I 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!
At 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.
These 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!