November 8, 2018 posted by Steve Stanchfield

“Hallowe’en” (1931) with Toby the Pup!

First, in Thunderbean Blu-ray and DVD news:

Thunderbean land is humming forward here, with more things happening and getting closer to the finish lines each day. I’m looking forward to trying to get as many things to the door here as possible right now, and that’s already started happening. I’ll be keeping folks updated here on the things getting finished as they come. I’m getting heavy requests for some of the older titles as well right now; most will stay retired for the time being. More complete news next week!

The Toby the Pup cartoons have been high on my list of wants ever since I saw an article by Jerry Beck in Movie Collector’s World (back in 1981!). For a while, the only available short was The Museum (1930) in a very incomplete print (but still much fun) from the Library of Congress. A few others had shown up over the years, mostly in archives. Hope springs eternal for many more to show up, but at the moment other titles have proven at least semi-elusive.

We (Snappy Video) released a copy of The Museum in 1988 as part of the first ‘Cultoons’ set on VHS. This is the title card we made back then for the set, drawn by Mary Dixon. The print was a dupe of a reduction of the film, borrowed from a friend. That version (from the VHS) ended up being part of many PD cartoon DVDs. One company sold it (with our title and everything) to many public domain companies.

I made a deal a little while back to trade some Thunderbean materials to acquire some of the Tobys in HD, and have since done some work on those titles. Since more are not available as of yet, the best collection of the Tobys in one place is Inkwell Images ‘Toby the Pup’ set, featuring this cartoon and all the others that are currently available. This set is noteworthy in that it features really great commentaries by Mark Kausler, a sort of ‘Toby’ fireside chat.

Hallowe’en (1931) is my favorite of the currently available shorts. It feels like several cartoons sort of wrapped into one.

Toby’s behavior is reprehensible at the beginning of the short, kissing everyone and assaulting a friendly looking elephant before being slapped into shame and respect by his girlfriend. His attempt to redeem himself by playing the piano and performing inside a pumpkin seems to win over his all-animal audience, before ‘Hell’s Bells’ send all the guests into a state of fear at the impending ghost and Skeleton invasion. Any and all story sense in thrown out the window in this final section, and, in best Fleischer tradition, that’s a *good* thing. There appears to be a small section missing from the short near the end, leaving us to wonder what gag was excised.

This cartoon is a fitting predecessor to the ‘Scrappy’ shorts, featuring the unmistakable Columbia-esque animals (looking very much like they do in the Krazy Kat shorts from the same period). Even though the cartoon makes very little sense story-wise, it doesn’t really need to; the animation timing and posing puts over the gags just fine. Columbia’s abilities as a studio seem to take pretty big leaps during this period, especially in character personalty and gag timing. I especially enjoy the cartoons that Dick Huemer directed at Columbia through the early 30s.

The cartoon is also unusual in that, near the end, it features the earliest ‘smear’ frame I’ve seen in a sound cartoon, in the sequential frames below. I find the timing of this particular animation in that shot and this film) really fun and interesting:

So, here is ‘Hallowe’en’, late, but better late than never. It is featured on the *almost* done ‘Grotesqueries’ Blu-ray, from Thunderbean and Blue Mouse Studios. We’ve digitally cleaned up the material especially for this set. Here’s the premiere of this ‘almost’ finished version (special thanks to David Gerstein for his help with recreating the title cards). Grotesqueries will be available very soon! Have a good week everyone!


  • Man, that Toby ‘Hallowe’en’ is looking good! Nice one Steve ( & the Blue Mousers also ).
    And no doubt ‘Grotesqueries’ wil be another cracker of a set.

  • The Toby cards likely opened and ended with an iris. This was standard on basically every single theatrical Mintz sound film, down to the start of the Screen Gems era.

    • Jackson, I’ve seen two with intact original titles, and at least those simply fade in and out—no iris. Maybe RKO (the distributor) asked the Mintz studio to handle them differently than the pictures they were making for Columbia.

    • Gerstein: Have you seen a nitrate element of ‘Yelp Wanted’? As far as I know, that Scrappy also includes a fade out at the end of the titles instead of the usual standard iris, as far as I can see on known television elements that cut off to the main card.

