This week this space is devoted to an update and showing still frames on two projects in progress: Ub Iwerk’s Flip the Frog and Van Beuren Studio’s Cubby Bear. I also wanted to chat just a bit about why it’s important to preserve these things while we can.
I’ve been enjoying a little bit of down time here, sort of, at least away from any sort of heavy lifting on a project….but that’s starting to change. There are nine projects that are in some sort of progress right now, with a few starting toward full production. Over the past year or so, quite a few projects have had some work done on them as other projects were taking the lion’s share of the time. Even though it’s a bunch of work to get a title completed, it’s minor compared to the work put into each film in the first place. Some of these sets are in progress for years.
The archives serve as a good, safe place for these films, kept well in conditions to slow down the deterioration of both nitrate and acetate disintegration. A hope we have at Thunderbean is to produce and work on as many series and shorts from the golden era while as much of the original material still exists. I’ve seen films in my own collection starting to suffer from Vinegar Syndrome, and have even lost some, and have seen whole areas of some people’s collections being unwatchable and unusable. That’s what we’re up against, and while we’re lucky enough that so much is still in good shape, it’s clear that there will be a time in our lifetime where that is less true.
With the Willie Whopper set done, Flip is moving forward, The nitrate elements will be scanning soon, likely in New York if all goes well. The safety materials in 35mm were the focus of this last scan session. After taking a look at the material, I realize that they’ve raised more questions than being complete solutions. Most of what we just scanned were elements that didn’t exist in nitrate elements any more. Several of them *do* have nitrate elements, but it was unclear what generation these new materials were made from. Since we’re trying to get each film looking as good as possible, we’re trying to get each of them from the earliest generations as well as having the most complete versions. On some titles this will be way easier than others in that often the original camera negative exists as well as a fine grain (master positive), unedited with the MGM titles. I wish that was the case for all. After seeing these scans, I’m considering going back to several in their 16mm fine grains to do a comparison of quality and completeness. Happily though, most of the films have 35mm materials between UCLA and the Academy. The ones not in 35mm here have 35mm versions at archives in other parts of the world, so in the end we’ll have al the known 35mm sources to work with to compare. The fine grains in 16mm are often print downs from the 35mm master positives and look quite nice.
I’m just happy that there’s only 38 Flips!
Here are a bunch of frames from the current Flip scans; Click to enlarge!
And, onto the Cubby Bear project!
The second DVD release from Thunderbean was the The Complete Animated Adventures of Cubby Bear featuring cartoons from the Van Beuren Studios. I really like this little series, and am happy to be transferring a lot of really good prints in more recent times. While working on this set back then, I was accused on one of the forums of only liking ‘Ugly, Badly Produced cartoons”.
The original DVD was produced mainly on a little Blue iMac in my living room. All of the transfers on that set were actually pretty old, having been done in 1991 and 1992 for a VHS version. 3/4” broadcast masters were made back then, and even though those tapes held up ok. Wit’s clear that the older technology is nowhere near the standard needed these days with HD Televisions. Of course, back then, we also didn’t have the same capabilities in cleaning up the films digitally either. Since that release, more films have shown up with the original titles, and one Cubby has shown up in it’s original negative, at the Library of Congress.
There are 20 Cubbys, and we already have quite a few already cleaned up. We hope to have the blu-ray version done of the title in the early part of this year. Here is the cover, designed by artist Milton Knight.
Over the last few years, I’ve been transferring a few Cubbys here and there, and am starting to get the missing films to complete the set. Cubby hasn’t faired as well as Flip, with most of the films only existing in 16mm. Here are some stills from some of those transfers:
Have a great week everyone!