This post is an update to my decades long search (and efforts) to restore the original titles the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. (Previous examples found are posted here and here).
As you all know, when Warner Bros. re-released their cartoons to theaters, years after their original release, they re-sold them to theaters as “Blue Ribbon” reissues – and promptly cut off the original opening titles and replaced them with updated but generic title art – sans the director/animator credits. Unfortunately they had cut these credits off the original film negatives! During the last 18 years I devoted my efforts to restoring these credits to the broadcast masters used on DVD and blu ray. Recently more original titles have been added by Warner Bros. for use on HBO-Max and Me-TV. Most of the original titles that we could find were luckily preserved on the studio’s nitrate vault prints – prints struck at the time of the cartoons original release, and stored either at the UCLA Film Archives or The Library of Congress.Sadly, not every original Warner Bros. cartoon title can be found. Some of these do exist on rare 16mm prints struck at the time of release for showings on military bases. Other 16mm prints were made for loaning to other studios or an occasional non-theatrical booking at that time. But the sad truth is that, unless some nitrate release prints emerge, some of the original title cards and credits may be lost forever.
Several weeks ago, I was alerted to check the Michael Maltese Papers at the University of Wyoming. Apparently there is a cache of Title and Credit Cels held there that Maltese kept from his days at Termite Terrace. Upon examination of the inventory listed on the website I called the Archive and requested scans of certain titles – cartoons that, at present, have no original 35mm film element for restoration. Here’s what I received.
Below are 13 cartoons which the original opening titles and credits are currently lost. These photographs and scans show that the original art is in very fragile shape. Cel paint is chipping off and the archive (or Maltese himself) sometimes mis-matched the credits and the background art. That said, I find it a miracle we can view any of these today. Here, feast your eyes on these:
The Cat’s Tale (1941)
Here is an example of the rough condition this material is in. Some of my requests were turned down because the condition of the celluloid and the chipping paint made these pieces untouchable.
Rhapsody In Rivets (1941)
The title cel was probably filmed over the same background used below for the credits. Note the credit for the “Vitaphone Symphony Orchestra”!
Double Chaser (1942)
The Squawkin’ Hawk (1942)
This material is in very poor shape…
The Sheepish Wolf (1942)
I’m not sure what this drawing – in the file for The Sheepish Wolf – was intended for. Any ideas?
My Favorite Duck (1942)
Here is the credits cel for My Favorite Duck – mis-matched with the original background art from the titles of Baseball Bugs
Pigs In A Polka (1943)
These Pigs In A Polka credits are in poor condition…
Flop Goes The Weasel (1943)
The Unbearable Bear (1943)
Hiss and Make Up (1943)
Fin ‘N’ Catty (1943)
From Hand To Mouse (1944)
Here is a true discovery: note the animation credit given to Ray Patin (!!!). This is Patin’s only credit during his brief time at Warner Bros. and the copyright catalog got it wrong! Perhaps Warner Bros. provided the wrong information in the first place, but copyright entry lists Robert Cannon for animation – and that was transposed into my book, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies (1989). Cannon did animate on the film – the opening and closing shots in particular – so him being credited isn’t a mistake. But poor Ray Patin’s been denied his WB acknowledgement for almost 80 years.
These titles are placed on that cloth doily (upside-down) used on the titles of Clampett’s Russian Rhapsody. Was this doily pattern used in both cartoons – or did Maltese or the Archive mis-match them?
Peck Up Your Troubles (1945)
The Paul Julian background art under the Freleng director credit was probably used under the title and credits cels as well.
These remaining Maltese scans were enclosed by mistake – but I’ll post them anyway. This first one is from The Wabbit Who Came To Supper (1942), the one below that is from Baseball Bugs (1945) – note how horribly faded the color is on the lettering on this one. All the more reason we continue to prioritize film preservation.
(Super-Thanks to Austin Kelly and Derek S. for bringing the Maltese Archive to my attention; extra-special thanks to both Andrea Ippoliti for help in identifying certain cels – and to Devon Baxter for additional research)
i can only write WOW WOW WOW
Great find! This fills in some gaps on missing screen credits from the reissued 1942-43 shorts. (Too bad Hop, Skip, and A Chump couldn’t be scanned) With some photoshop tinkering, some of these can be reconstructed for posterity. Who knows what other elements are out there.
Question: Why didn’t Warner Bros. just re-release all these cartoons with the original titles instead of using the “Blue Ribbon: gimmick? Was it because they were all from the Schlesinger days and there were legal reasons for not using his name, and also because some of the directors had left?
Blue Ribbons had started in 1943, before Schlesinger left or most of the other directors had.
I believe (but don’t quote me on this) it was something to do with concealing the fact these cartoons weren’t new as taking out the credits removed their copyright dates.
