THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
February 18, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

A Few Frog ‘Legs’ – Some Pieces From the ‘Flip’ Project in Progress

First, in Thunderbean news:

• The Blu-rays stock on More Stop Motion Marvels is on its way here right now, and we’ll be packing and sending them along with some of the special sets that just finished. Instead of waiting to have all the sets this month going together, we’re sending what is done right now and will send the others as they’re finished.

• The final animation for the titles of Rainbow Parades, volume 1 was just turned in Wednesday morning. The final color corrected version of all the shorts on the set was finaled last week, and I think they’re lovely. I’m hoping to finish the completed Blu-ray master over the weekend and send it on its way to replication. Then it’s nearly full time on finishing Flip the Frog and supervising scans and cleanup for other new sets.

• We’re hoping to have the ‘scanning’ road trip soon when the weather clears. While it’s been a challenging week here health-wise, my confidence gets a significant bump as each project rounds their various corners.

I’m looking forward to doing a pretty deep dive into *exactly* where we are in terms of the Flip the Frog project. Many pieces are coming together and many others floating around in my head. Since I’m writing tonight, I thought I’d talk a little about some of the pieces that a project like this required and how it has been coming together.

Here’s what one of the current project folder looks like. We color code as things get closer. The Flip set is backed up on three drives, and the scans are all backup up additional times on the scanning drives.

Let’s look at a few of them (click to enlarge):

Here’s a still from Puddle Pranks. The first is a 1936 picture-only master positive from Celebrity Productions. The second is from MGM’s 35mm release (in 1931). One of the things that was important to me was to look carefully and scan the most complete version of each negative. In this case, the Movietone aspect ratio sound prints had less picture than the sound-on-disc versions, and often the OCNs (original camera negatives) were missing for many of the titles- but, luckily, other material (usually master positives) were left behind from one or more of the releases. I discovered that some of the full-frame negs had been used to make a master positive for silent versions of the films to be released on 16mm, giving us a much more complete picture for some of the films. See the difference here:

Puddle Pranks was a title that had *lots* of elements at UCLA, and I looked at every darn one of them. One of the hopes was to find ‘the other side’ of the film that would be the ‘other’ color record to combine with this one, producing a color print. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Cuckoo Murder Case was one of the films that had a full frame and a Movietone aspect framed version. The one Full-frame OCN had ‘Official Films’ titles on it from the 40s. It was a master positive that appeared to have been made on regular print stock. Other than missing the original titles, it was the most complete version of the film in that it is full frame.

Original titles for the films have come together better than I thought they would. Still, there’s some missing and, I think, they still stay missing at this point. We’ll put those films together using the Celebrity ‘Hobo’ titles, but will do our best to guess the correct MGM Flip title to use since the music is there. The last two versions of Flip playing the piano have at least one film out of order in terms of the chronology of the titles, changing from old Frog-like-Flip to newer Flip and back again– and back again!

Something I especially like is all the different opening fanfares. I think we’ve found all the ones that exist at this point. There’s one film that has two different versions of the MGM Lion- one with the only roar I’ve heard with the music, the other without, as the rest. The one with the roar was *only* the title sequence of the film’s soundtrack. I wonder how that particular track happened if it doesn’t seem to show up in any actual release print. Was it an experiment?

The project has been one of definite ‘yes’ votes on one piece of material, and other times it’s very much debatable. One film (Pale-Face) has a somewhat beat up 35mm print, and Blackhawk’s excellent quality 16mm printing neg, directly from a 35mm master positive. The 16mm is actually as good of quality as the 35mm print picture and much cleaner– and not missing any footage I think– although the sound track appears to be currently missing. We’ve purchased 2 16mm prints hoping for a more complete track. The hardest thing about many of these films is that there’s sometimes four different versions of them in terms of small edits to excise this or that depending on the distributor.

Funny Face got a new scan last week, and it was my favorite happy moment. A 35mm master positive has been located in nearly mint condition, with the full MGM titles. Easily the best known material in existence on this film. I couldn’t be happier with this beautiful scan.

That’s all for this week folks– wishing everyone the best and good Toon-keeping. Stay properly dressed and wear googles no matter how foggy they get!

10 Comments

  • Which version of “Funny Face” is the master positive shot from: the original version of the neg with the Betty Boop like girl, or the later edits in which she was reanimated to avoid infringement?

    • The original master positive (on 1933 stock) has her with the Betty Boop Curls. The later print uses the same backgrounds. My guess is that it was done soon after.

  • Now THIS is the news I was waiting for! Can’t hardly wait?
    Steve, I bet even Fiddlesticks, the only* color Flip cartoon looks way better than on PD collections.
    I’m glad that Ub Iwerks, 50 years after his death, is getting recoginzed thru your Willie Whopper, and now Flip The Frog sets.

    Will there, at some point be a ComiColor set?
    *Also I believe, that, we can lay to rest the rumour that Techno-Cracked exists in a early 2 strip color version.
    Please reply.

    • Fiddlesticks looks really nice. It’s clear that Flying Fists and Little Orphan Willie were shot in color, and probably Puddle Pranks. I wish at least one of them would have surfaced in color. We thought some had.

      There’s an odd title card that states ‘Technocracked’ in color that I’ve seen, but it’s clearly *not* from the theatrical release of the cartoon. Was it done as a comic or film strip? Hard to say. Can’t find the posted image right now on the internet any more…

    • Chris, I think it best to consider a Comi-Color set as being still in a pre-production mode… here’s a link to an earlier posting Steve made. https://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/comi-color-materials-exploration-the-first-11-films/

      I’ve spoken with Steve recently regarding the topic; a Comi-Color set is on deck , but my understanding was that the Flip collection ( at least the first half) , and also Rainbow Parade Volume One need to be off the table first. I’m sure Steve will speak more on what’s next once he passes these milestones. FWIW, from what I have seen on the Rainbow Parade set, it is easily the best produced release the company has ever done. The opening animated intro is a total delight, really well thought out., and of course most of us here have already seen samples of how nice the restoration work is looking.

  • These Flips look amazing! This is the one Thunderbean set I’m most looking forward to. Which films are you not able to locate the original titles for?

    • NOT ORIGINAL TITLES LIST:

      The Music Lesson Dec 32
      Coo Coo the Magician- Jan 33
      Technocracked April 33
      Bulloney- May 33
      A Chinaman’s Chance- June 1933
      Pale-Face— July 1933
      Soda Squirt— August 33

  • “The Movietone ratio looks like heck!”
    “Looks like heck! It looks like heck!”
    “The frame cuts off the pelican’s neck!”
    “The pelican’s WHAT???”
    “The pelican’s NECK!”

  • When is the flip the frog dvd coming out

  • You probably know this, Steve, but these Ub Iwerks Thunderbean projects owe their existance to Charlie Chaplin. David Shepard told me once that he wanted the twelve two-reelers Chaplin had made for Mutual, but that to get the Chaplin stuff, he had to take a bunch of cartoons he didn’t want. Those were his words to me. “A bunch of cartoons I didn’t want.”

    It all worked out for the best, though, since those cartoons wound up in the hands of a man who has treated them with more attention and TLC than I’m sure they had ever gotten in their long existence prior to Thunderbean.

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