After school finishes, I usually dive pretty full-throated into the Thunderbean stuff. This summer, even with the current challenges, isn’t any different in that sense. The hardest thing is that nearly every resource is affected with our current worldwide pandemic.
For the last handful of weeks, I’ve been working on finishing touches on a project for Tommy Stathes as well as Arnold Liebovit’s new Puppetoons V.2 set. These are both exciting releases that you’ll be hearing about sooner than later- and both are nearly completed. I hope to have my work on them both done over the weekend if possible.
Besides the above, back on the Thunderbean side of things, The Rainbow Parade and Popeye project are taking most of the time right now. Popeye is waiting for three commercials and one more film to be scanned and a few other extras. I’m hoping to finish the master next week if that is possible. Rainbow is waiting for us to get through animating the main menu. It features various characters from the shorts on the set doing a little bit of business before jumping back into the clouds. I’m happy to finally have a chance to work closely with the animators and assistants on the sequences for this, and hope we can get them all done by early June.
Two of my usual scan places are closed (one from the operator not being able to come in, the other because the border to Canada is closed) so I’m waiting for one other place to scan things. It’s been three weeks so far! I’ve been looking into buying a telecine just to move things forward that otherwise won’t be anytime soon. Luckily, many of the projects that are further along have most things already scanned- but I’m more than frustrated to not be able to get others all scanned right now.
Projects are not in any short supply here right now, and, on each, I really enjoy a deep dive at some point in the process— but currently I’m really doing a whole series of momentary dives into a bunch of different swimming pools of varying depth. Most of the projects have a fairly small ‘deep end’, except for Flip the Frog- and doing it right requires more time than I ever thought it would.
TODAY: From Best to Worst: Working with the Materials That Exist (or you have) of Classic Animated Films
I thought I’d pull a few examples from projects to demonstrate some of the issues involved in trying to make the best versions of these things possible- or at least the best that can be made from the materials we know exist. The extra mile is worth taking on many of these projects, because who knows when they’ll be revisited again!
It’s always a wonderful thing when a whole film exists in a complete, beautiful master. Sometimes you get that lucky on the things we work on, but frequently they require, much, much more work— if you want to do them as right as you possibly can. Our goal is to make them as close to a good ‘original’ presentation as possible- as complete as possible. On Flip, it’s amazing to see how *many* versions of each film exist. On one (The Circus) I’ve seem no less than four different cuts of one sequence, with each missing different footage!
Here’s a few examples of this sort of thing:
Ub Iwerks’ Play Ball (1933) starring Willie Whopper, was a real mess to try and clean up. The master material (at UCLA) only existed in a partial 35mm dupe neg made from a nitrate master positive that was suffering from the ravages of nitrate decomposition. Luckily, I was able to borrow two prints of the film owned by Mark Kausler and Tommy Stathes. Each were very good in different places of the film. Between these and my own print, I was able to find the best ones to use for the areas that were not in good shape on the 35mm. David Grauman did an excellent job finishing off the cleanup and edit for our final version. Here are some pieces of the decomposing 35mm and the final. Luckily, the master positive track, although overmodualted a little, existed in fine shape.
This small section from the Flip the Frog cartoon The Goal Rush was missing from many prints, including all the master materials at UCLA. My hawk-eyed collaborator David Gerstein spotted a British print for sale in 16mm, and, luckily, it contained the short piece of footage missing from all the other material. Why it was missing we’re probably never know- what was more surprising to me is that the racial stereotype *wasn’t* missing from any of them! Here’s the current version of this area, not quite matched perfectly (where the edges change is the extra footage). We’ll tweak it some more for the final I’m sure:
Here’s one we’re dealing with currently: The Flip the Frog short Coo Coo the Magician (1933). At this point, we’ve scanned three prints of it: 2 in 16mm and one in 35mm. We were excited to see the 35mm, and once it showed up I was happy to hand it off for Thad Komorowski, a member of the restoration team on the project, to clean up digitally. He noticed immediately that the print was missing a bunch of footage! As we approach the final films to be scanned for the set, each one has a major problem. The debate now on this one is whether to scan the other know 35mm incomplete print at one of the archives, or do a patchwork job of melding the three versions we have to use the best footage of each. There is one other known print that has footage at the beginning and end missing from every other version. We hope to scan that additionally to finish off this title. Here’s a little piece of each of those prints for a few sequences. What print would *you* use for each?
More on this subject in coming soon. I thought it might be fun to show how an edit is put together on things like this as well.
Have a good week everyone!