It’s heartbreaking to see these title cards in such poor condition, but we’re fortunate to be able to see them at all. It’s good to see Ray Patin get credit where it’s due — or in this case, long overdue.
The University of Wyoming also holds the papers of composer Eugene Poddany, covering his career in animation from 1942 to 1970. They include not only his own cartoon scores, but some by Carl Stalling, Paul Smith, and others. So that university’s collection clearly has much to interest cartoon researchers.
As for the drawing of that zoot-suited wolf, I can only think that the Elmer Blurt salesman from “Jungle Jitters” must be pursuing a sexy redheaded nightclub singer — I hope I hope I hope I hope!
“I’m not sure what this drawing – in the file for The Sheepish Wolf – was intended for. Any ideas?”
Could it have been an alternate title card design?
You might have your finger on something with that guess. That would explain why the drawing might be positioned where it is (with the credits to go to the left side), and the clear “posing” of the drawing (which is very nice, indeed).
Great day in the morning!
I’ll confess I’ve become very jaded about the state of the cartoons held by Warner Bros. lately. The continued unforced errors during the restoration process (photoshopped titles, lingering overuse of DVNR, etc.) and the looming possiblitiy that they will never be released in any comprehensive way on physical media left me feeling quite down.
This, however, was just what I needed. In spite of the poor condition of some of this, the fact that it still exists at all to give us another glimpse of what we lost to the Blue Ribbon program is mind-boggling.
Thank you, Mr. Beck. This gives me hope.
Interesting that the Screen Cartoonists Guild logo only appears in the 1943 titles. The Guild signed its first contract with Schlesinger just before the Disney strike in 1941; it lost jurisdiction to IATSE at Warner Bros. in late 1951-early 1952.
Very nice. If only we could get the title card music with these.
I’m surprised you didn’t know the Maltese collection was there. It’s been there for years. I think Brenda Maltese arranged for his archives to be placed there. (A side note: Jack Benny’s family got a better offer from Wyoming than UCLA so some of his material is there).
The only time I checked it out there was some years ago but I only found an index on-line. I didn’t see any graphics files. I guess I’ll have to look again. Thanks for posting these.
The Patin credit is a real find. I’ve noticed a couple of occasions when credits given in trade reviews are different than what’s on screen.
I knew about the Maltese collection being there – I just never had the time to go through it. And I certainly didn’t know about these title card cels. The moment I did – I took action!
Re, FROM HAND TO MOUSE: The original opening cue was “Hickory Dickory Dock,” based on Daniel Goldmark’s research – appropriate music for meeces.
The scenes of the mouse emerging from his hole, up to stamping the word “SUCKER” on the lion’s rear end (2:21-3:32) look like Patin’s animation – as an educated guess, it doesn’t look like any other Jones animator’s work I’ve seen in this era. The mouse disguised as a Native American and the African native, and lion noticing the gorilla (4:57-5:29) looks like Patin, as well. Two observations: it seems like Patin hadn’t fully gotten into the groove of the “Jones style” quite yet; the lion’s run is a little too smooth in the spacing, for instance. Another thing – I’m finding similar things in common with the drawing from a comic book story called “Fearless Farmsworth” which you can see in my write-up on Ray Patin. I’ve also noticed a real lack of Ken Harris animation in FROM HAND TO MOUSE – perhaps he was busy on another production?
How did you find out about Daniel’s music cue sheets? Did he share them with you?
The depredations caused by the “Blue Ribbon” titles have always been annoying, so to see all of this is very enjoyable. The titles to “Rhapsody in Rivets,” with its emphasis on the Vitaphone Symphony Orchestra, makes me wonder whether Freleng from the get-go was gunning for an Oscar — an Oscar he came fairly close to winning, since the cartoon was after all nominated. The “Peck Up Your Troubles” titles have that very distinctive font that a lot of WB cartoons of the mid-40s seemed to like to use. The titles for “The Sheepish Wolf,” I think, are quite attractive both in the image and the font design.
Hats off to all those responsible. Another tiny piece falls back into place.
Love the elegant lettering on many of these titles… Paul Julian’s work? Interesting to see that the IATSE and SCG bugs were pre-printed and glued onto the cels, but the MPPDA logo was either pre-printed or drawn anew.
Thank you for sharing these, Jerry – what a find!!!
Wow! Thanks Jerry!
Sheepish Wolf and My Favorite Duck are especially eye-popping.
“Recently more original titles have been added by Warner Bros. for use on HBO-Max and Me-TV.” I’ve been out of touch; does this mean that restoration efforts are still ongoing at Warner? (I don’t have cable.) Are these cartoons previously released to home video, or are they new restorations?
I’ll reiterate the often-asked question: has there ever been a definitive rationale as to why WB handled reissues as they did? MGM did similar, sometimes creating new title/credit backgrounds. Seems it woulda been simpler and cheaper to just tack on a brief graphic in front of the cartoon (“A WB Blue Ribbon”) and let the short run unaltered.
