June 11, 2015 posted by

More “Willie Whopper” Restorations (and pre-order details!)

willie-whopper-logoI wanted to talk a little bit about the color Whoppers and a few more of the Willies this week, plus offer the ‘Pre-order’ for the set… but first, a few pieces of other things going on….

We were lucky enough to get upgrades to some of the Private Snafu cartoons of which we’re finishing the Blu-ray set, and it’s the kind of material that just makes me smile – just beautiful transfers from really nice material. I wish every series had been this well-preserved overall. It’s funny – on the Army side of things, pretty much ALL the films from the 40s exist in some form, most in excellent overall condition. The Navy side isn’t as lucky on everything. While I wish the set was out the door already (and have people chomping at the bit waiting for it), I’m glad we made the choice to transfer the other material that became available, even though it makes the set a little later than hoped for. The only thing I wish for is that Secrets of the Caribbean would show up. Its the one film that a completed negative was delivered without the film still being around. I’ve looked and looked without luck, but did find the record of the negative being delivered.

There’s a 1932 Scrappy cartoon called Stepping Stones – that’s one I’ve never seen, but I often think about each step of trying to produce ANY work – creative or otherwise, is a series of jumping from one thing to the next without spending too much time looking back. Don’t get me wrong though – I think introspection is good, but in this case, I feel the reason to do these sets right now is to make sure this material exists in good condition and is accessible for those who are interested. As the Willie set is wrapping up along with Snafu, I see each of them exists as boxes of copies, going to personal collections and libraries, and those steps are now complete – no reason to go back other than to enjoy the films again. Jerry Beck recently made the point that there’s a good chance with much of these films that these versions will probably be the ones available in the future, so there’s some incentive to do history a favor and get it as right as possible. As a tiny producer, I find myself balancing on each of those stones and jumping as the water attempts to engulf them more than anything else!

I was talking with a good friend earlier today who had some concerns that as I did more of this stuff that there would be a tendency to move to the ‘dark side’… losing touch with the original goals, losing touch with the day-to-day of the company, associating with shady characters, making deals I’d regret later…. of course it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it does resonate with me. For many years I’ve been stretched a little thin in trying to make these sets work, but overall happily so.. I do hope to get the balance figured out better, always! We’ll keep doing what we’re doing here as long as we can figure out how to make it work.

I have to say, I really appreciate the letters back and comments from everyone… they’ve led to finding more things, and really have helped keep the mission of finding and releasing these things going. I’ve also had comments
the other way sometimes – everything from people sending me frames we cleaned up badly to being accused of being color blind and a bad dresser to a threat to punch me in the face for changing an artist’s cover art. It’s a colorful world!


Ok, ok.. so now back to the Willie Whopper – the boy with a BIG imagination.

Willie Whopper is the first all licensed set we’re doing, and they’ll be more – with some exciting ones coming up. Thank goodness David Shepard and so many people at the archives had the foresight to make sure these elements were preserved as much as possible!

davy-4At this point in any of these projects, I’ve looked over everything over and over, second-guessed lots of footage choices, looked further after I’ve had acceptable versions. This is the satisfying stage of these for me personally, because I know soon everyone will get to see them and NOT have to think about all that technical stuff…

In the case of the *color* films on the Whopper set, we were lucky enough to work with the original camera negatives on both Hell’s Fire and Davy Jones’ Locker. Each was a single reel of successive exposure negative – the edited camera originals. What I was amazed to discover is *how* the camera negatives are edited. I had always thought that the separations would be done first of the two colors, then two negative edited to match. I had never imagined that the successive exposures would be edited, THEN split into the two color records. This was the case for these two films, and I imagine will be for the other Iwerks shorts. We’ll be doing all the Comi-Color Cartoons in HD as well, should all work out.