      You could be right on your hypothesis; but it could be simply that the titles were done differently because there was a change in production/equipment somewhere else that led to an evaluation of the title card layout; I have noticed this in Disney titles. For example, ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man’, the first Mickey title I know with the final black and white headshot, also is the first to incorporate the blurb for Victor instead of referring to Photophone.

      To be slightly off topic but to prove my point, I’m going to go to the Mickey Mouse cartoons; the reintroduction of the “flash” as seen in the Celebrity shorts and the introduction of the lighter background on the opening title cards in the Columbia shorts likely dates to the first Disney title to switch to 1:375:1 from Movietone aperture; likely ‘The Chain Gang’. A photo of the cel photography room from 1930 shows that ‘The Gorilla Mystery’ is the earliest title I know of to feature the lighter background without having access to a nitrate element; it’s a low resolution shot, but I can make out that there is one big word spelled out entirely over the area where the name would be put in; perhaps it’s “gorilla”?

      The new ending card to replace the old “googly eyes” Mickey and Minnie drawings likely dates to when Disney incorporated the license Bray-Hurd patent blurb into their shorts.

  • “by Dick Huemor and Sid Marcus, in collaboration with Art Davis”. Is that what the original title card would have said?

    • John, I’ve seen two with original titles, and they both ran with this credit. In creating the fake cards for Steve’s version of HALLOWE’EN (so punctuated on many early booking listings), I used frames from UCLA’s print of CIRCUS TIME, which were snapped for me there in 2009.

  • It seems like the Scrappys, the Huemer-Marcus-Davis team tagged their scenes throughout the film. Dick Huemer animates the opening scenes, while Sid Marcus does much of the piano sequences (with Pervis the Goat). I believe Art Davis handles the scenes of the witches and gnomes, with Dick Huemer animating Toby fighting the ghosts right up to the end.

  • Is this cartoon going to be featured in a different column each week now? XD

  • Thanks for the nod about our TOBY THE PUP set, our first venture into Blu-Ray. The challenge here was two-fold. First, these cartoons seem to only exist in the French versions through the courtesy of Serge Bromberg at Lobster Films in Paris. We had made an arrangement ten years ago to acquire their collection and had been waiting for the soundtrack to THE MUSEUM to be married with the print. Because these were French prints, the original release title card art had been replaced with French language titles. Some amount of searching combined with the acquisition of CIRCUS TIME from UCLA, which was a domestic print, led us to a template for recreating the titles for the other cartoons. The other challenge was with the missing original “End” title, which was not on the UCLA print. As we were in the process of assembling, my assistant found it and did an amount of digital clean up on it.

    While the original Main Title was on CIRCUS TIME, title #2 had the RCA Photophone Sound logo “burned out” as displayed in the clip above. I was able to correct this in our release. But then there was the second challenge with the state of the prints.

    The prints were obviously well worn and censored, with sections removed, leaving bad, ugly splices. Once footage is removed, there is nothing that can be done but accept what survives with the understanding of what happened in the process. We also did an amount of digital clean up. But another challenge was the nature of the transfers.

    While what was sent on the Hard Drive was at High Def specs, the transfers tended to be a bit “hot.” Notice how the details on Toby’s face are soft, and the outlines a bit flat, lacking in the necessary contrast to make them pop. Not knowing the circumstances that affected the transfers, it is not entirely fair to criticize Lobster, who has a reputation for producing high quality film transfers. Accordingly, the gray range and contrast had to be compromised a bit.

    The unfortunate thing is that the original negatives were reported to have been buried at the order of Charles Mintz since the series failed to dethrone Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. All things considered, these orphaned cartoons have managed to survive, and here they are as they are.

  • Any chance of you reposting that high quality print of Halloween (1931) before or in time for the actual holiday?

  • For some reason the video is down. I reuploaded it here:

  • Ah, good old cartoon!

  • Actually, that link is down too! Here’s a reupload by me!

  • Thanks, Arthur! You’re the greatest!

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