This is an update on the blu-ray of The Puppetoon Movie which I announced here in August. I just received a copy of the final check discs and I’m happy to report this set is just as good as promised.
Please understand, this is not a complete set of Paramount’s 1940s Puppetoon shorts. It is a hi-def remastered release of Arnold Leibovit’s tribute film, The Puppetoon Movie (1987), which contained ten classic Puppetoons bracketed by a stop-motion framing story starring Art Clokey’s Gumby and Pokey (voiced by Dal McKennon), narrator Paul Frees (as Arnie the Dinosaur) and cameos by Speedy Alka Seltzer, King Kong and Spielberg’s Gremlins. This set also contains, newly remastered in HD, Pal’s 1949 feature The Great Rupert (starring Jimmy Durante), as well as standard-definition bonus material including 12 complete Puppetoons (from 35mm masters), Leibovit’s fine Pal documentary, The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal, rare interview footage with Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Wah Chang, Roy Disney, etc. – not to mention an all-new audio commentary by Arnold Leibovit and… me!
One of the highlights of the blu-ray release is the inclusion of seven hi-def Puppetoons never released on video before – restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and sub-licensed from Paramount Pictures. These include the two adapations of Dr. Suess – The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins, and To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street – plus The Sky Princess, Rhapsody In Wood, A Date With Duke, Jasper and The Beanstalk and Rhythm In The Ranks.
Seeing these films restored to full Technicolor hues is a revelation. Most haven’t been seen publicly in 50 years (or more). The UM&M or NTA 16mm TV prints I grew up with have long since faded to red – removing half the beauty of these classics. My appreciation of some of these actually improved upon seeing the restored color – or in one case, the restored lack of color! For example, Pal’s version of Dr. Suess’ And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street never really impressed me before. I had always loved the Suess book – it was one of the first books I ever owned as a child.
The faded red prints I was used to (frame above left) felt bland… Now, restored (frame above right, click to enlarge image) it turns out that the early parts of the film were originally in black and white(!) and the film gets progressively more colorful as it goes along, introducing one character at a time in vibrant hues, growing into a spectacular Technicolor parade at the climax! I now rank this one as one of the best in the series!
Only 3000 copies of this blu-ray set will be created. You can order it directly from B2MP – click here. The producer tells me he should be shipping copies within the next two weeks. Here are some more mouth-watering frame grabs I made from the blu-ray (click thumbnails below to enlarge each image):