I really love fall here in Michigan. It’s beautifully warm many of the days, somewhat chilly at night, and change happens every day as the leaves turn brilliant colors and start to fall. Even though things have been pretty hectic here, it has started to feel like the pieces of all the various projects are falling into place just as they should. It’s never quite in the order I’d like, but I’ll take it.
Dave Gerstein, the tireless researcher, has handed in nearly all the Flip the Frog bonus materials for the Blu-ray. The work of finishing the discs off has been happening slowly through these weeks, closer and closer to completion. I won’t be able to believe it when it’s over soon— but so happy it’s near the finish line.
I’m be driving to New York tomorrow to go to the New York Comic-Con. If you’re there and see me come say hi! Bill Leff ( from Me TV’s Toon In with Me) will be leading a discussion on restoring cartoons from the Fleischer Studio. I’ll be on the panel along with Jane (Fleischer) Reid, the granddaughter of Max, Mauricio Alvarado, Ray Pointer, Thad Komorowski and Brandon Adams. Jane has asked Thunderbean to join in the effort, and I’m happy to be working on evaluating several right now. I’m looking forward to discussing the current efforts and progress- but most excited that, in the near future, more films will be available for everyone to see as they should have been seen all these years. The event is in room 408 at Noon on Friday. Here is the poster for the event, by Shawn Dickinson, who did a wonderful Job on the Rainbow Parades V1 Blu-ray cover last year for Thunderbean. Click here for more info.
Speaking of the Fleischer Studios, I feel like Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941) is one of the most taken for granted features- but also one of the harder ones to see in a decent copy. It’s been one of my favorites since I was a kid. I first saw it just after Christmas, on a tiny black and white TV as WGPR broadcast it as part of their ‘Auction Movie’. I remember writing thank-you notes to my relatives for Christmas gifts as I watched, and wished it was on again as soon as it ended.
I was lucky enough to recently scan some 35mm IB Technicolor reels from this feature. Mark Kausler was kind enough to lend this particular reel for scanning. I was thrilled to see the footage, but especially loved *hearing* the music in full fidelity, so I thought I’d share a piece of the soundtrack (along with the picture of course).
For those who haven’t seen the film, this is a sequence where Mr. Beetle (the bad guy) has kicked a lit cigar down a hill and right onto the “Honey Shop”, owned by Mr. Bumble (the bee). Hoppity, after a failed attempt to move the cigar, is still looking for a solution as this clip starts.
There’s a lovely soundtrack on this feature, by Leigh Harline, who scored Snow White and Pinocchio previously. He went on to score 31 more features after Mr. Bug, all live action, working into the mid-60s. Harline’s ability to create wonderful little themes works so well for animation that it’s a surprise that Mr. Bug was his last score he did for anything animated.
There are several themes running throughout the score for different characters, with each effortlessly intertwined with other themes in each sequence. In this scene, Hoppity’s theme is featured predominately, reprised from just a little earlier when he is introduced. Similar themes are present in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse (1948) a whimsical comedy with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. Here’s a short clip that features many of the same scoring ideas:
Mr. Bug has, easily, one of my favorite scores – and it’s hard to pick one sequence that I enjoy most. The cleverness of the varied themes mixed with the rise in tempo through this sequence is so thoughtful and well done here that it seemed like a good one to share- and timed so beautifully to the animation.
This print has a hard 1:33 matte around some of the footage, no matte around other parts, but it’s a bit see-through, revealing some of the extra shot image as well as the peg bars and top of the cels in many scenes. I’ve left it viewable here since it’s otherwise hidden – and fun to see.
Have a good week all!