I think the best thing about the Cartoon Research “Blog” is that there’s so many varied “archeaological digs” happening all the time. It’s always a surprise to see what’s found or discovered. I especially love seeing the posts looking for things that the author clearly knows really well and likes talking about. Here’s something I’ve always wanted to see (or, at least as long as I know it existed…). But first…..
In quick Thunderbean news:
The Complete Animated Adventures of The Little King Blu-ray is now mastered. It’s on its way to replication now and I couldn’t be happier with the set. The films look really nice, and I think we’ve found the best or close to best materials we’ll ever find on them. The highlight, of course, is the cartoon Marching Along, from the original camera negative and track, courtesy of Sony Pictures Archives and The Library of Congress. Now, onto other subjects since I’m not talking about the other two almost done things until they’re *actually* done!
As mentioned above, we managed to scan the original camera negatives for Marching Along from the Little King series —along with Piano Tooners (1932) from the Tom and Jerry series. There’s one other known Van Beuren cartoon that had its original neg intact that we know about- and who knows if more may show up some day. Likely they’re lost to time.
Funny enough, because these are the original camera negs, the Rufle Baton was actually on both negatives, unhidden by the track (or blank area) on a master positive or dupe neg version of the films. If you look carefully, you can sometimes see the ghost/shadow of the technique at the far left end of the frame in 16mm prints… the best indication we had up until this point on how the system worked in action. Animator George Rufle came up with this clever device. The patent was granted for this unique idea in 1931, but more than one studio came up with a method to sync in the early 30s. Here’s an interesting article posted by Yowp a handful of years back. Reading this article as a companion to this clip is pretty insightful I think.
So, for the first time, we can get a pretty good idea of how the process looked and worked at Van Beuren. From reading the article and looking at the actual device in action, It’s likely the exposure sheets (dope sheet, x-sheet) had bars to block out beats based on music timing (so they were bar sheets in a way). My guess is a scene would be x-sheeted on a sheet based on how fast the tempo of the music was— and that if the music changed in a scene it meant a different sheet started at that change regardless of it being in the middle of a shot. The music was timed (at least in these two films) to have the Baton start in the furthest position, making a complete beat based on how ever many frames the speed was set to. Each scene seems to end that way too. Knowing that the Baton was cut in and out of each scene based on the furthest position from the hit makes it easy to cut from one shot to another and stay on beat, always. The device must have worked mechanically, so with each click from the camera operator the Baton ‘advanced’ position to be ready for exposure on the next frame.
On the Little King set, Marching Along appears cleaned up as part of the cartoons on the set— and we’ve included the film uncropped s well with the track, showing the complete Rufle Baton throughout.
After seeing both of these for the first time on Friday and over the weekend working on cleaning up Marching Along I really wanted to share this with everyone— so, here’s a pretty long clip from Piano Tooners (1932) showing how this device worked. You can get some idea from watching the timing between shorts. Funny enough, I think this particular method led to some creative decisions in designing the music (in terms of how music worked from shot to shot). See what conclusions you come to- love the comments and thoughts!
Have a good weekend everyone, and make a wish for more cool things to show up soon!