March 13, 2014 posted by

“A Little Bird Told Me” (1934)


The response this week to the Gulliver Travels Blu-ray has been astonishing; I want to thank everyone for the great feedback and orders – and am glad people are enjoying the set. Having a better version of the film available was the idea in the first place and, happily, the success of the set will now help to make other sets possible; from transferring rare animated films to working on licensing for other sets. I’m so glad to be ‘outside the bubble’ of production on the set (and also glad that my arm doesn’t hurt anymore from all that digital cleanup).

In the coming weeks there will be a handful of new news, from announcements of new titles and some actually getting their release. I’m especially looking forward to showing some of the films from a new sets.

GulliverCoverThere’s a handful of things in production at Thunderbean right now, but I’m always happy to hear suggestions as well. Something that has been suggested is to release the second Fleischer feature, Mr. Bug Goes to Town (re-issued as ‘Hoppity Goes to Town‘). It’s my personal favorite film, and it would be wonderful to have the film on Blu-ray. Should it be available for license, it would be a wonderful companion to Gulliver, especially from negs or from the beautiful original print that MOMA owns. This is the print that was used by TCM a little over a year back for the ‘animation block’ with Jerry Beck. It’s the only print I’ve seen that had the original title intact. MOMA used to show it yearly on New Year’s Day.

Thunderbean has been growing steadily for these last ten years, and with it I’ve learned all sorts of things technically. I hope to increase the size of the team working on the projects in the coming years, and the continued success of the newer titles is starting to make that even more possible.

One of the hardest things for me is going back and looking at my earlier releases. As the years have passed, I’ve found better material on some cartoons, including original titles that I didn’t have in many cases. It’s been hard to decide which titles to update and what to leave be, or which titles to retire for now.

The ones on deck for some updating include the Van Beuren cartoon sets: ‘Toddle Tales and Rainbow Parades‘ and the Van Beuren ‘Tom and Jerry‘. I’ve also been working on reissuing the Cubby Bear set. That one and others have been out of print for a little while.

HD is less forgiving than standard definition of course; a really good 16mm actually can hold up ok in HD, but many things that were passable in standard definition just don’t hold up as well.

In the collector’s world of 16mm films, ‘original’ prints are some of the most prized. An ‘original’ usually is the term used for a print from a studio negative. It’s actually a little misleading to call a print this since even an ‘original’ may be more than one generation down, but it was a good way to differentiate from prints that were duped from another 16mm prints (dupes), or that were reduced to 16mm from a 35mm print (reductions). In the earlier days of 16mm, 35mm negs were used to make EACH 16mm print – a direct ‘print-down’ from higher quality material. These prints are prized by collectors because they are usually the best quality you can find in 16mm, sharp and dense. They usually have a much tighter grain structure as well. Because many are older prints, they also often have a higher silver content, making them especially beautiful to project. Many of the non-theatrical and rental prints from the 40s are these type of prints.

Later 16mm prints are often from 16mm negatives made by reducing a 35mm negative and then ‘contact’ printed. These prints can still be very good, but often these newer negatives have a lower contrast to them. Many prints for Television were made with this lower contest so they would look better when run through a telecine and broadcast.

finchellHere is A Little Bird Told Me (1934, Van Beuren) the third of the Van Beuren ‘Toddle Tales‘ cartoons (and I think the best one). It’s nice to see Jim Tyer get credit on the prints with original titles. It’s transferred from a nice old ‘original’ printdown 16mm print. The print was in overall good shape, but suffered from some damage to the soundtrack area (it looks as if this sound print was run through a silent projector, putting small punctures into the soundtrack throughout. The sound was still a much higher quality than the other prints I had found of this title, so I put up with the ‘motor-boating’ that the damage had left in the track.

Most of the transfers for the ‘Rainbow Parade‘ set were from 16mm prints. Most of the film transfers were done on a Rank Cintel or a Shadow Telecine, both broadcast-quality telecine transfer machines. This one was done on the Tobin transfer unit that actually did a pretty good job. Even though it this nice old print transferred pretty well, it’s one I’ve been debating on transferring in HD to get an even better version. It’s a fun little cartoon that has the feel of the earlier Van Beuren films in it as well as the influence of the new Burt Gillett regime at the studio.

For comparison, here is the same cartoon, issued by Official Films in the 40s. They called the series ‘Tiny Tot cartoons‘ (catalog page below). Their ‘originals’ were still decent enough prints, but had a very tinny soundtrack compared to the few prints I’ve found of the same cartoons with original titles. The density was reduced as well as the sharpness. I think these prints were made from a 16mm reduction negative. I’m not sure how the transfer was done on this one (AND it’s youtube!) so it’s hard to get an exact comparison, but you’ll get an idea of the difference.




  • Those children….their acting…it’s enough to drive Burt Gillett mad!

  • That’s a really interesting comparison on those two prints of the same Van Beuren. It’s always a real eye opener to see how much terrific print quality can elevate the enjoyment of 1930’s era films, even for those seen-it-all-before old timers.

    A Thunderbean release of MR. BUG on Blue Ray would be the absolute greatest! One of my all time favorite films… here’s hoping the licensing works out!

  • Steve Stanchfield wrote,

    “… There’s a handful of things in production at Thunderbean right now, but I’m always happy to hear suggestions as well …”

    It would be nice to have a pristine copy of Lou Bunin’s Alice in Wonderland.

    It would also be nice to have a pristine copy of Michael Myerberg’s Hansel and Gretel.

    • @eeteed: MOMA has a restored copy of Bunin’s “Alice In Wonderland” that they periodically screen. Alas, it hasn’t made its way to home video.

      The French version (which was filmed simultaneously with the English version) is on DVD in France, and looks very good in comparison.

  • The print was in overall good shape, but suffered from some damage to the soundtrack area (it looks as if this sound print was run through a silent projector, putting small punctures into the soundtrack throughout.

    That was mean… assuming whoever had this print even cared to buy a sound projector and simply took what he could get – and that’s the reason. Other than that, such an excellent print!

  • That encapsulated what a good cartoon is all about. And very nice craftsmanship too. I too would like to see the best possible print of Mr. Bug. The film’s prestige has grown with time and was done when that era of the Fleischer’s was at its zenith with the making of the Superman films.

  • Who owns Mr Bug now? Was it part of the UM&M/NTA package or the MCA-TV package or neither?

    • It would be with Paramount today (as it was part of the U.M.& M./NTA package previous).

  • Some more wishful thinking:

    — A pretty print of the Russian “The Snow Queen”
    — Likewise the stop-motion “Hansel and Gretel”
    — More of the forgotten Fleischers (a complete set of the Gulliver spinoffs; the stone age series; and the remaining two 2-reelers)
    — B&W Columbias (Scrappy, Krazy Kat)
    — Intermission animations

    • “Some more wishful thinking:

      – A pretty print of the Russian “The Snow Queen”

      One kinda exists these days if you consider the version on YouTube that appear to come from DVD’s sold in Russia for a while. A least it looks OK to me.

  • “Mr Bug Goes To Town” is a wonderful film.

  • Steve…Loved “Gulliver”! Ever thought about establishing a “Kickstarter” campaign to help raise funding for rights to something like “Mr. Bug”?

  • I have an original print on 35mm from ‘A Little Bird Told Me (1934, Van Beuren)’
    I want to sell it, does somebody know a good (cartoon) auction.
    I also have two disney Alices cartoons and the cuckoo from David Hand on 35mm. Same question.
    Greetings Dirk (Netherlands)

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