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!
It’s so incredible to see these series coming to Blu-ray. I never would have expected it to happen. I was thrilled years ago just to get a few Flips on VHS from Bosko Video.
We can always be assured that Thunderbean will do the best job possible, so these are certainly must buys.
Great Thunderbean Thursday!
Agreed! Even the 16mm Cubby scans (I actually love those cartoons) look great. The cover art looks fabulous! I’m half through the Willie set, these will be added to the shelf for sure.
Speaking of sets that take a long time, Steve – are we ever going to see final pressed discs for last year’s Van Beuren collection?
Awesome! I know you’ll do a great job on Flip. Can’t wait to see the final set!
By the way, Steve, do you offer replacement discs for any of your sets? When I got my Willie Whopper set, the DVD was scratched pretty bad.
Wow…who would of known that Flip the Frog was MGM’s first animated superstar! Too bad Ted Turner didn’t air the Flip the Frog cartoons as part of Cartoon Network’s Late Night in Black and White when he owned both Cartoon Network and the MGM animation library.
Regular readers of this website, Cartoon Research, would long know of Flip being released by MGM (and Bigg3469, I highly recommend you read the book Of Mice and Magic for the basics of Hollywood cartoon history).
Ted Turner didn’t (or couldn’t) air Flip on Cartoon Network because MGM did not retain the rights to the cartoons. Iwerks was an independent producer releasing through MGM (similar to the deal Hal Roach had).
so will the new Cubby Bear set be a DVD or a DVD/ Blu-Ray combo set ?
Great news on the upcoming sets!
Though I’m sorry to hear that most of the Cubby’s will come from 16mm prints. While I know they can still look pretty darn nice, I’m afraid of cropped edges I’ve noticed with a lot of 16mm prints. (Heck, I’ve noticed cropped edges on major studio releases!)
Loved your recent sets that presented us with the whole image!
So people once accused you of only enjoying the release of “bad looking public domain cartoons”, eh?
I was intrigued from the beginning with the CUBBY BEAR cartoons. There’s a lot of life in these cartoons, and I’m hoping there is indeed improved quality to be found in these films with their transfer to Blu-ray, sometimes from better stock. In fact, wasn’t there a CUBBY BEAR with assistance from Hugh Harman or Rudolph Ising or both? I would also ask whether or not *BOTH* the CUBBY BEAR and FLIP THE FROG sets will be DVD/Blu-ray combos. That would sure be nice, although I’m more sold on Blu-ray than ever before after comparing the quality of sound on the WILLIE WHOPPER set. The combos are nice, though, because those folks still stuck on DVD can enjoy the great stuff either way and, perhaps, seeing the quality on standard DVD will sway them to want to look at the improvements on Blu-ray; just a thought. Either way, you *KNOW* I can’t wait for both these sets, and it will be nice to see the CUBBY BEAR set back in print; any commentaries? Are ya listenin’, Mark Kausler, huh? Not to take anything away from Jerry Beck, but Mark knows his animators and probably could discuss technique in ways that even a blind man like myself could understand!
Regardless, man, I want these *NOW*! I’d go the extra distance and swear that it is imperative that these great 1930’s films be preserved now before we lose any of them to time. I wish Warner Brothers, MGM, Paramount/Famous, Paul Terry Studios archives and even the company that owns “Q. T. HUSH” and “COURAGEOUS CAT” would allow *YOU* take charge in full and complete restoration! Each new day that goes by means further deterioration, because no one wants to spend the money to do the job right! It is necessary that all this be done well, even if DVD sales is not the ultimate goal. Wouldn’t you all like to see these premiered in theaters looking as stunning as folks saw them back in their day? You’d be crazy if you don’t all respond favorably to that one!!
“In fact, wasn’t there a CUBBY BEAR with assistance from Hugh Harman or Rudolph Ising or both?”
I’m hoping Flip (and maybe the ComiColor series down the road?) follows Willie’s lead with the Blu-ray/DVD combo and the fun jelly jar collectible!
That frame with the white card that reads “Flips Lunch Room” (below the actual title card for that cartoon) -is that taken from the leader (the bit of film before the actual starting frame)? The graphics and things that used to be put on leaders was a source of fascination for me in my AV-geek days in school.
I’m sure that’s what it is, possibly the head leader to the film.
Excited about the Flip the Frog set! I’m droolin’ already!
I’m well aware on the scarcity of some of the Cubby materials. Nevertheless, the new upgrades that I’ve seen (especially on OPENING NIGHT) have been wonderful! (I wonder what that original neg at the LoC could be…?)
It’s always great to see another update on your projects. I am so pleased to be able to see these rare films. And you always present them in the best possible condition. Thanks again for the update!
All these releases are amazing, I will snap them up as always.Keep ’em coming!