June 19, 2014 posted by

Collecting 8mm

A particularly busy week here at the Thunderbean HQ, full of news. More on SOME of this news next week, as well as some new transfers.

But for now, another romp down memory lane. The topic for this week is: What do we all want and why, anyway??!?!

When I was a kid, I remember really wanted the ‘Polavision’ Camera and Projector I saw advertised. You could shoot super 8 film, and then rewind the film and play it- instantly!

Now, of course, as a 9 year old in 1977, there wasn’t such thing as ‘taping’ cartoons on TV, so when I saw this new technology, I was astonished. I have dreams of taping Toyland Premiere (1934) when it ran on rare occasion between the other cartoons that were part of the Woody Woodpecker show. To me, the whole purpose of getting the camera wasn’t to make my own films, it was to somehow have that ONE film, filming it with that Polaroid System. Considering what I do these days, maybe, in some ways, we still are who we are through and through. I really wouldn’t have been able to tell you this would be some kind of life obsession, to find that rare film, whatever it is.

Here’s an article about ‘Polavision’ and it’s failure (it showed up at the dawn of consumer VHS and Beta video). And here’s a youtube video on how to take the film out of a Polavision cartridge.

tom-jerry-super-8So, throughout my early years of collecting films, there were films that I very clearly just wanted to see, and others that I wanted a copy of. I’ve talked a little about some of the collector magazines that finally gave me a window into the film collecting world. There were ads for many of the super 8 and 16mm film companies that sold mostly public domain films. Many of these companies only had a classified ad at the back for a free catalog. From these ads, I got catalogs from L/C Films, Festival Films, Blackhawk, Thunderbird Films, Cantaberry Films, Red Fox Films and others.

L/C films was one of the coolest; they sold USED super 8mm films; a new list every month or so. I was enthralled! I bought all sorts of incredible things from them and finally got to see so many films I thought I never would, all in Super 8. I also was able to buy some films I had always wanted, including Babes in Toyland (with Laurel and Hardy), prints of Van Beuren and early silent cartoons, and even Hoppity goes to Town and Gulliver’s Travels. L/C films turned into Pepperland Records, then Pepperland Music. They’re still in business I think here.

Here’s an article on Blackhawk Films, with some catalogs too!

felix-cool-catAs time progressed and I went on to discovering that you could find a LOT more in 16mm, my interest in super 8 faded. I think a lot of folks still have fondness for Super 8 films; on occasion I’ll still find one at a film show and pick it up. I recently finally got a replacement print of the Ken Films cutdown of ‘Flaming Guns’.

Many of the things I’ve really wanted have shown up, but isn’t it funny how the quest leads you deeper into the woods the more you look? I’ve seen other people’s lists, and what is funny is that these days nearly ALL of us are looking for the rarest of the rare, but not all the SAME rarest of the rare. There’s still so many things that have just not show up. I’m at the point where certain REALLY rare things are the most interesting to me, or being able to bring a whole series back if possible. Sometimes the road to do this sort of thing is really bumpy, but, in my case at least, it’s very much related to that Polavision Projector above.

Here are some cartoons from super 8mm prints:

A little music video, put together from what appears to be a Russian cartoon:

A print of Tom and Jerry in Mouse Trouble, sadly turning red:

…a youtube favorite; someone showing off their collection. I was pretty charmed by this. It reminds me how much I loved the tactile nature of films:

Here’s a slick presentation of one collector’s collection, with awesome music!

… and a cool collection of boxes!

And, since Felix seems to be in the news, here’s an 8mm print of Felix in Hollywood, where his new residence is, at least in a intellectual property sort of way:

Since I get to do this, I’m inviting you to as well. Tell a story about how a piece of the past has led to your interest in animated films, or maybe a memory of a quest to see a particular thing…


  • (Good caricature of Will Hays, there.)

    • It’s an idealized caricature: Hays sports better teeth in cartoon form than he did in life.

    • I thought it was Irving Thalberg. Felix is trying to land work as an actor; he’d go to a famous producer and not the Production Code guy.

      The short also features Charlie Chaplin, Doug Fairbanks, William S. Hart and a few more I don’t know.

  • I collect 16mm. I own a color print of “The Tortoise and the Hare” and a few TV spots.

