A recap and redux and reflection on ruminations and reconsiderations regarding the restoration of the first 13 Rainbow Parades. Try saying that ten times fast!
The Van Beuren Rainbow Parade series has been the subject of many, many posts here over the course of the last few years. As we’re finishing the end of a long stride on getting the first half of the series finished, in seemed like a good time for a little recap of the challenges in finishing off the first half of this particular series. The second half will be a much lighter lift, with all films having good, complete ‘master’ prints as well as other materials. The gathering of the first half of the series was much, much more a challenge than I ever anticipated. We’ll put them to bed after today until the set is out, hopefully in late January or early February- the first of many titles this year.
Ten years back, we produced a DVD of the same films. Being in the public domain, there were lots of copies distributed in various quality over the years, and some titles had not been available in color or complete since the 40s. Finding 35mm on any of the titles seemed like a pipe dream when first working on the title, even just 10 years ago. For the material that seems to have survived only in 16mm, a handful of collectors had prints of some of them (including myself) but even those long time collectors, who collected film for decades and decades, were only able to find some of the shorts in Cinecolor, and getting a complete, splice-free print of almost any of them was, basically, near-impossible.
The first big break back then was licensing The Sunshine Makers from Lobster films for the DVD set. They had scanned a 35mm print of the film, and it was a revelation compared to the turkey (at best) 16mm dupe prints of the film that had circulated for decades. One of the shorts, The Picnic Panic, had shown up in a super 8mm color silent print, from Denmark, after our initial release of the DVD. This was another revelation — and was the first time I saw one of the title cards from the original theatrical release of these films.
At this point in history, after several more years of searching archives and borrowing all sorts of material from private collectors, I can honestly say what we’ve ended up with is the best that can be done at this time in terms of collecting the best known materials for each film. Having the ability to spend the time searching for many years made finding the best possible sources a reality, although it’s been a long and tiring journey. It always would have been though to get what we now have on the films.
While there isn’t perfect consistency in color content and quality (with some films being from 16mm rather than 35mm) I’m overall pretty happy that they look *this* good- and, for now and future reference, at least we have a pretty good, complete set of these films in the best known prints.
Here’s a short breakdown on each of the 16 films on the set, and their sources. We’ve included the three black and white ‘Toddle Tales’ in this collection, as they are related pre-cursers. Very special thanks to the small team that helped by lending their rare material as well as the digital restoration team for this project. They are my heroes on this project.
Grandfather’s Clock (1934) The first released of the Toddle Tales. Three prints were used to make this version. The main one from Tommy Jose Stathes, a 16mm print down from the 40s with the original Van Beuren titles. Missing footage was restored from a 40s Official Films print, and other pieces of soundtrack were from the scan were did back in the late 80s from Phil Johnson’s 16mm print from the same vintage as Tommy’s print.
Along Came a Duck (1934) This print was also from Tommy Stathes, and a nice upgrade to the print I scanned many years back from collector Mark Mayfield. Both prints were from the same print down vintage, with original titles.
A Little Bird Told Me (1934) this was the ‘first’ of the films done for the set, because we had cleaned it up for a showing on TCM’s Van Beuren cartoons program. This beautiful printdown is the best I’ve seen on the film. Collector Ralph Celentano was kind enough to sell me this print years back, with the soundtrack from Tommy Stathes’ excellent 16mm print.
Pastrytown Wedding (1934). A week back, we had just put the finishing touches and color correction on this short. It has been a huge challenge in that, as good as the material is, the technical qualities on the original production made it a difficult cleanup. Mel McCann and I did the brunt of the work on this, with some very nice flicker removal by Thad Komorowski. It’s the first color production at Van Beuren, and, in many ways, that shows technically. This beautiful marterial is preserved at the Library of Congress.’
The Parrotville Fire Department (1934) was my favorite find of the set. The (only known) 35mm Cinecolor nitrate print showed up on Ebay a few years back, and I got a million messages telling me about it! Happily I was lucky enough to get the print for the set. It seems pretty clear from viewing that this cartoon has a much lower budget than Pastry did, leaving me to wonder if it was made first, or perhaps the ‘old crew’ was assigned this cartoon with less supervision.
