April 1, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Happy April Fools Day! (with Tom & Jerry in “Tightrope Tricks”)

The cast of Van Beuren characters by Milton Knight.

We’re not foolin’ anyone today – but since it’s in the name of the day, here’s one cartoon I love that I’d be foolish not to share here.

My absolute favorite ‘media’ prank is related to preservation. A wonderful story about preserving ‘today’s’ music: Shallac, the sound of the future.

The story details preservationists at the Library of Congress diligently working to preserve everything on one format – 10” shellac 78s! The four minute story is playable, labeled ‘4-Minute Listen’.

And, briefly in Thunderbean news:

All the pieces are coming together on Rainbow Parades, v1 right now, from the new cover to the booklet to the animated titles. I’ll have more details in the next week to share as it gets ready to head to replication. It’s been a journey. More on this coming right up really soon.

I’ll stay away from the current on deck projects and return to a slightly earlier time instead.

And now… today’s cartoon! Tight Rope Tricks (1933)

I’ve always liked this one for the appealing drawing and music, first viewed by this writer in a very incomplete print bought from dealer Frank Bueno around 1983. A little animation is borrowed from earlier Circus pictures (including Circus Capers (1930)). Jerry’s large eyes are especially cute in some shots, and the composition and layout continue to take steps forward from earlier efforts. As usual, the studio manages to sneak a gag into the film that would be less-noticed: Tom, in changing into tights, removes his clothes, revealing a bra/ swimsuit on his upper half! Margie Hines gives a fun performance singing ‘I’ll get by with a twinkle in my eye’- sung by a Book-esque doll-eyed tightrope walker. It’s a nice diversion and must have sat proudly in front of a western, or crime drama, or some sort of other low-budget RKO film along with other selected shorts. You never know though- maybe it was shown with ‘King Kong’ somewhere.

I really do wish that HD had been around earlier; I wouldn’t have the inkling of redoing things we’ve already done, but since Blu-rays look so nice, it’s just needed- although I often hear from people I’ve borrowed these from before “why do this one again!”. The one saving grace is that I’m really trying to get the absolute best of any one thing that I can this time around. But— that said, having a softer print didn’t matter as much in standard definition.

Having mostly 16mm material for the Van Beuren Tom and Jerry cartoons can make it a little harder to get the best version. Official Films prints are the only copies around of some titles, and they’re all over the place in terms of quality; sometimes you get a direct print-down from 35mm (and those are usually sharper)-but many other times you get a 16mm print that was made from a 16mm contact negative. Those are sometimes great, but often softer than the print downs. Finding the best copies becomes a bit of a crap shoot. Then again, I like this particular crap game and usually come out without a barrel!

HD has made us much more aware of trying to find the absolute sharpest prints where they exist for the Blu-rays. With the Cubby Bears, the Official films copies could sometimes be amazingly good, and often not. I gathered something like six prints of Gay Gaucho looking for the best one I could find since I remembered having an absolutely sharp one years earlier. Since that’s a pretty common title, it was possible over a year or more to keep buying additional prints. I still have 3 or four here and borrowed others as well.

So – for Tight Rope Tricks, we’ve scanned two prints so far- and both those prints have been here a while. I’ll be looking for silent prints of all the Official ones with an eye on finding super-sharp prints for each. Funny enough, the silent prints of those are sometimes in the best condition since they were generally not part of a rental library or shown as much. While I think this print is pretty acceptable, we’ll still go further and scan again if we find a sharper one soon enough.

Official had six of the 26 cartoons in the series: Jolly Fish, Barnyard Bunk, Tight Rope Tricks, Happy Hoboes, Puzzled Pals and Hook & Ladder Hokum. We have great material on Happy Hoboes and Barnyard Bunk now, lessor so on others. We recently borrowed a vinegar print of Hook and Ladder Hokum that’s sharper than the scan we have, but it’s hard to say how it will scan.

Anyway, enjoy some HD Tom and Jerry in this 2k scan- and have a good week everyone!


  • That NPR piece is funny, but then it’s funny what some people will believe. I remember about 30 years ago, a guy on community radio used to tell listeners not to buy CDs because, he said, they’d deteriorate and fall apart within a few years. Vinyl was the only way to go, he said, because it lasted forever. One local band fell for his line and released a 45 single to sell at their gigs in the early nineties. I think they had to go all the way to Mexico to find an outfit that would press them. Nobody bought the records, just laughed at the very idea. Some of the guys in my band offered to take the records off their hands, to shoot skeet with.

    “Tight Rope Tricks” is a Tom & Jerry cartoon that I don’t watch very often, but it’s quite fun. That was Jim Tyer who animated all the lions, wasn’t it? I find the twinkle-eyed acrobat’s ovate face strangely attractive, and very appropriate for this time of year. Happy Holy Thunderbean Thursday, everybody!

  • Thanks Steve. I’d never seen TRT before. It’s a good’un.

    The “twinkle eyes” Paul refers to looks more like the precursor to anime.

    But dem legs…

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