February 26, 2015 posted by

“Dead End Cats” (1947)

Note: I wanted to start today’s article with an apology to the cover artist on Van Beuren Classics, Milton Knight. In designing the cover for the set, we altered the background colors and added shadows to Mr. Knight’s work. These changes were not to his liking, understandably, and we should have run them by him in advance of showing our advance cover. We changed the cover back to his original color design the next day, but wanted to make an apology for it appearing here. It’s not beyond any of us to make mistakes, but I do hope we’ve learned from this one and will make wiser choices in the future.

terrytoon-end-titleThis site, Cartoon Research, would have been impossible to imagine in the days I was first collecting cartoons, and I can imagine the folks that are older than me having a similar thought. Nearly every day there’s an article here covering something I would never have imagined… I feel like it’s filled in large pieces of the hidden or forgotten history of the medium, with lots of information never covered in any books.

The internet (and home video) have helped to fill in some of the gaps left by the lack of smaller venues running old films. There are still some theaters here and there that will have cartoon showings, but many places don’t have such luxuries. There is something magical about having a showing in a old theatre, or even on a campus where younger people haven’t seen many of the films before. To me, keeping those sorts of venues alive and supporting small showings around the country (like Tom’s Stathes’ programs in New York or the shows at Cinefamily in LA) keeps these films alive, especially the films that otherwise wouldn’t be shown. As many of you are reading these posts on Thursday mornings, I’m running films in the animation history class at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan.

It seems like it’s time for more of the less-than-seen films to come out of the woodwork. I’ve recently had conversations with many people about what is important to concentrate on in this particular period related to the preservation of animated films. Some of these films are owned by large companies, some by small ones, and some still by family members of the filmmakers. There is some irony in that there are so many treasures sitting well preserved and ‘saved’, yet not available to view by the very people who have wanted to see them for ages. Some of these people (maybe you) are the baby boomers who loved some of these as children growing up watching TV, others are younger fans who have only heard of or seen a limited amount of a sought-after series. What series can you think of that you’ve always wanted to see, animated or otherwise?

dead-end-cats-posterThis period seems to hold more promise for smaller labels, especially as some of those companies consider licensing materials to the smaller companies. The ‘niche’ products really can find their audiences now much better than in the old days, and if sales continue to be ok, a small company like Thunderbean can do well enough to be able to continue to produce sets that do well enough to allow productions of other sets.

For us here, even the developments in the past few weeks are quite promising, and as each thing happens, one of the first things I think about is this blog; I’m always look forward to the day when I can talk about the various things happening. Having been able to find some of the ‘Holy Grails’ in the last few years keep me searching for more of my own as well as those of other people. Some of those searches have led to ‘Dead Ends’ in recent times, while others are in the waiting period, while others are full steam ahead.

I really love the ‘sleuthing’ involved in finding many of these, and find that while there are lots of place to look, there’s a few ‘hero’ places that have so many of the things that help to fill in the missing pieces. First, I always have to applaud the handful of ‘super-collectors’ that collect films. They really have saved more history than could ever be stated. Often as a collector you don’t know just HOW rare a film is – sometimes it ends up being the only known copy. Secondly, I always have to thank the archives – they provide a safe place for the preservation of these films until the time they can be seen.

One of the sets we’ve been working on is on hold at the moment, but materials for it have literally come from all over the world, even though the cartoons were all produced here. Chances are it will at some point be either a really big set, or three sets of three discs- there are that many films! I don’t think I know of another series where so many of the films only seem to exist in one unique print in one collector’s or archives holdings.

When a property is only owned by one entity, sometimes even their materials are not complete, or spread out over distances. I got a note yesterday from one of the archives, stating they had lost one of the films we requested to deterioration. The had made a preservation element of the reel’s picture, but not the sound. Happily, another archive had already lent us the soundtrack for that particular film, so we have the film between the two elements at different archives. This is one of those cases where two archives did their best to preserve elements, leading to these being available many, many years later for us to see.

Working with master materials including original negatives on a series has always been a dream, and we’re hoping this year yields even more of these types of projects.

