Im sitting here, after a whole day of attempting to sit here, evaluating cleanups on Flip the Frog cartoons. On my mind are the many, many fixes. The newest: my good friend David Gerstein had a British 16mm print sent to me of one of the shorts and asked me to compare it to the fine grain scan; I did, and to my surprise, it had one extra shot in it that’s missing from the 35mm material!
Now I have to debate to look at all the other 35 materials not the film (at UCLA) in search of that single shot or pull that one shot from the fairly good 16mm print. Oddly enough, there doesnt seem to be *any* reason this shot would be missing from the fine grain – perhaps it was just because of damage to the original material at some point. There’s no neg on that one and no original release fine grain (just a 1942 Powers reissue).
The Flip project is *full* of things like that – little cuts, a missing piece from this one or another, a soundtrack that’s different in three versions, a fine grain that looks better in some shots and worse in others. Perhaps this little series of cartoons suffers from more cuts that any other, but I could be wrong. The fascinating thing to me is that, with some detective work (and, honestly, more than a little help from my good cartoon friends) its pretty possible to identify what versions different folks have seen- and what seems to exist and what doesnt. First world problems.
I cant spend too much time on them tonight, because the master for Fleischer Rarities needs to be finished sooner than later- and its so close now that I just want to spend all the time on it. The extras have to be finished, but most of the films now look really good (or as good as they will look for now!).
This whole summer at Thunderbean has been an attempt to get all of the projects done *well* as quickly as possible. The hard thing is that theres always something right now that needs more attention: Friday Ill be working with the Blu-mouse Studio folks on a Blu-ray upgrade of Grotesqueries, a really neat Blu-ray upgrade to the set that was out on DVD years back. Ive felt bad that I havent been able to spend much time on it until now.
While Flip continues to be the major project in progress right now, more scans are in process on so many things, and cleanup is going quite well. Im hoping to expand the freelancers working on cleanup in the coming weeks and look forward to less on the table at the same time!
On The Cartoon Front:
I was surprised today to see I’ve never written about one of my favorite Columbia Rhapsodies, Lets Go! (1937). It was one of the first of the series I ever saw – part of a big reel of super beat up 16mm Technicolor prints I bought from an ad in the Big Reel. That reel was $100, and I remember spending basically my whole paycheck on it in High School (I was working at Chuck E. Cheeses, spending days being shocked while fixing the Skee-Ball machines in-between having to dress up in the giant rat costume). I was thrilled to have a reel of IB Columbia’s. Many years later (in the very early days of Ebay) someone put the print you see here up, and the auction ended at 7 in the morning on a Sunday. There was no sniping in those early days, so I got up and happily won the print for more than I had paid for the whole reel this many years earlier. It was a fantastic print; an excellent example of how nice IB Tech looks in 50s reprints of 30s cartoons!
As for the cartoon itself: it shares a kinship with Van Beurens Sunshine Makers in its war imagery to remake and fix depression – but the Glooms in Sunshine Makers dont want their culture destroyed. Thinking about ‘Sunshine’, I always feel bad for the glooms, especially since the sunshine milk seems to have both a physical and a mental effect and has wiped out anything good or bad about their original culture. I wonder if the history books in ‘Gloom land’ blame the Sunshine Makers or Ted Eshbaugh directly.
Lets Go is, of course, a take on the Aesops Fable The Grasshopper and the Ants, with Bees as the productive characters. A down and out Grasshopper sings and plays his violin, describing his sad circumstances about the grips of the depression, leading to a montage of how truly bad things are in the grasshopper town. Moved to a single tear, the Queen bee immediately rallies the bee-soldiers, who march in a typical Ben Harrison parade before they gather honey bombs to bombard the ghetto, transforming everything with their aerial assault. Not only are their lives improved by the wealth the honey seems to have created magically, but when they are hit directly with the stuff, it makes them seriously productive, changing their attitudes and giving them super-grasshopper energy, so much so that they are able to plant whole fields in seconds, and build a full town of art-deco skyscrapers before the bees can even finish the bombing.
Clearly there is a strong NRA (National Recovery Administration) message in the film, and, interestingly, theres more than a subtle suggestion that the grasshoppers here are African-American, in both design of the characters and the settings. I always enjoy showing this in the history of animation class I teach. Of course, there are two major messages in this film: The first is that changing your attitude toward the depression will somehow be a major catalyst for improving the economy, and the second being that magic honey will drop from the sky, along with picnic baskets featuring still piping hot roast chicken.
Considering how small Grasshoppers and Bees are, I wonder exactly *what* that roast chicken really is. Other than wanting to help and dropping food and honey-bombs,the Bee’s don’t have any real interaction with the Grasshoppers as they radically change their surroundings; that seems to me a strange idea since its all about helping poverty and giving the grasshoppers a leg-up.
I wont read further into the politics here – its seven minutes of entertainment that was, honestly, meant to be forgotten along with almost all the other films in the months following its theatrical showing; the thought that the next generation will see it was, at best, a small one. In some ways, its nice to leave this film at face value – but if you’re interested in further analysis, it can be a historically fascinating document.
By sure to watch it in HD if your computer is fast enough. Have a good week everyone!