When they arrived here, I inspected the two negs very carefully. These films have been edited with cement splices, and now those splices are over 80 years old. Some hold on beautifully, other have let loose many years ago. Luckily, most of them had held up quite well, and funny enough, these negs looked like they hadn’t seen too much wear over the years. Davy Jones’ Locker clearly had a rougher life, but still not as bad as so many other things I’ve seen. Both films were intact from head to foot, with nothing missing. They had some shrinkage, but held incredibly steady on the scanner at 4k.

caveman-1These negatives were expertly scanned in 4k at Frame Discreet in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I’d like to talk further about those folks sometime here… they do wonderful work.

Metropolis Digital did an absolutely amazing job in color correction on both of these films, working hard to make sure the balance worked well. They managed to get I think as full of a range out of the two color process as possible, getting nice reds and oranges especially. We’re working on getting the final clean up finished on these shorts, then adding the soundtracks. We’re working on just the last 3 cartoons (these color shorts and Jungle Jitters). The rest now have final versions.

The bonus features are in progress for the set, and we plan on having both this and Snafu sent out sometime between mid-to-late July.

The set is available for pre-order now on Thunderbean’s Website through the end of June. The pre-order has a special
Willie Whopper‘ collector’s mini-glass with it, about the size of the giveaways from the 30s and 40s – sort of kid’s Jelly Jar-sized.

Here are some clips from the color films (I’m working with the color scans in syncing sound right now but not the final cleanups), and a few more black and white ones we didn’t show last time. Click on the film frames below that to get a better look at the quality of these scans. Have a great week everyone!



  • Someone must have loved that gooney fish with the hat. He’s also in the Iwerks cartoon “Tom Thumb.”

    • Probably Iwerks himself (or one of his writers…..).

  • Wonderful!. Can’t wait to see what other licensed properties you managed to get. We know about Willie Whopper, the Comic-Colors & Flip the Frog, but what else? Few observations:

    -The color in both are gorgeous considering the rarity of these cartoons in color
    -Very rarely used colored & drawn MGM logo
    -I’ve always been curious about that anthropomorphic Leo the Lion. Did Iwerks invent that or just incorporate that? Apparently it stuck around some years after Iwerks parted ways with the studio.
    -Who is that Sultan/Arabian guy in Hell? I can identify everyone else except him.
    -The Grim Natwick influence is very strong in Davy Jones’ Locker

    I very much appreciate what you’ve been doing. The rights holders are neglecting these, and other PD properties like SNAFU otherwise wouldn’t have had the extra work locating and remastering/restoring these by anyone else. Early talkie cartoons in general need some serious action done on them and these Iwerks cartoons are certainly no exception.

    Lastly, does anyone know which Comi-Color cartoons were missing from the “Cartoons that Time Forgot” DVD collection that came out back at the turn of the millennium?

    • Just LITTLE BLACK SAMBO, I believe.

    • MGM had an anthropomorphic Leo the Lion in their trade ads.

    • I think the answer to “who is the arabian character” lies in in the colour. Having seen a still where the blue value has been tweaked to separate it from cyan the answer would have to be “Bluebeard”.

  • I’m excited about this!

  • Oh you know I’m excited about this, and I’m glad you are licensing a few things. I wish that the bigger studios would make such a process easier, because they certainly don’t want to do it and, to an extent, I can understand that as the task becomes more daunting the longer they put it off!! So why not give it to someone who considers it a labor of love! So how many disks did the WILLY WHOPPER titles come out to? Will this be a Blu-ray/DVD combo? No matter what it is, I’m going to attempt to pre-order from the Thunderbean site.

    You know I’m also eager to get the newly revamped PRIVATE S.N.A.F.U. collection to find out how good the titles came out *AND* to see what extras you stuck thereon.

    I’ve had hinted at me some of the other things that you might be licensing and, if those things come about, wow! I’ve already got the wallet out, no matter what the price. The bigger the set, the more I like it, but easy on the packaging, because I am running out of room to store bigger fancier packages, as much as I like ’em. Just a slipcase and a detailed booklet will be just fine–just kidding, of course!

