest manually, frame by frame.
The cartoon itself has canned music, but what could be better than “Lafayette” (1932) by the wonderful Benny Moten and his Kansas City Orchestra. Somehow hot jazz is a little strange on a cartoon with this setting, but I still like it a lot!
Here’s the original record:
I hope you like this cartoon, presented publicly for the first time in the 2k file. Enjoy!