April 2, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Max Fleischer’s “Modeling” (1921)

I’m writing from what has now become the Thunderbean bunker, having brought home many of the basic things from the office for the ‘duration’, whenever that may be. With the archives and almost all available scanners closed, I’ve been reorganizing what projects can be worked on when. Happily there are things that can move forward, and I’ve been enjoying figuring that out in recent days. We’re continuing to work with our small, sheltered and scattered team, and I’m enjoying working closely on a few of the projects right now.

I saw an image of Koko the Clown earlier today, and I was thinking back about when I received a print of Modeling (1921) from a seller on Ebay, many years back. I had won that print along with another oddity, An Egyptian Gyp (1930). I think both prints from from a seller in Missouri who didn’t collect film but had found these reels in an estate sale. I love when stuff like this shows up.

Not knowing anything about nitrate, the seller had sent both films via media mail the day I won them, with my note to him arriving too late. Luckily they made it up here in one piece each, and their transportation remained intact as well. Both films looked as if they’d spent some time in a barn or some other less-than-clean storage area, with dust and dirt crusted onto one side of both reels.

A challenge!

Many years earlier, in the early 90s, I remember a bunch of films had been donated to the University of Michigan that had been stored in a barn for many years. They were all 35mm and mostly old IB Technicolor prints of musicals, with many crusted with dust, dirt and hay. Amazingly, most of that material was absolutely beautiful once it was cleaned up. The 35mm print of Rhapsody of Steel we used on Mid-Century Modern, Volume 2 was part of that collection. I’m sure you folks who collect film out there have seen your share of strangeness over the years too… please tell a story here if you have one!

While there was no hay in these cartoon reels, at first glance the possibility of intact coming out of either looked dubious at best. I was pretty worried about water damage when I first saw the actual condition of the reels, and I also felt they had been misrepresented (the seller took pictures of the better side of each reel if I’m remembering correctly). I was mad at first while gently cleaning the outside edges of Modeling. Both turned out to be in decent enough shape to scan after a little cleanup. There was a sprocket nick on one side of the sprockets of Modeling throughout that went into the picture slightly that happily didn’t tear further.

This print and a 35mm of A Swiss Trick were the first cartoons I scanned in HD. It wasn’t long after that the price on HD dropped signifigantly, allowing us to do everything in HD directly to quicktime files.

So, here’s that print of Modeling. This heavily Amber-tinted print is now nearly 100 years old, but Max Fleischer and a young Roland (Doc) Crandall are still very much alive on these frames. It’s a wonderful little short combining drawn and stop Motion clay animation with live action, and while not a perfect print, it sure looks nice in HD. We put this short on the “Fleischer Classics” blu-ray. Take a little break and enjoy!

Stay safe, everyone!


  • What a beautiful little gem!
    Thanks for sharing this.

  • I like the amber tinting. This is a very good print. I’ve seen several of the early Inkwell cartoons, but I don’t believe I’ve seen this one before. While I was watching Max Fleischer interacting with his animated creation, I thought it was interesting to note that both Fleischer and Walt Disney appeared in some of their early work as a cartoonist at a drawing board.

    • MODELING was included in MAX FLEISCHER’ FAMOUS OUT OF THE INKWELL Vol. 2 which was released 20 years ago, first on VHS and later in a two DVD set that continues to be our biggest seller. I have ever since been searching for the remaining 40 titles. While I’ve had a number of them transferred, the print sources are not quite up to expected standards. This is a major problem in going to Blu-ray.

    • Hopefully you’ll manage to put out at least some of the additional ones eventually Ray – great to hear that you’re trying to do that.
      Absolutely loved and still do love your Out Of The Inkwell dvds from some time back & would definitely purchase more on blu ray or dvd, even if, as you say, the prints aren’t in quite as good condition as the ones on your previous releases. Thanks for looking into these matters.

  • Thank you, Steve, for another great post. We all appreciate the work you’re doing and look forward to future Thunderbean releases!

  • It’s wild how much rotoscoping changed animation. Most shorts from this time look stale in comparison. Keep up the posts, all of us trapped inside are loving them.

  • I ran a program for a while out of an old cinema on College Street in Toronto. On the floor of the projection booth lay miles of 16mm film. On inspection it revealed itself to be a Technicolor print of Claude Rains in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943). I carefully put it all in a big plastic garbage bag. Whoever had had the theater before me had dumped the film for the 16mm reels. I called Universal Canada. Yes, they had lost a print there. They asked, “Can you send it up?” I said, “It was loose on the floor. It’s now in two garbage bags.” The voice on the other end sighed. Then he said, “Throw it out.” Not wanting to do that I patiently unravalled it and put it back on 16mm reels. Then I spent forever cleaning the dirt and the dust from it. After all that it was gorgeous. I got a lot of calls from widows looking to get rid of their husband’s film collection. I always gave them what they asked. I got many beautiful 16mm cartoons that way. Keep up the great work.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Steve! This print looks way better than the one on Popeye DVD from Warner Bros. in 2007.

  • I love seeing the quality of this original amber tinted print. I wish all early black and white films could look this good. And of course the cartoon itself is wildly creative.

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