It’s still amazing to me that some things are not available. Terrytoons are some of the absolute hardest cartoons to see in original versions. We hope at some point the original Mighty Mouse and other Terrytoon cartoons will be available, restored with their original titles in beautiful color versions. Until then, we’ll have to only have a peek at them here or there. In honor of ‘Dead Ends’, here is an old BlueTrack IB Technicolor print of Dead End Cats (1947) with the original titles and end titles intact. I really love Blu-track Technicolor prints, even though they smell like ‘Banana Baby Vomit’ as one collector said. They smell worse when they are going ‘Vinegar’ as many do.

edwardG-catThe “Edward G. Robinson” cat (voiced by Sid Raymond) is especially mean to one of the cats, shooting him in cold blood (but without blood!) near the beginning of the picture, just for questioning him! The color use on this film is especially good. I every much enjoy the shadow use in Mighty Mouse’s bedroom. He must have been living in New York into the early 50’s, and then moved into the moon at some point before Mother Goose’s Birthday Party.

This somewhat battered 16mm print has was found in a box of films at Cinevent in the early 80s. It has that beautiful Technicolor look that is missing from most prints of the Terrytoons. Perhaps some day we’ll be lucky enough to see more! I keep hope, because it wasn’t too long ago that the Fleischer Popeyes were not available on DVD….


  • Love them blue tracks—the smell, the hues and the usually original titles! Thanks for sharing this!

    But if anyone is owed an apology… it’s you, Steve.

    • I love them also. I believe 1947 was the first year that Technicolor was capable of printing 16mm film. Kodak came up with dual-16mm film stock (32mm) with extra 35mm sprocket holes to enable printing on 35mm printers. Prior to this film stock, 16mm prints of Technicolor films had to be printed on Kodachrome film stock. Often these Kodachrome prints would block-out the trade-marked Technicolor name since they were not Technicolor prints (much like MGM did with their Metro-Color re-issues).

    • Does anybody has Some Mighty Mouse Cartoons from 1944-1946 With Original Titles?

  • Great post, Steve!

    I am one of those “Baby Boomers” you reference and it doesn’t seem that long ago the only research tools we had were Maltin’s book and a little fanzine called “Mindrot,” where a small, but plucky band first became acquainted with each other as rabid fans of Hollywood’s Golden Age of Cartoons.

    I’m hoping the Terrytoon art here and your accompanying words are hinting that we may finally see at least the best of this studios work available to a wider audience,

    Keep up the good work!

  • The Terrytoons were among my favorite TV viewing as a kid. I loved “Mighty Mouse Playhouse” and “Heckle and Jeckle.” I especially remember the operatic Mighty Mouse cartoons.

    I agree that it’s a shame so many of these are unavailable today. They had a unique quality. If I remember correctly, the animation was often quite good.

    There is still a lot of unreleased animation. Besides the Terrytoons, there are still several Looney Tunes that have yet to see the light of day in a DVD or Blu-Ray release. The Harmon and Ising MGM era is also under-represented on home video. Plus there are still many of the Walter Lantz cartoons that have not been available–and I would love to see a restoration of the old “Woody Woodpecker Show.” As well as Seasons Two through Four of “The Huckleberry Hound Show” (dare I hope for original opening and closing credits and interstitials?) and the majority of “Quick Draw McGraw.” A lot of great stuff out there!

    • The old “Woody Woodpecker Show” was released on DVD by Columbia House in 2004 under license from Universal Studios Licensing. 15 DVDs holding 4 different shows were released. 60 shows total and no duplication of cartoons.

      There were two different versions of the show on the DVDs: 2 would have the 1960’s version with abbreviated cartoon titles and full show end credits with song. The other 2 would be from a 1970’s syndication version where the cartoons retained their individual titles & credits and the show end credits were brief.

      To confuse customers, the yellow DVD slim-cases make no mention of these being half-hour shows, the back lists each cartoon individually with their theatrical release date. The description states “And these theatrical cartoons are now classics”.
      So if you see these yellow slim-cases stating “Woody Woodpecker And Friends – The Collector’s Edition” from Columbia House for sale, they are the half-hour shows. Woody is pictured in the center of the cover, surrounded by mini images of other Lantz characters.

