Back from the ‘Cultural Wasteland’ of last week and into the world of Classic Animation again!
From a Thunderbean Office perspective, last week was a Van Beuren week here, with all the ‘Classics from the Van Beuren Studio’ and other things going out the door; this week has been very much ‘Snafu’ week, with Willie Whoppers very much in progress as well. Mel has her hands full over there; this year promises to continue to be busy with so many projects in progress.
We’re putting finishing touches on all but a few of the cartoons for ‘Private Snafu Golden Classics‘, on Blu-ray, and they’re looking just fantastic. The mostly Schlesinger/ Warner Brothers animated series, produced originally for the troops during WW2 was widely available on public domain compilations over the years, then online on youtube and other places. When we produced the DVD set back in 2010, we discovered that The United States National Archives held 35mm materials on nearly all of the shorts as part of the ‘Army-Navy Screen Magazine’ series. We had most of the telecine transfers done in HD from those materials with the idea that we may at some point do a Blu-ray. I feel like this was the first set to really ‘up’ the quality of the releases we’ve been doing- even though it’s been hard to maintain a high standard, especially in releasing so many of these older films that have varied sources, we’ve enjoying it.
The series was made to have a soft-message/ educational element- but it’s always skillfully executed and seems more topical than preachy. They have to be the most entertaining educational films ever made. As I was cleaning up Going Home I was laughing out loud at some of the poses in the animation. One of the benefits of working on a set like this is that you look very closely at a lot frames, so for an animator or animation enthusiast it’s a goldmine of great poses and funny scenes. You realize just how good this studio
was at this point, even though they were only producing these films for the war effort.
Over this past year, we’ve transferred the Snafus we only had in Standard Definition as well as upgraded a few of the transfers. We’ve also added a few other appearances of Snafu that we missed the first time around. We had done digital cleanup on the SD versions of all the films, so when we started the Blu-ray, we had to go back and do the digital cleanup again- but that’s just fine. The workflow is better with the newer computers and digital cleanup programs.
I’m happy to say they’re looking just grand. Last night I ran some of them in the auditorium at CCS, and was absolutely astonished. There’s still work to do on the sound and a few more to do a transfer on, but the set is looking great and coming along very nicely.
When requesting materials fro the National Archives, you often have to ask for the earliest generation possible.There are multiple copies of some of the films, so some sorting needs to be done while searching there. Since the original materials are precious, they have made ‘lender’ materials, and these materials can really vary; sometime you get something really nice, while other times not as good. They’ve even sometimes been damaged while being used. If you ask really, really nicely, sometimes the original material may be available for transfer, though you didn’t hear it here!
It ended up being extremely useful to travel there and go through the both materials on a flatbed and tape reference, as well as file materials related to the production. After the third or forth visit there, I discovered that there were folks in the archive just as interested as I was in finding the best versions, so it wasn’t long before I was able to upgrade quite a few things, though not all. This year I’m happy to say we were able to get almost all my ‘most wanted’ in even better quality- though a few still had to come from some very nice 16mm prints in new 2k transfers.
Most of the set is from the Fine Grains Master Positives, with a few from a dupe neg off the Fine Grain, though it’s hard to tell the difference. I’m so happy that this series survives in great quality thanks to the folks at the National Archives, and happy that they will finally available widely in HD.
Here’s one of the films we ran last night, ‘The Chow Hound’. I think it’s one of the strangest of the Snafu cartoons, detailing the sad story of a Bull who sacrifices his life so the troops can eat. Sadly, some of his contribution is tossed out when Snafu fills his plate too much and can’t eat the rest, with the Bull’s ghost taking revenge on Snafu! Frank Tashlin directed this particular short. I especially love the score on this one. Make sure to turn on the ‘HD’ when viewing.
For a limited time, the set is now available for ‘Pre-order’ on the Thunderbean Website. This pre-order comes with a bonus Blu-ray of other rare WW2 cartoons in HD, a printed packet of rare storyboards and original art unearthed after the first set was made and more. The set will be released and sent sometime in late May or early June.
Thanks everyone – have a great week!