THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
May 14, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Popeye… and Those Paramount Peg Bars

It’s the first official ‘Non-school’ week here. I’ve had a tight schedule trying hard to get projects that I’ve been helping with off my plate, but each has sticky problems and issues that are taking lots of time! I’m sitting next to a stack of animation drawings for the Rainbow Parade titles that I can’t wait to get back to, but I know having less outside of the Thunderbean perimeters is the best strategy to focus on getting each of the projects here done.

While files were processing on various machines today for Arnold Liebovit’s Puppetoon Movie Volume 2, I spent some time today fixing and making a final version of Popeye Meets Sindbad. It’s from a lovely (and well-loved) 35mm Nitrate/ IB Technicolor print. I had a great time working on color correction and cleanup. Funny enough, watching it today reminded me of seeing it growing up on television, and later, watching a super 8mm print (one of the fist films I ever bought) over and over. I always feel like these sets are my attempt at an upgrade to the way I saw the films first.

While the set is limited to films in the public domain, it’s been a good chance to revisit the bonus features we did back in 2004 for Popeye Original Classics. I was happy to provide much of that material prepared for our DVD to Warner Brothers for the Popeye sets as well as an doing some on-camera stuff for their ‘Pop-umentaries’ that were part of those bonus features.

I’m trying hard to wrap the whole set up in the coming few weeks if it’s possible. My friend Lenny Kohl granted permission to use his interviews from the 90s and early 2000s with Jackson Beck, Dave Tendlar and others. Our own Devon Baxter did a wonderful job with some of the still galleries as well.


My post is a little short today as I work on getting back to working on this set (and others). I’ve started writing next week’s article already!

But here’s something I’m debating putting on the Popeye set. Many years back, a collector sold me two silent 35mm Technicolor work prints of later Famous Studios Popeyes. I had them scanned when they were in the early stages of Vinegar Syndrome and sold them. One of them has made it back this direction, courtesy of Paramount cartoon shorts’ #1 fan, Luke Virgin, who managed to purchase it on Ebay from the person I sold it to many years earlier! Sadly, it’s VS mess now.

Here’s a clip from the end of the print of ‘The Cyrstal Brawl’. Since it’s a work print, there’s no cropping at all, so the full peg bars and bottoms of cels are exposed here. Sometimes the final Technicolor prints would be cropped, sometimes not. I had the print transferred in standard def years back, and did a pass with the full frame showing to capture the peg bars (as in the image above).

It’s kind of a fun watch, so I thought I’d share here. I could use a vote to whether or not I should put this on the set as a bonus feature. What do you think?

Have a good week everyone – and stay safe!

24 Comments

  • The scene in “The Crystal Brawl” (reused from “Quick on the Vigor”) where the Ferris wheel comes off its frame and starts rolling along on the ground reminds me of the climax of Steven Spielberg’s “1941”, in which exactly the same thing happens in live action. I remember seeing that movie in a crowded cinema when it first came out in 1979, and nobody laughed. I thought to myself: “Didn’t I see this in a Popeye cartoon?” No! I had seen it in TWO Popeye cartoons!

    As for including it as a bonus feature, I’m afraid I’ll have to vote no. I just don’t find it of any great interest.

    • The interesting thing about the new animation at the end of “The Crystal Brawl” is basically Al Eugster’s decision to go all-in on the angular style of animation he had been putting into his Famous/Paramount shorts more and more over the previous four years. Going from the traditional more rounded character designs to more angular poses was a way to get takes even with the studio’s blander pacing …. but Al had never taken it this far in the Popeye efforts until here, possibly because he knew the series was ending (Olive turning into a UPA character when she sees Bluto coming after her on the Midway might or might not have become the norm if the theatricals had continued past 1957, but it’s definitely something no other episode sported, and by the time Paramount was making the King Features TV cartoons in 1960, the budgets were so tight that a unique take like that never was going to happen).

  • Yes! Put it on the set, Steve!

  • That would make an awesome bonus feature! I love stuff like this, and I think it’s a neat thing that an “official” Popeye set most likely wouldn’t bother with. Go for it!

  • Sure, let’s see it on the set!

  • Seeing the Peg Bars is educational, especially seeing how the Pan Cel was used in the Tunnel of Love scene. However, it should be realized that they were using Field Guides and knew how much was going to be cropped in printing and projection. This was also the time when the theatrical Aspect Ratio was changed from 1.33:1 to 1.85:1. The Release prints were made in standard Academy Aspect Ratio, which cropped top and bottom, which is why you never saw these things on television. Then too, the 1.85 Aperture Plate used in theatrical project cropped top and bottom further. This explains why there is so much space on the top and bottom of the compositions. The question is, however, is there an intention to release this showing what was not intended to be seen? If so, what is the purpose?

    • Hi Ray,

      As said in the article above, I thought it would be a fun bonus feature- to show what isn’t seen normally.

      For ‘Sindbad’, I really love the idea of having a presentation that’s close to the original ‘look’ of a production. The ‘restored’ version has its place, but it’s not accurate to the original presentation of the film in this case. It’s nice to see it as the film was made, unedited with some clean up to make the presentation decent. While it won’t be perfect, it will make a wonderful ‘showing’ of the film, whether you’re watching at home or having a movie night with friends.