      Note that some soundtracks have been altered to have Woody read signs out loud so that young viewers who can not read will understand what is going on.

    • The irony of the Home Movie/Video market is that all of these hard to find on DVD cartoons were widely available to the home market prior to 1980 on 16mm & 8mm films. Terrytoons were so common that I avoided buying them.

      Sadly, all of the home movie prints had altered titles. The B&W 16mm & 8mm prints (released in sound & silent versions) were made by Castle Films, including cartoons originally filmed in color, and Castle created their own titles. This package was the only home movie package to include the B&W Terrytoons. The Mighty Mouse cartoons retained the original “Supermouse” soundtracks even though the titles now said “Mighty Mouse”.

      After Paul Terry sold the cartoons to CBS-TV, CBS then licensed the cartoons to “Ken Films” to be sold on 8mm silent film. These B&W prints used the TV prints that just had a brief title card and no end title and featured only the ‘star’ cartoons.

      In the 1970’s when Viacom took over the CBS film product (due to a anti-monopoly lawsuit) Viacom made COLOR 16mm & 8mm home movie prints in sound. Many of these prints were bought by vendors who supplied modern coin-operated “Peep-Show” machines to pizza parlors so that kids could watch Terrytoons cartoons while waiting for their pizza to be cooked.

  • Looks like part of that film was edited, too, seeing that abrupt jump from the cat inside the fire hydrant..

    • That’s a splice, not an edit or censorship. The careless handling and many screenings of these rental prints resulted in footage getting sliced, diced and trashed over the years.

    • That’s a splice, not an edit or censorship. The careless handling and many screenings of these rental prints resulted in footage getting sliced, diced and trashed over the years.

      Sad indeed.

  • Thanx for T-Bean Thursday Steve.

    I’m sure rent on the moon is great, but wotta commute. Then again, the NYC crime rate has to be considered too. Note how easily the cats broke into Mighty Mouse’s home.

    GOTS to have a Terrytoons collection made available commercially. If only to archive Jim Tyer’s best.

  • The Columbia Pictures catalog (particularly the Fox and Crow series) would be nice to see without the timecodes on them like the versions that have been floating around for awhile…

    • Antenna-TV ran the Columbia Cartoons in the “Totally Tuned In” syndication package every Saturday & Sunday morning, unfortunately they just quit running them in 2015.

    • I should clarify that Antenna-TV only ran some of the COLOR Columbia Cartoons, mixed in with the UPA cartoons of the 1950’s.
      Mr. Magoo was featured once in every show.

  • This cartoon is only one of many cartoons of the golden age that had bits of violence similar to that which you talk about. The moment I heard that bit (“But boss…” BANG!), I remembered seeing it in regular rotation on local TV in the 1960’s, along with a now little-known Warner Brothers cartoon that was merely playing out a scenario of any Warner gangsters film of the age, called “HE WAS HER MAN”, only featuring anthropomorphized mice. It’s really quite gruesome by today’s standards, with one sequence where the nasty gang boss comes home to his mousehole just to beat the crap out of his cute little girlfriend. Mind you, she turns the gun on him and cripples him to the point where *HE* is the one on the corner selling the apples, but I’m sure the whole thing has to have been played out in live action somewhere. That is how animation of the golden age was for everybody–usually reflecting some of the stories told in live action films so popular in their day. Yeah, it is ironic that Terrytoons are so hard to see now. When I was a kid, they were all over the airwaves, from Saturday mornings to weekday afternoons. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were able to secure the video rights to the library since I don’t think that Fox really cares a wit about the toons anymore. If this is not just legend, good luck in your search. There are so many of your projects that you’ve hinted about here that I’m so eagerly waiting for! I only wish you could add that icing on the cake and take over the video rights to the earliest decade of LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES. The 1930’s Warners cartoons were a ragtag bunch of characters, but their cartoons were always interesting. Fans got a taste of ’em on the wonderful sixth volume of THE LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION but, to me, it wasn’t enough, because the latter ’30’s didn’t get enough of a representation. There are so many BUDDY cartoons that have neat little production numbers and some of the crudest gags, but that is all part of the “forbidden” eras of filmmaking in general.