But, nahhhh… that makes too much sense.
Man is it always weird to see “Rudy Larriva” on titles from the early 40s, because I always associate that name with the 60s era.
Amazing finds, but very unfortunate to see the title artwork in such bad shape.
Thank you Jerry Beck!
Glad I could help out, Jerry! I’m as big a title fanatic as anyone–that’s why I made the Blue Ribbon Blues site in the first place–so I’m glad to have played a role in this.
Now that I’m here…gather round, boys and girls, and lemme tell you the story of how this even came to be…
While I was doing some research for the then-incomplete Title Card Checklist, my brain had somehow conjured up the sentence “Michael Maltese collection.” Intrigued by this strange yet plausible combination of words, I googled it just to see if anything of interest would pop up. Sure enough, I found a scan of The Haunted Mouse’s title card, one link went to another, and I found myself at the college’s inventory. I felt like a child peeking at a candy store, but without a farthing to buy anything. So many lost title cards! My Favorite Duck! The Sheepish Wolf! I had alerted pretty much every single one of my friends–which was a stupid idea, in hindsight, but can you blame me? I was estatic! Because I was rather sheepish to contact a college, Austin went and did it for me.
We then learned that we could get any image we wanted…but each image costed 15 bucks. None of us had any money, so we had no idea what to do. However, literally NONE OF US ever anticipated Jerry going and funding the whole thing. A few days later Austin managed to get some dough, just enough for one. He had been talking with Jerry for a while, and Jerry suggested he buy Double Chaser. Time staggered on, and sure enough, this college had what we wanted. Jerry was then convinced, and essentially bought the whole damn lot. We waited quite a while…until now.
Every year I seem to keep weaseling my way into something. First, it was the HBO Max restorations in 2020. Now, it’s this. Not that I’m complaining, of course. As I said, I am very happy to have played a role in discovering all this stuff, and hope to weasel my way into more huge discoveries in the future.
Keep “weaseling” Derrick!
Cartoon research ‘takes a village’ (to coin a phrase) – we all build upon the research of others. Thank you and Austin again for doing the ground work to confirm these existed. My role was simply to extract them – and provide a platform to present them to the community. Seeing these have made a lot of us happier today. Myself included!
You sir, are a absolute fucking mad lad. You deserve tons of respect along with the rest who pulled this off. Godspeed.
Thanks for sharing these, Jerry.
They’re really a sight to behold.
The only reason we’ve been seeing these
Is because you’ve rescued them all from the cold.
That is the background to Baseball Bugs, all right, but the credits belong to another film. Can’t read the certificate # but that will be the way to match it.
Dave, the titles affixed to the Baseball Bugs background are from My Favorite Duck (as I say above). The names match up with the names listed in the copyright catalog; and it was sent along with the other My Favorite Duck title card – they were both in the same My Favorite Duck file at the University archive.
Whoops, should have read it more closely
Re: the doily pattern.
It was used on “Russian Rhapsody” and “A Gruesome Twosome” (both Clampett cartoons but neither have a credit for Michael Maltese) so it’s possible it WAS used on “From Hand To Mouse” as well… maybe originally, since Clampett tended to ‘borrow’ things for his cartoons (re-used animation etc) and Maltese would have this because it was originally used in a production he contributed to. Just a thought.
Post of the year! Great stuff!
These are awesome! On some of the cels, it looks as if the IATSE and Screen Cartoonists logos were pasted on instead of inked like the MPAA logo.
This post takes me back to the blog you had years ago with the Original Titles as part. I was fascinated by those. Mostly we just whined about not having Fleischer Popeyes on DVD.
All of these title cards are stunning! Even if some aren’t in good condition. What matters the most is that they survived in some way, and that’s the best thing I could say.
My personal favorite is “The Sheepish Wolf”, I love the painting of that wolf, and I really like Friz Freleng wolves like with Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones cats.
I too like the Freleng wolves. Despite having unimaginative animation, Freleng’s character designs had a lot of comic appeal. Does anyone know who did his character designs in the 40s?
John — From what I can tell, Owen Fitzgerald did the character designs for The Sheepish Wolf.
Amazing what developments have been going on this decade with WB cartoons, maybe one day we’ll one see of these in action. Great work all around!!!
Was I the only impressionable kid who thought the Blue Ribbon title cards meant the cartoon had actually won some award?
That is what I always thought watching those back in the day. This one must be really good, because it won a Blue Ribbon!
Wow; wasn’t even aware Rudy Larriva once worked in the Jones unit. Makes it ironic how he took over the Roadrunner series when Jones left; and thus you would think it would be in good hands, but these are among the most hated films (though I never thought they were that bad).