  • Since Time-Warner did a real restoration, using the original elements, I wonder why the “wheel is being reinvented?” Working with old prints always brings up the challenge of removing dirt and scratches, which is part of the “clean-up” process mentioned. Is the purpose is to provide a less “electric” look as it appears in the Warner DVD/Blu Ray re-release? I saw a film projection print of the restored SINDBAD THE SAILOR and it was sharp and colors more subtle than the video release. Also, the Pan Shot of the giant Roc running showed a platen frame that you do not see in the final release.

    • Was wondering the same thing. Why do a restoration for this cartoon when there is already a beautifully restored version out there?

    • This is due to the restoration from 2007 being heavily oversaturated. It really wasn’t that accurate to how the film originally looked, so Steve is restoring it to show us how it should look. Warner Home Video usually liked to oversaturate a Looney Tune here and there (The Night Watchman, Knighty Knight Bugs, etc.) and their restorations, though beautiful looking, don’t seem to have such great colors occasionally. Thanks, Steve, for showing us how this film should look!

  • J Lee, THE CHRYSTAL BRAWL is an example of jarring changes of style within the same cartoon, included the “new animation.” It is hard to understand the “thinking” that inserting the straight angled drawings was done so since the series was coming to an end. The last one, SPOOKY SWABS (1957) was surprisingly done with care and consistency in drawing.

    • Eugster didn’t do the last one though, Tom Johnson did — you can go back and look at Al’s earlier cheater Popeye “Assault and Flattery” or an earlier effort in ’57 like “A Haul In One” and see some of the angular usage being inserted into the cartoon (the court bailiff in the former, Bluto in the later). But not the way it was here, and Eugster’s non-Popeye efforts of the same time period already had gone far more into the angular style.

  • Yes! Please add it! The more extras the better!

  • It is certainly not Fleischer quality but a nice extra.
    Its a shame no pencil tests have shown up.

    • Some pencil tests have. Sadly, they won’t be on this release!

  • As a follower of your TT. Yes! put it on the set.

  • So wait, is this going to be a regular Thunderbean release???

    • Yes, it is for now!

  • Steve, I am old enough to remember seeing Technicolor prints in theaters. One of the puzzling things for me was an inconsistent color balance between reels of features. Some Tech prints were warmer and others cooler, heavy on red on some reels, and more blue on others. The 16mm color prints I first saw resembled the 35mm LOC print, which yours seems to resemble. While certainly acceptable color, this Tech print leans toward the red. As I stated, I saw a new 35mm film print at the Cinecon in 2003 (missing the ending fanfare at the time) and the subtle nature of the colors were there. Olive’s blouse is olive green, not chartreuse, and her skirt brown, not red-brown. This color combination is more harmonious and a truer reflection of the Art Direction of the cartoon than what happened with the video tampering. What people have been seeing is the video version, which has over saturated and distorted, “electric” color as I have been stating for several years and repeated here.

    I spoke with Dick May, the restoration supervisor at an event at The Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum at the time they were restoring the Popeye Specials. He told me several things about the original negatives including what appeared to have been power surges in the photography that created periodic “flicker.” Voltage inconsistencies between frames also affect color balance, lower voltage producing an image at the red end of the spectrum. So that had to be corrected in the process. Amazingly this flaw has not been apparent of all previous prints. But working with the original elements was an astonishing thing, all things considered. It is unfortunate that you did not coordinate with Mr. May when they were doing the restoration.

  • One detail I forgot to mention was that Technicolor prints were balanced for Carbon Arc projection, which produced a high intensity blue-while light. Accordingly the prints would favor red in order balance. This is another issue to consider when color accuracy becomes an issue in transferring to digital media since the Kelvin (color) temperature of the film scanner light source may not be of the same calibration as the old Carbon Arc light sources. And since the original format was a projected image, the response to the same film when scanned may not be read in quite the same manner as with projection. Adding to this is the challenge of which device for display will be used, computer screen, home television screen, or digital projection. In my experience, I’ve found a vast difference in the Gamma range between video shown on a computer and video shown on a home television screen. So in making transfers to any video or digital medium, an amount of interpretation may become necessary since this many times can become a subjective issue.

  • I vote for including the workprint as an extra 🙂

  • On a related subject, Milton Knight uploaded this compilation of Jackson Beck Bluto laughs to YouTube sometime ago. God, that laughter is like icicles raining on your soul.

    https://youtu.be/-o6ngbAOLmw

  • I’d say add the work print footage. Ask Milton if we could use the Jackson Beck laugh compilation too! I asked him at one point in 1993 when I was hoping to get him as a guest at our 1993 theatrical POPEYE show if he would do the laugh for us. He said that he’d have to hear tracks of it again to see if he could do it. Based on the “greeting” he did for one of our Popeye Fanclub messages (you know the one I mean, Steve), he probably would have been able to reproduce that satanic laugh!

  • Hey! I have been working on “Popeye Meets Sinbad” on and off since I have been busy with some other projects and I have been meaning to get my 16mm print of “Wild Elephinks” scanned (I still don’t have a date planned). I hope the project goes along and I hope the best. Stay Safe!

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