The Sunshine Makers (1935) One of the great finds on this new set was the original title sequence from this short, on a reel of trims and pieces of cartoons that was part of the materials that Commonwealth held (and now part of the film archive at UCLA). The body of the film was from the 1940 print at the Library of Congress. Having this short looking spiffy and having the original opening a music was a great thrill. Our own Devon Baxter worked with me on cleanup of the short, them Devon did the final color correction for the film. It looks wonderful.
Parrtoville Old Folks (1935) This cartoon was one of the hardest to find a good print on. Eventually we were lucky enough to borrow and nearly mint 16mm Cinecolor print. Kat Huff, Rowan Westmoreland and I did the cleanup on this one, with really nice results. The track currently is from a very nice 16mm black and white print (the sound is a little sharper on the black and whites) but there may be a 35mm track source on it as well. Let’s hope we’re able to get it before we go to final.
Japanese Lanterns (1935) Another ‘holy grail’ -in my opinion anyway. It’s the only known extant 35mm print. We scanned this print twice. After discovering it was nearly impossible to digitally clean up all the black dirt on one side of the second half of the film, we gently cleaned the mold/ water residue off the print from many years back and performed a wet gate on it, getting beautiful results. It’s part of the materials at UCLA archives. Ciara Wagoneer did a great job in restoration, and I followed through with finishing touches. It’s one of my favorite finds for the set.
Spinning Mice (1935) Even though this poor print was pretty battered at the beginning, it still provided the best possible material on this film. The final version looks very nice. It’s from one of two prints that have shown up in 35mm on this film. Kat Huff did an excellent job on cleanup for this short. The other print remains at large after someone on the Nitrateville web site posted about it and then vanished.
The Picnic Panic (1935) A less than complete 16mm print was the most accessible was to see this short for years. Reg Hart sold me a really nice 16mm print from his library many years back, and that was used on the DVD set. UCLA had a single nitrate Cinecolor print that, sadly, has some damage happening on the red color layer. It was clean enough to still get overall decent results, but not perfect.
The Merry Kittens (1935) Bob Koester of Denmark Records and Jazz Record Mart fame still had, hands down, the best of several prints I’ve seen on this cartoon. He was nice enough to lend it for the set. The new transfer is looking great.
Parrtoville Post Office (1935). The 35mm Cinecolor /nitrate prints at UCLA was easily the best material known on this short. It transferred decently, but as with some of the others, had lots of blue layer specks all over it! The cleanup was something of a nightmare on this cartoon, but the end results are very nice.
The Rag Dog (1935) Super collector Collin Kellogg was kind enough to lend his print. He got the print from collector Mark Mayfield many years back, and Mark, in turn, got it from dealer JG (Jerry) Nelson back in the 80s. It’s easily the best material I’ve seen on the short. A little missing footage is from the second best print I know of, now part of Tommy Stathes’ collection. The soundtrack is from two black and white prints with a little better fidelity than the Cinecolor 16mm tracks.
The Hunting Season (1935). This and ‘Scotty Finds a Home’ were the most complicated to edit back together. The body consists of three different 16mm prints of the film, with Mark Kausler’s and Collin Kellogg’s prints having the most footage. The color correction on this took quite a while, but the resulting version of the film is easily the best I’ve seen on this short.
Scotty Finds a Home (1935) Scotty was even more complicated. The final version is comprised of four different prints of the film. They are Collin Kellogg’s, Tommy Stathes’, Mark Kausler’s and my own incomplete print. All had parts that were better than the other prints, either in color or (usually) color layer alignment. The soundtrack is from two 16mm prints- from The Blue Mouse Studios’ Chris Buchman as well as my own print.
Bird Scouts (1935) Tommy Stathes had the best print of this short — but even the best print had some challenges in terms of layer alignment. I’m still working on color correction, but it’s looking decent at this point. Soundtrack from Mark Kaulser’s and Chris Buchman’s 16mm print.
As you can see, there’s a small gang involved in the gathering of materials for this first volume. The second half, already in progress, is way easier.
Thanks to all of you, too, who have supported this project. Now, onto the menus, finishing the bonus features and the title sequence for the Blu-ray.
Have a great week everyone!