December 12, 2013 posted by

A Kolortone Cartoon: “An Egyptian Gyp”


A short blog post this week, but I’ll make up for it with next week’s entry – really!

These last handful of months have been easily the busiest days I’ve had in many years – nearly going around the clock between one project or another and teaching. I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with this, especially those that
work in animation or demanding job. I feel for you!! After this month I’m looking forward to being in better touch with, well, everyone. I’ve learned a lot about both the beauty of BluRay, and the shame of prints that just can’t
look quite good enough to look nice in the format. Somehow16mm film is more forgiving when projected.

One of these days I hope to write a sort of simple ‘how to’ suggestions on producing DVDs and BluRays. Learning each new piece is sort of like learning to repair a car on your own. I wish I had a couple more mechanics around at times!

I had hoped for an announcement today about one of the new Thunderbean titles, but it’s not back yet from the replicator – so, it will have to wait until next week. In the meantime, it’s a waiting game here for some things to come back, while other titles are still in progress.

Instead, here is another rarity – An Egyptian Gyp, from 1929, produced by Leo Britton and George Jeffry. The drawing style is fun, and clearly the makers have animation experience. While I doubt this one is on the ‘Holy Grail’ list of rare cartoons, it’s yet another interesting footnote of a small producer trying out an idea- with color and sound no less. I won this print on Ebay years ago, alongside the print of Fleischer’s Modeling. A series of six of these appear to have been made, as indicated by this ad posted on the great Tralfaz blog back in April. Another great example of the small cartoon community helping to bridge the less known history:


I think the technique is interesting, but considering it’s from the late 20s, I think it’s clear that the audiences were used to a fuller animation approach. This film appear to have been distributed at least.

The notes seem to indicate that Brewster Color was to be used for these, thought at least this particular print is really only tinted black and white (with an Kodak stock date of 1929). The nitrate print was pretty beat up and shrunk. I haven’t edited together the pieces that ‘flip’ in this transfer yet, but at some point I’ll have a little better version. I wonder what animators worked on this and the other little films. I also have to wonder how complete this print it is as well since it runs quite short. So far searches at archives have not yielded any further copies, and I haven’t encountered anyone that seems to have any of the others in a private collection. So, cartoon researchers…any other thoughts or information on these films?

NOTE: Print below is silent..


  • The animation technique seems to be a copy of that one used by Quirino Cristiani in Argentina, which is not traditional but it allowed a cheap, fast and effective way to produce cartoons. There is some documentary footage of Cristiani in YouTube displaying this technique made shortly before his death.

    • You also have Lotte Reiniger (“Adventures of Prince Achmed”) doing cutouts in silhouette in the 20s. Puppet animator Jiri Trnka did one short about a circus using flat cutouts. Very late-period Paramount tried it once, evidently as a cost-cutting experiment (the cartoon, about a boy who bounces, otherwise looks exactly like their other contemporary product).

      Somehow it feels like cutout animation was a bit more common in the earliest silent days, before the Bray-Hurd process (painted cels over backgrounds) took root.

    • Well actually, my reply is to DBenson. The title of that Paramount cartoon is “Bouncing Benny,” made in 1960. It ended up in a Harvey Films TV package, but can’t remember offhand if it was the Harveytoons syndicated package or the “New Casper Cartoon Show.”

  • Is that guy with the mirror meant to be a caricature of John Barrymore?

  • This is my new favorite. The technique and constant looks at the camera remind me of the silent O.K. CARTOONO by Hy Gage. Wonderful, Thanks, Steve.

    • I never heard of the cartoon, O. K. Cartoono!

    • Milton, where did the O. K. Cartoono, come from? This cartoon is not mentioned in Big Cartoon Database. It is very hard to find.

  • David Broekman was one of the early composers for Lantz’s OSWALDS.

  • Did Kolortone re-release Picnic Panic, a Van Beuren cartoon from 1935, because I’ve seen a bad-quality print of that cartoon with a black and white title card which, over a strip of film surrounding earth, it reads Kolor Kartoons presents Picnic Panic”, then it splices and skips more than a minute of the cartoon! The cartoon somehow ends with a Pictoreels “The End” card! What’s that all about?????

    • I’ve seen the same print and believe I can pretty easily explain everything. The print you described almost certainly came from a rental library; and was probably a Cinecolor print made for Walter O. Gutlohn release. Cartoons in rental libraries often took a beating at the hands of amateur projectionists, especially as they were frequently spliced onto the heads of features. Renters used cartoons in this way as an expendable item; they would absorb the damage that would hopefully be corrected before the start of the feature; when they finally became too beat-up they would be discarded and another cartoon spliced in its place. This saved on buying replacement reels for feature prints.

      The b/w main title was probably made by a titling or trailer company; there were quite a few in the 40’s and 50’s, including title services operated by Eastman Kodak and Bell & Howell. (This service was very inexpensive, as it was priced to attract home-movie camera owners.) In fact I’ve seen the exact same background art on titles made by Movie Wonderland of Hollywood and others. The rental agency probably had a number of titles made up to replace missing openings on cartoons and other shorts that had seen better days, just to keep them in circulation.

      As for the mismatched end title, it too was just patched on by the rental library from whatever they had on hand. I’ve inspected loads of old rental prints, and this sort of thing happened all the time.

    • I can tell you that Pictoreels never distributed the Van Beuren cartoons. They had non-theatrical rights to the MGM Harmon-Ising cartoons and to some of George Pal’s Puppetoons. No Van Beurens, though.

  • A lot of the gag business in this short reminds me of Bob Clampett’s “Porky’s Hero Agency”, when Porky restores Greek statues to life with the magic restoring needle. I wonder if Bob C. might have seen this short in 1929?

  • This film is not only short, but it ended abruptly. Maybe there was a longer version.

    • Probably not.

  • Cutout animation allows for rich detailing on characters, as here.

    • Yeah, this short really takes advantage of that. Helps me understand why someone would want to use this method. (I used to wonder.)
      It’s amazing how much cutout animation sort of seems to ignore that great opportunity.

  • “THE REDHEAD CARTOONS” This is one of a series of color cartoons produced in 1923 by the Lee-Bradford company. They usually centered around the adventurous dreams of a sleepy messenger, known as “Redhead”. Historical farce was his stock-in-trade, visiting Columbus, Captain Kidd, Nero (still extant), etc. I’m guessing this particular print has the little boy cut out, since it’s so brief. Lee-Bradford also released some one-shots as well, two I’ve seen were an animal and bird wedding , and one about a little dog trying to sneak into a baseball game. Unfortunately, they were all in French, so the proper titles elude me. About 1929 somebody must’ve paid 30 cents for the rights to these spastic primitive efforts, put a score on them, junked the intertitles, and re-issued them. Does it make any sense? They didn’t seem to care!

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