  • Great! Can’t wait! Have not seen the Western one since I was eight or so but those nipple top cowboy hats were burned into my memory banks!

    • Again, once seen, cannot be unseen.

  • As always, I am looking forward to seeing these sets. And of course, I am pre-ordering right away. I have never been disappointed in any of your discs. Thank you so much for doing the incredible work that you do!

  • To see lovingly restored version of cartoons I feared would never look good is a revelation! Beautiful work, gentlemen. Can’t wait to purchase this set!

  • Isn’t the mini-glass just like Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Vol. 1 Limited Edition?

    I’m speechless………(no really I am)…….

  • Will this set be for sale @ Amazon after it’s preorder cycle on the Thunderbean site?

    • As always, yes

  • You’re doing the ComiColors, too? That means the entire Iwerks output from his studio will be in HD.
    Now, that’s wonderful!

  • Spectacular looking images— I ‘m swooning here. I’m so looking forward to these and future sets. When you said last year that you would be doing licensed discs, the Iwerks cartoons never occurred to me, but I’m thrilled that they occurred to you!

    I enjoyed the remarks about going to the dark side… obviously there’s a story or two here. Just keep enough on the side of light to allow you to continue with your wonderful work.

  • Guess Willie Whopper was one of MGM’s first superstar toon but was also the first MGM “lost” Toon Star. Hopefully Willie Whopper will make a glorious return and perhaps maybe TCM might showcase the Willie Whopper cartoons after they’re totally restored?

  • Absolutely stunning to see those colour shorts in motion. Amazed you can now afford not only 4k transfers but a limited collectable mini-glass? Glad to hear you’ll be working on the ComiColors, it will be great to have all three series by the Iwerks Studio represented in wonderful HD restorations from someone who puts the effort to track down the best elements to transfer. And of course, hats off as well to the people who preserve such great-looking material. Just curious, have any other cartoons been scanned at 4k (besides CAVE MAN, REDUCING CREME and the two Cinecolor entries)?

    • Yes. All of the Nitrate we’ve had here was scanned at 4k. These elements were: Caveman (neg), Reducing Creme, The Air Race, Hell’s Fire and Davy Jones’ Locker. All of the others are from Safety elements. Play Ball, Spite Flight, Robin Hood Jr, Stratos Fear and Jungle Jitters are also 35mm elements. Jungle Jitters is Nitrate too, and that will be transferred next week. Part of Play Ball is 16mm. Insultin’ the Sultan and Rasslin’ Round are from 16mm fine grains reduced from the 35mm elements. The Good Scout is mostly from a 1942 print that looks better than most elements on the film (I’ve transferred five copies of it!), Viva Willie is from a print as well that looks better than the fine grain- the sound is from the Mag track transferred from the 35mm element that no longer exists.

  • wow, this looks no less than gorgeous! Looking forward to the set

  • Steve:

    Many thanks for your efforts – and here’s hoping that when you’re done with the ComiColors set you’ll then do a collection of the Iwerks-produced Color Rhapsodies (please).

  • Just pre ordered! Looking forward to it.

  • That MGM logo is obviously a fake. If the original doesn’t survive, a good substitute would be to use one from any of a number of early MGM color shorts which still survive from 1933, such as this Pete Smith short from 1933:

    Or better to just eliminate that logo as some people might think it is actually original.

    • Hi John,

      The MGM logo on the film is real- it’s from the original camera negative of the film, and on the same film stock as the rest of the film. I thought it was pretty odd too..but there it is. It’s just another hidden piece of history that has been unearthed.

  • This looks fantastic! I can’t believe Steve found the elements to reconstruct Hell’s Fire! Its been one of my top 3 fav Willie cartoons since i discovered it on The Cartoons That Time Forgot set. But of course that set only presented the cartoon in fragments . I can’t wait to see Hells Fire.

  • Oswalds Oswalds Oswalds Oswalds…

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