Late in my Junior year of High school, I swiped an article from the Huron High School library’s daily New York Times. I have no idea *why* I was reading the New York Times in high school, but I guess I was since, otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen the article.
That article was stuck in the front clear plastic sleeve on my binder, along with a Kim Dietch cartoon, something from Mad Magazine, a Xerox of Scrappy out of an old issue of Mindrot or Animania and other small drawings. I must have read it over and over since I had parts of it memorized. Happily, many of these articles are on line these days, and this one can be found here:
I had just seen the reissue of Pinocchio in theatres a year earlier, in what would be it’s second to last theatrical release. The earlier release, in 1978, had a huge impact on me as a 10 year old. Of course, I managed to rent the VHS cassette as soon as it was released, and was surprised at how poor the color was on the cassette, compared to what I had seen theatrically.
Two quotes from this article still stick in my head. There first was this one:
“Yesterday, Gene Brink, one of the Disney technicians transferring the film to video tape, said his staff had worked from a print that had ”only been screened three or four times” and did color adjustments from scene to scene. ”Sometimes we see a picture from the film that is a dirty red, which the computer tells is really a true red and we can correct it.” Mr. Brink said the studio had considered re-dubbing the film with new actors for ”a true stereo” soundtrack.”
The “computer” tells us it’s a true red? What?? “re-dubbing the film”? What??
The interesting thing is that the “whole” film looks red in this version, and appears to have been taken from an Eastman SP print of the film. Interesting that at this point in history that hadn’t considered using a neg or making a print to scan for the release.
The other quote that stuck with me through all these years was this one, from Eisner himself:
“Mr. Eisner added that he believed that by the time Pinocchio had its next scheduled release, in 1991, ”the technology will be so advanced and changed there will be a whole new generation that will not have seen the film, because by then videocassettes will be on thimbles or something, and all the existing cassettes will be in collections and libraries.’’”
So, I suppose that Blu-rays and flash drives are the “Thimbles or something” that Eisner predicted. Happily, better versions of the film have been released since then. As a teenager, the disappointment with the look of the VHS of the film prompted me to buy a 35mm IB Technicolor print, something I paid for in installments from a very patient collector. The $300 I sent to him a little at a time was earned from working two minimum wage jobs at $3.35 an hour! I still have that print.
Perhaps the Blu-rays and DVDs we’re collecting now will give way to the “Thimbles” of tomorrow, or, perhaps, some of the things we’re collecting just won’t be available later. It’s hard to say. Pinocchio of course is in no danger of vanishing in any way currently. But other stuff may as well be gone already for as hard as it is to see.
As both a collector and producer of sets of animated films, the overarching theme for me continues to be accessibility to decent quality versions of many of these old films. I had a recent conversation with a good friend/ collector who bemoaned the releasing of Public Domain materials. “It’s the same old stuff” he said with clear frustration, continuing “Why not release things that aren’t out already!”. Of course, I agree. I’m continuing to attempt to grow the little company that is Thunderbean with the big mission being to work on accessibility. Being able to open a can and look at an amazing quality version of something without being able to release it is pretty painful, but at least the can is being opened, a first step toward at least trying to strike a deal to get some of this stuff out there.
Related to this, here are my thoughts about the recent Porky Pig 101 set. Knowing many people involved in both this set, and the criticism of it, here is my ‘last word’ on this:
Each time one of these things are championed, I think it’s important to help it be a success, so others will follow, especially when there are large corporations involved. It really takes only a few champions in the inside to move a set forward through the corporate mechanizations. Sometimes these efforts will not be perfect, and I think it’s fine to point those ‘not right’ things out; I think it’s also our responsibility to consider the best strategy to both help the success of a set even if it didn’t quite meet expectations. The people that help make these things happen are *people*, not just a soulless corporate entity.
As collectors, writers, producers or people working on sets, often our comments are heard above others. Although we’re only a few voices, they can be magnified voices online, and that means our comments have a much larger resonance than even we may think they do – so this requires us to be responsible in these comments. I think it’s legitimate to be frank in finding errors with sets, but responsible in tone without accusation.
I’m happy to have the Porky films in better quality than my old VHS, 16mm and TV copies, and, while imperfect, it’s a start in the direction of releasing the hardest to see material owned by Warners.
My hands are pretty full at the moment with a bunch of sets, but we’re happily working through them with some urgency. Todays stacks of these things went out the door, with more each day. As always, we all appreciate the help in making these things happen. Perhaps one day we won’t have to bemoan any major series not being available. After all, the Popeyes were not available in more recent years.
Have a good week everyone!