THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
September 15, 2016 posted by

Famous Studios at MoMA / “Quack-A Doodle-Do” (1949) Storyboard comparison


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Note: No DVD/blu-ray news this week – but a big announcement next week! Stay tuned!


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One of the most dramatic differences between the TV prints and the original theatrical versions of a cartoon series are the Paramount Noveltoons. NTA’s red and Pinkish 16mm prints always did a disservice to the series, as is also does to the earlier Color Classics from the Fleischer Studios, but finding original 35mm materials was always a rarity in later years.

On occasion, somewhat battered 35mm prints of some of the cartoons would randomly show up on a Kiddie VHS tape, looking better than the red copies of the other films on the cassettes. When the dollar DVDs started, even more in beat up 35mm Technicolor prints showed up, though usually not the best copies.

The Famous Studios tribute that Jerry Beck organized in 1995 at The Museum Of Modern Art in New York is now the stuff of legend. For this show in those pre-digital days, rare 35mm prints in original Technicolor were gathered and shown. Among the attendees were many former Famous Studios employees, including Shamus Culhane, voice actor Sid Raymond, and Myron Waldman. It was a wonderful thing to do while some of the creators were still alive. I’ve heard the story more than once that many commented that they didn’t remember the films being as good as they were.

Here are the film notes that were distributed at MoMA for attendees of the Famous Studios screenings:

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Many years later, for the Thunderbean ‘Noveltoons’ set, a handful of collectors were nice enough to lend me their 35mm prints, mostly in very good to excellent condition. We did some digital cleanup to the 20 films for the set, although only in standard definition. We had done the transfers in HD, anticipating that at some point we may want to do a blu-ray. I still hope to do a set with *all* the 1940s Noveltoons at some point… but we may just end up with a set of the Public Domain ones on Blu-ray.

Here’s Quack-A Doodle-Do, the first “Baby Huey” cartoon, from a 35mm Technicolor print. Watch it in HD if your computer is fast enough to do so.

For one of the bonus features on the set, Jerry Beck was nice enough to lend rare photostats of the storyboards from this cartoon and a few others. We put together a storyboard comparison feature for the set featuring these boards. Although the quality isn’t tops, it’s really fun to see the boards next to the finished film.

14 Comments

  • Shucks! I don’t know how I missed out on that MOMA show, but I’m thankful that we have the NOVELTOONS disk, and thanks to Jerry Beck and others for neatly preserving these cartoons. it would be so nice to have a set on either blu-ray or standard DVD of the complete 1940’s output of the NOVELTOONS series. It sure beats hearing ’em as splicey prints taht too often circulate. This is a terrific post, Steve. Thanks for that and everything else.

  • The animation is exceptional starting at 3:35. Is that Dave Tendlar’s work?

    • That’s the great Marty Taras’s animation you’re enjoying. Dave Tendlar had a very high regard for Marty’s work.

    • Thanks Mark for identifying Marty Taras’ work. That animation has so much work put into it and he achieves wonderfully subtle nuances. The cartoon suddenly comes alive when his work begins.

  • Hard to knock the directorial decisions taken with regard to the storyboard, with either the decisions to keep or augment. I think the stage of a director or layout artist altering a storyboard in terms of staging doesn’t really happen to this extent anymore. The storyboard is good in hitting the major points and the direction is good in making sure the details are coherently presented. The comparison in which she is taking the vitamin is a good example.

  • I’m glad that a full set of Noveltoons is at least being investigated. These have always been some of my favorites.

  • I remember a lot of the Noveltoons from a Sunday(?) afternoon broadcast on ABC in the late fifties, early 60s, maybe part of that Matty’s Funday Funnies. They certainly hold up better than Terrytoons.

    • People certainly pick their favorite studios that way.

  • Someone at Famous Studios, circa 1949: “Hey, that ‘Quack-a-Doodle-Doo’ cartoon turned out so well that we need to remake it once or twice a year, every year, for the next ten years!”

  • Yes. I always wondered where those old 35mm transfers, that would appear on PD tapes, came from?

  • Jerry Beck – I grew up with many Famous Studios cartoons as a kid. They were poor quality and splicey. I would love to see all these cartoons in their orginal form. By the way, did you pay attention to the 35mm Technicolor Herman and Katnip Prints that were on ebay last christmas?

  • By any chance was that Jack Mercer doing the voice of the fox? The character’s voice takes on a Popeye-like raspy quality in some scenes. Strange they didn’t use Jackson Beck.

  • This cartoon actually appeared in the new Walking Dead episode 9×15! I won’t spoil the show for those who haven’t seen it but it uses the Baby Huey ripping the fox’s face off gag in an eerie way related to the plot. Pretty interesting, actually.

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