When it comes to lost cartoons we tend to look at the silent era – where over 50% of all animation produced are gone due to neglect, oversight or nitrate deterioration. The sound era (since 1930) have a better track record of existing, thanks to the general popularity of cartoons and their immediate value in the after-market (for sale as home movies and concurrent non-theatrical distribution to schools, hospitals, churches and military bases – and later television syndication).
That there are any lost sound cartoons is a mystery to me. Especially cartoons from major studios, with large libraries that sold to television in the 1950s. Every title was another piece of gold. How could any studio intentionally omit a film from broadcast availability?
We can certainly understand why many 1930s-40s cartoons were later withheld from television showings (wartime shorts and films with drinking, drug use and racial stereotypes in particular). But there were other reasons why historians find holes in certain cartoon filmographies – including the fact that some films actually, somehow, got lost.
Let’s take Terrytoons for example – There must be two dozen from that studio that have never re-materialized since their original release. For this post, I’m concentrating on a particular group produced between 1938 and 1942 that apparently were never included in the CBS TV package. Not part of Barker Bill or The Farmer Alfala Show. The good news is that their negatives do exist (at the UCLA Film and Television Archives). And two or three of these have shown up in 16mm amongst film collectors (with their original titles – indicating that these were part of the non-theatrical track when they were first produced).
There were some early-talkie Terrytoons that were left out of the original TV package for reasons we can’t yet determine – and several color shorts during the war years that were removed due to vicious wartime stereotypes – all of them equally rare. Of the eleven we focus on in this post, ten seem to have been intentionally omitted for broadcast purposes for essentially the same reason: they were remade in later years in color; the color version being a virtual remake – and thereby replacing the original entirely.
Remaking earlier black and white Terrytoons was not uncommon for the studio in the late 1940s early 50s. Our Wednesday columnist, Charles Gardner, had previously written about this on this blog:
…a few closely parallel pairs still exist in the vaults. “The Last Indian” (1938) was remade shot for shot (including reuse of the original Dayton Allen soundtrack) as “The Wooden Indian” (1949) – with the exception of an extended sequence in the original using the animated Indian in a car run amuck careening through rear-production footage of a live-action thoroughfare – they couldn’t figure out how to redraw it in color, so they wrote a new ending sequence. “Mrs. Jones Rest Farm” (1949) reuses most of the footage from Farmer Al Falfa’s 1937 “Pink Elephants”. “The Covered Pushcart” (1949) recasts Gandy Goose and Sourpuss in the role of Farmer Al Falfa for a substantial shot-fot-shot refilming of “Trailer Life” (1937). “Mighty Mouse Meets Bad Bill Bunion” (1945) reuses substantial footage and a production number from “The Golden West” (1939). And the second half of “Dear Old Switzerland” (1944) is a digest version of “Swiss Ski Yodelers” (1940). I believe both versions of the film called “The Snow Man” (1940 and 1946) may also share footage (though the internet has everything loused up to compare this one, repeatedly misattributing the 1930’s Ted Eshbaugh film as the 1940 Terrytoon). While Gandy Goose’s “Spring Fever” (1951) uses no actual animation from its predecessor, it is basically a shot for shot modernization of 1938’s “Gandy the Goose”, the character’s premiere.
So here are the missing 11 – the black and white originals discarded after being remade in color. Links to the color remake appear below.
Eliza Rides Again – 1938 (reworked as Eliza On Ice with Mighty Mouse in 1944)
The Stranger Rides Again – 1938 (remade as The Mysterious Cowboy in 1952)
Village Blacksmith – 1938 (remade as Time Gallops On in 1952)
The Old Fire Horse – 1939 (remade as Smokey Joe in 1945)
Professor Offkeyski – 1940 (remade as One Note Tony in 1947)
Happy Haunting Grounds – 1940 (remade as Seeing Ghosts in 1948)
The Baby Seal – 1941 (remade in 1952 as Flipper Frolics)
UPDATE (9/24/21): The Baby Seal has shown up as a 16mm Barker Bill print on ebay!
The Magic Shell – 1941 (refilmed in 1952 as Seaside Adventure)
Good Old Irish Tunes (Gandy) – 1941 (remade as Songs Of Erin in 1951)
Funny Bunny Business – 1942 (remade as Hounding The Hares in 1948)
The Outpost – 1942 (this black and white Gandy Goose was not remade per se – but several more cartoons featuring Gandy & Sourpuss versus the Japanese enemy were subsequently produced in Technicolor – and several of those have also been forever banned from reissue)
(Special thanks to Charles Gardner, Milton Knight and Strummer Cash Petersen for their invaluable assistance in assembling this post)