The beginning of the school year as general business has me running around a lot these days- and finding time to even write a little between all the other commitments has been difficult. Our Blu-ray duplicator died last week, but happily it’s up and running again- and we’re finally getting the rest of the ‘Sneak Preview’ Flip the Frog sets out to everyone.There has been a pretty incredible influx of activity behind the scenes here related to future titles, and I’m especially excited to see some of the older projects finally moving forward in one way or another. New projects continue to surface as well- and other ones we’re working to make happen are on deck daily.
On the Flip the Frog Blu-ray project: next week, we’ll be launching a ‘Kickstarter’ campaign to help fund a special bonus feature on the Flip the Frog set- a tribute to the Iwerks’ Studio featuring Flip the Frog- a sort of ‘Animam’ featuring Flip dancing by all different animators. More on this next week as we launch.
The various adventures this month include the frustration of stalled negotiations on some things, the discovery of other things, and new deals to release various titles. The roughest moment in the last few months in relation to Thunderbean was learning that the Flip materials we thought were in color from one of the European archives turned out to be in back and white, tinted on a Kodak stock called “Sonochrome’ This stock has a black and white soundtrack but color tinted picture. It was a huge letdown after trying to gain access to the material for years, we were finally being able to move forward with the correct paperwork, only to find that sadly they were not in two-color.
I’ve been taking a momentary step back each night to evaluate the various possibilities right now in running this small company. Things have been so busy that we’ve barely thought about the expansion of the market into wider distribution, but it’s needed to start to do some of the things we’re working on. Funny enough, the thing I find myself most interested in at this point is working with the less-seen materials more than anything. Of course, some of the projects we’re doing are upgrades to things already available, with some of these quite nice- but still, presenting things that truly have been impossible to see are still the most exciting things to me.On a title that *is* moving forward: about a month back, I went out to the UCLA archives to evaluate the materials on the Iwerks ‘Comi-Color’ series of cartoons. This involved looking at the various materials that exist on each of the titles and deciding what to scan on each. Happily, the series exists in 35mm with all original titles intact on every film. Some exist in separation negatives as the highest quality generation. These black and white negatives (one for the blue spectrum, one for red) are generally in excellent condition for all, with minimal apparent wear.
While I was out, I was also lucky enough to go with Jerry Beck to meet with Leslie Iwerks at her studio. The studio produces excellent documentary films. Several Comi-Color posters are proudly displayed there, and there’s nothing as nice as seeing these beautiful posters in their full size.
Since there is a lack of pictures on this actual material as of yet, we’ve used some posters from the series here. The Comi-Color posters are some of the nicest of any series in the 30s.
Most of those titles also have the original motion picture production code logos at the beginning, missing from all of the later releases. These logos rage from the standard blue background one that is often seen, while others have a colorful art deco background that was likely used by the Iwerks Studio only. Besides the color separations, these titles existed in Cinecolor on some nearly mint condition prints that were saved for backup masters. Others that were used for masters are missing these sequences. Some of them have music behind them as well.
A number of titles don’t have their original separations extant, but rather exist in just these above mentioned 35mm Cinecolor prints. More than one of these have a problem in dye seep-through, where the silver content of the sprocket line affects the color of the film above or below it as it was wound on the reel. If you look carefully, you can see this effect on this not-too-good youtube version of ‘the Three Bears’:
The most exciting finds in this process are the little extras that show up. I had a chance to look at some of the Van Beuren Rainbow Parades there as well. Several reels have clips of cartoons as well as title sequences that had been cut off some of the prints, with replacement titles taking their place.
Some things worth noting:
Balloonland (1935) looks to be in grand condtion in original seperation negs.
Little Black Sambo (1935) also has its original separation negs in remarkably perfect condition.
Happy Days (1936) has two different versions with two different titles.
Jack Frost (1934) has two very differently timed prints with very different looking color-one bluer, one much greener…
The Brave Tin Soldier has an MGM card on the leader; was there a deal that fell through here? The TV print that Commonwealth made for ’The Brave Tin Soldier’ (1934) eliminates the whole ending of the film!
German titles exist for at least one of the films, as do multiple language soundtracks for some.
The overall remarkable condition of this material at this moment in time shouldn’t be taken for granted completely. We are in no immediate danger of losing the series since there are many prints and videos made ofit- but, nitrate deterioration, although slow, does continue. These films are now around 80 years old, and little by little they do deteriorate. One of the titles has started to go recently, so it’s the first on the list to be scanned. I hope to be able to scan all of these in 4k by early next year if all goes well, so that a digital master that is the quality of the best original material continues to exist even if the nitrate doesn’t.
Have a good week everyone!