This is great news! 🙂
Jerry, I wonder if it would be worthwhile to approach someone like TCM about doing a documentary on the Blue Ribbon issue (even a short/filler one) to play on their channel as a form of advertisement to make others aware, who may have knowledge of where more of the missing material may be.
If/when these titles are restored, I would love to see a program of these cartoons, perhaps at a future TCM Classic Film Festival, or an animation event.
Thanks for sharing this info!
Kinda curious on how some MGM cartoon titles are gonna look on cels
Fantastic, Jerry! Thank you!
I’m sure that many of these recently discovered titles sequences are a revelation, and I never completely give up hope that the scores will be discovered one day.
The late Hal Wilner took an interest in doing this and, had started the CARL W. STALLING PROJECT CD series, or at least I thought it was going to be a series. Thanks to him and others, we know that the music track for “THE GOOD EGG” is a reality, but whether or not the visual to go along with that is actually also a reality.
I was so hoping that “FIN ‘N’ CATTY” was going to show up, both the visuals and the music track, as this is a favorite of mine. Finding original prints on some of these cartoons sometimes gives us additional rare sequences throughout the cartoon itself, like the performance of “Ain’t We Got Fun” in “FIFTH COLUMN MOUSE” with all lyrics intact.
I could go on and on, but instead, I will only say “thank you” for all your continuing efforts to find all materials for cartoons from all studios.
An example of what the missing film elements are or were looking like…..the search goes on with fingers crossed……….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyHZuzwbbCs
The Ray Patin connection to the Jones unit makes sense for Ken Harris going to work for Patin during the ’50’s layoff.
“The Sheepish Wolf” is gorgeous!!
Thanks a lot, Mr. Beck
Didn’t I read somewhere that the “Blue Ribbon” series of re-releases were created by Leon Schlesinger as a cost-cutting scheme to stick in a few older cartoons to a generally unsuspecting film audience and that the title cards were re-filmed and credits deleted to shorten the film footage used on each re-release, to save oodles of money on each printing. I think the same scheme was used for the Columbia “Color Rhapsodies” series and studios such as Republic Pictures re-titled older films to trick audiences into thinking they were seeing something new! One of my dad’s favorite serials – THE PERILS OF NYOKA (1942) was re-issued a few years later as NYOKA AND THE TIGER MEN, for example.
I don’t know where you read all this – but its not as nefarious as you make it sound.
The more likely scenario is that the Blue Ribbon reissues started during the war, when the cartoon studio made less cartoons – as they were doing government films (and Private Snafu) – as a way to supplement the annual release schedule.
The success of re-releasing shorts, especially as the costs were minimal to prep a re-release, and the profits were much higher over new shorts, probably inspired Warner Bros. to continue the re-releases for years to come. Every other studio did it – Paramount, Columbia, MGM, even Terrytoons. It wasn’t a “trick” – audiences then were delighted with the re-runs – they had no VHS, DVD, streaming as we do today.
Oh – and most Republic, Columbia and Universal serials were reissued way into the early 1960s. It was all a normal part of doing business.
What I don’t understand is why the studios couldn’t re-release the cartoons with the original titles instead of throwing them out and replacing them with new, inferior titles.
It was probably to create some consistency with the contemporary releases, but making them distinct.
What a wonderful discovery! Gives one hope for the future. On Wikipedia they mention a group of Tex Avery pre-1940 cartoons where the titles were found, and some, like Fresh Fish and Cross Country Detours, have been shown on MeTV.
It’s amazing what one can discover. I was looking at some old 1980s Beta tapes, and found several cartoons with original rings, taped from local TV. Such as Easy Peckins, A Peck O’ Trouble, Weasel Stop, Tom Tom Tomcat. The station evidently had a large package, but all the 1940s toons had no discoveries. It does show some local stations probably had their 16mm prints pre-Blue Ribbon reissue.
In a Jim Backus/Thurston Howell III voice: “InCREDible!”
Does anybody know why Warner Bros. specifically kept the titles for “Mighty Hunters” but ditched everything else?
Has anybody ever expressed the opinion that the television series Hawaiian Eye was essentially the original early thirties Merrie Melodies format disguised as a private eye television series?
Amazing look at these lost title cards. I for one can’t be too sad. I am just so very very thankful a large part of these cartoons are being restored and that a good chunk of them are now available to view if you know where to look, even if they do have the Blue Ribbon Titles. It was Warner Brothers that did it themselves, so like it or not the ones in charge gave it a greenlight.
Still this is an amazing look at credits and title cards that will be gone forever pretty soon judging by the look of them. What I do have I am absolutely thrilled with. After decades of looking at such poor looking copies and to now be able to view a large part of them looking so amazing, I can’t be too sad. Would have been nicer if they had used duplicates and not cut the original negatives. Glad you are documenting and photographing these when available. I am enjoying what we do have, and I am thankful for it. Everyday I watch one, and they never fail to perk me up. I always start my day off with a laugh.