    • Fox doesn’t own the Terrytoons. Paramount or Viacom or whatever they’re calling themselves at the moment does. Paul Terry retained rights to the films, and they were part of the deal when he sold the company to CBS in the mid ’50s. They’ve been out of syndication for years, and we all know that they have had little presence on home video.

      Speaking as someone who’s had a fair amount of experience in music licensing for CD issues, I can tell you that the problem with huge corporations isn’t usually that they’re unwilling to license material they own. It’s that their licensing fees and demands are often outrageous and tend to discourage small companies from even bothering.

  • It seems to me that Terrytoons should be one of the sets that is easiest to make happen, seeing as the rights are clearly not in dispute. They are fully owned by Viacom, thanks to CBS’s purchase of Terrytoons outright back in the 1950s.

    • The rights are not in dispute, but the sales of Terrytoons on DVD are not believed to be high enough to warrant their release.

  • Growing up, you got used to the DeLuxe color prints for Terrytoons on TV, which always seemed to tint to yellow (as opposed, say, to the beet-red color the NTA prints headed towards as they aged). So it’s nice to see the difference here.

    I every much enjoy the shadow use in Mighty Mouse’s bedroom. He must have been living in New York into the early 50′s, and then moved into the moon at some point before Mother Goose’s Birthday Party.

    Everybody was moving to the suburbs after World War II Steve…..

  • The reflections on the glass platen and the watered-down cel paint on the fish are all part of the handmade charm revealed in a saturated IB Tech print like this. In comparison, the television medium prefers for everything to be flat.

  • When the credits show the story man, director, and musician on these original titles, at the bottom right-hand side of the screen, you’d see either an oval or football shaped insignia with a number in it. Would that be the production number?

    • Yes, than number in the oval on the bottom right is the Production Number. All materials associated with this cartoon would have that number on them.

      Harder to see is the number on the bottom left, that is the Hayes Office certificate of approval number. All films shown in U.S. theaters after July 1, 1934 had to have this certificate number. (Hissssss)

  • I saw a lot of Walter Lantz cartoons (mainly the white-furred version of Oswald), which were served up on “Big Brother” Bob Emery’s afternoon show in Boston. Especially remember “Alaska Sweepstakes”, with a nasty, bulbous-nosed villain, and another one (possibly “The Golfers”, with Meany, Miny, and Moe) that had some sort of automatic golf-playing vehicle that haunts me to this day. Can’t find those on YouTube.

    I’ve come to appreciate Terrytoons, but insist most are better with the sound off.

  • Are you sure that is Sid Raymond doing the Edwad G. Robinson voice?

    I do not know of Raymond working at Terrytoons. (I associate him with Famous Studios.)

    If I were a bettor, I’d be putting my money on Tommy Morrison.

    • I spoke to Sid Raymond about his career when I was working as a producer on the 1994 Baby Huey Show. His “claim to fame” back then was his imitation of Edward G. Robinson. You may associate him (as we all do) with Famous Studios, but he did voices for Terrytoons in several cartoons released in 1947, including as Heckle & Jeckle in Happy Go Lucky – and Fishing By The Sea

  • I dunno. I love all the work you do at Thunderbean and have bought several of your releases. But there are some things that are justly forgotten, and most of the Terrytoons belong in that category. As curiosities of an era they deserve a preservation, and yes I liked them when I saw them on Saturday Mornings way back when, but I wouldn’t consider them a top priority, nor would I go to kids and say “You HAVE to see these!” My opinion only.

  • Why didn’t the fish make that “doysuh!” sound when he snapped his mouth shut?

  • I have a fair number of Terrytoons on 16mm, but you know, I’ve never really been able to warm to them. For me, the deficiencies of these films outweigh their charms.

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