  • No way ; no matter who owns Felix, he’ll always be a new-yorker (at least to me).
    Steve, you don’t seem too worried by the cat’s latest news ; could we stay hopeful about what-you-know ?

  • To quote Felix “I got only nine lives to live”…..

  • That Polavision certainly was unique.

    There’s a person in my house who a few days ago mentioned wanting to get herself a Polaroid camera of sorts, It’s nice to see some people learn quickly.

    My mom though bought a regular Kodak Instamatic model that she shot some of our earlier home movies with before she upgraded to a JCPenny portable VCR with a video camera in ’82. She never got into the whole 8mm collecting thing, nor did I in my youth sadly, the camera didn’t even have a stop frame button or I would’ve loved to have made use of it.

    No, I found out the hard way. It was probably 1994 or 95 and it was a chance instance of discovering a 8mm film in a box of the Apollo 11 moon mission that I picked up at a local annual record show that got me on the track to film collecting of all sorts. A friend of my brothers at the time really helped me as well in showing me some of what he had plus giving me back issues of The Big Reel (for which I once had a subscription to). It also helped that this was around the period when most public schools and libraries were discarding worn-out prints of educational material that I quickly swooped out of the dumpsters before becoming landfill waste. It really helped me out and with whatever cruddy job I had on the side that helped me to acquire neat prints of cartoons, TV shows and elsewhere on the then-new site eBay.

    I don’t think much about those days anymore, but it’s kinda fun to think how shared this experience seems to be for most.

  • That music video cartoon I vaguely remember. If memory serves, there was some kind of World Cup in Toyland. The wooden men, banished for cheating and unnecessary roughness, paint themselves and enter as a new team.

    There were a handful of similar shorts: A gopher, in need of pockets, starts a Glorious Collectivist venture with other animals to grow cotton, make fabric and eventually produce little overalls. A pretty ear of corn leave Veggieland to help hungry people (animals?) grow and harvest corn. A boorish street musician with a violin is so bad people brick up their windows, and when small boy arrives playing beautiful music the boor thinks it’s the violin and swaps it with his own. And of the course the longer ones cut into serials, like the fisherman and his wife.

  • 16mm rules! (And 35mm!) Why/ Because they printed certian reels in Technicolor! You could get network prints of TV shows and not just have people wait for the next big thing!

    I know there were no VCRs, and not everyone could afford the big formats, but, sorry, I would only want to see 8mm if I’m having a burning desire to see a red print of something that’s usually seen in Technicolor. (like the T&J cartoon embeded above). i grew up in the second generation of VHS.

    • 16mm rules! (And 35mm!) Why/ Because they printed certian reels in Technicolor!
      As long as it’s Technicolor and not something else.

      You could get network prints of TV shows and not just have people wait for the next big thing!

      That’s true.

      I know there were no VCRs, and not everyone could afford the big formats, but, sorry, I would only want to see 8mm if I’m having a burning desire to see a red print of something that’s usually seen in Technicolor. (like the T&J cartoon embeded above). i grew up in the second generation of VHS.

      Like me I suppose. Of course I’ve been use to “Crimson-Vision” for a long time.

  • In 1977 I worked in a camera store. One day we received one Polavision system, with the camera and the monitor you had to show it on. We thought the idea was cool and went about playing with it all day. The potential was soon overshadowed by reality. There was a short recording time, you couldn’t record over again, and the picture was very dark and very grainy. And you could only see on the large, bulky viewer. We wondered what sap would buy what was essentially a very expensive children’s toy. Lo & behold, the Oscars were on that night. (Which is apparently why the company bought the Polavision system to begin with). There was a major ad for it, and as we opened up next morning a lady came rushing in and just had to have it. We never got another one. At the same time I saw a demonstration of movie viewing technologies on the horizon. One was the CED – Selectavision, whereby a movie on an LP, and a needle actually played it. I thought that was ludicrous from the start. Also there was the Laserdisc. It blew me away. The picture quality, the lack of wear on the disc from multiple playings. Of course its problem is that it didn’t record. But Polavision, that brings back memories. And it was a huge financial disaster.

    CED Selectavision – movies played with a record needle.

  • And, I forgot, Polavision was silent!

    • I think you were better off buying a super 8mm film camera that could record sound on the oxide strip and a sound super 8 projector to go with that.

      Here’s an effort by someone who cared to preserve the Kodak moment!

  • Very good post, Mr. Steve! I really enjoyed that Polavision demo. I have some Polavision VHS boxes that look remarkably like the instant movie film ones. The cartoon “music video” looks like Soyuzmultifilms’s “An Unusual Match”, about a soccer match in toyland. This seems to be the first part of the cartoon.

  • I got heavily into Super-8 sound films (they had magnetic soundtracks) in the years immediately before home video hit, collecting lots of Laurel and Hardy shorts and a few of their features from Blackhawk Films. They also had a few Ub Iwerks ComicColor titles. Once had a pretty good copy of one of the Popeye color two-reelers. Warner cartoons were hard to come by; there were a few allegedly P.D. titles out there, including, believe it or not, “Rabbit of Seville” from some outfit. That was always a big hit at my all-Super-8 movie nights. I found out that a number of Warner cartoons were available in the format in England, and on my first trip there picked up several, but I can’t remember which. Also collected Disney 200-foot feature excerpts. I must have played “The Prince and the Dragon” from “Sleeping Beauty” a million times. I dealt with many if the firms Steve mentioned. And hey! I had that Apollo 11 reel too!

  • I inherited the film collecting bug from my dad, who collected 16mm for years. (I still own his collection.) He used to run movies for the children in the neighborhood. Those Abbott and Costello one-reelers from Castle were his most popular items with that audience. They never seemed to get tired of seeing them!

    I started out collecting 8mm, mainly because that’s what I could afford with my allowance, and later graduated to 16mm. I don’t remember the first 8mm title I bought. The first 16mm I ever acquired on my own was the Mickey Mouse cartoon “Mickey’s Service Station.” I remember being very pleased about that, as black and white Disney’s weren’t the easiest films to acquire.

    I still collect film, though the hobby has changed a lot. The titles that used to be most desirable are generally less so now, mainly because those tend to be readily available on DVD or Blu-Ray. One of my dad’s prizes was a gorgeous IB Tech print of “The Wizard of Oz.” It put to shame all the Eastmancolor prints of that title. However, there wouldn’t be much interest in it, today. Why would there be, when you can own it on Blu-Ray from Warner for less than twenty dollars?

    Likewise, my cartoon collecting, like most collectors, I imagine, is focused these days on product that’s not readily available on home video. Where it used to be Warner Bros, M-G-M, and Disney, today it’s more likely to be Famous, Terrytoons, and silent animation.

    I’ve also gotten much more into collecting pre-1960 television shows. Air prints from rare or lost series and kinescopes.

    I’d be the last to deny how great home video is. Nothing could be easier than DVD or Blu-Ray. However, there’s a pleasure in handling those reels and threading up the projector that I just don’t get from sliding a Blu-Ray into the tray of a player.

    • A friend still has the 1939 WIZARD OF OZ on super 8mm/color/sound. Complete on four 600′ reels. I was amazed that it was released in that format. He gets a kick out of having it in 8mm. The print has held its color surprisingly well. I know film stock plays a major part in that. I suppose proper storage plays a part, too.

  • I discovered animation with 16mm films and a Bauer P7 projector (That was before dvd), and I eventually bought a Eiki 4000P xenon projector.
    Even though I now have a digital projector, I still watch regularly in 16mm, and try to collect good prints when I have the possibility.

  • Here’s a KRAZY KAT cartoon I xferred from a super * print last century.

    KRAZY KAT S8mm transfer

    I only had the first half of the cartoon, but found the second half on youtube, so I edited them together.

  • OOPS! the link address didn’t work on my original post. Here is is:

  • I have “Scrappy Cartoons” Excel, “Railroad Fun” that isn’t listed on any catalog sites. From my grandfather’s estate. Ideas?

  • It seems that the video of mouse trouble has been removed by WB. Is there any way that you can upload it to another place?

    • I’m afraid that video was removed by the collector who originally posted it. Nothing we can do.

  • Hi Steve
    I have a collection of dupe negatives of Felix the Cat 8mma cartoons, left by my late father, a London film distributor. Any interest to you or a colleague, but really need a London collector or archive. Hoping to hear from you. regards Judy Miller

  • I found four 8 mm films that belonged to my father: Betty Boop, Attila the Barbarian & 2 Popeye films. Do you think someone might want them? I HATE to throw them away.

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