August 31, 2017 posted by

Scrappy in “Minding the Baby” (1931)

It’s just humming away here at Thunderbean, attempting to get a master closer to completion on ‘Fleischer Rarities’ and other things. Next week is the first week of classes here as well, so I’m working a lot to prepare various things for the new school year.

This next week, I’m happy to announce a little program of rare films we’re doing for the Cinecon Festival. For those familiar with this blog and some of the ‘Special’ sets, you’ll be familiar with many of the films, but I always like to have something that hasn’t been shown anywhere yet as part of that show. This year, that film is Buster Bear (1930), an incredibly rare ‘Vitaphone’ cartoon, from the ‘Scarfoot’ McCrory Studios! It appears that the film was made in 1930, and released (likely limited) at the end of January 1931. The short appears to not have had any distribution in its complete form since this first release, so we’re happy to present it from the original camera negative. Many thanks to our friends at the Library of Congress. Here are some stills. More about this film soon in coming post!

In other news, there have been several scanning/telecine sessions in the past week or so, and more coming. We’re kicking many sets into high gear, and excited to see them coming to fruition. It’s a long path at times- and there’s a lot of things in progress, with more on their way soon.

At the risk of this seeming like ‘Scrappy Thursday’, here’s another Columbia this week, and an interesting and really fun one. Minding the Baby (1931), Is fun in all the ways the other early entries are in the series, and starts to firmly establish Scrappy firmly in Mickey Mouse’s territory as a fall guy in an unjust world. Poor Scrappy does his best to mind his little brother, ’Oscar’ (the first mention of the character that would eventually be called ‘Oopy’). It’s actually unclear if ‘Oscar’ is actually Scrappy’s brother- it seems here that he’s been hired as a babysitter (being paid a nickel for his watchful eye). Whether it’s his mother or not isn’t certain (Scrappy responds with a ‘Yes Ma’am’).

The direction of Scrappy’s personality starts to be refined in this last short of 1931. Scrappy reacts to the events that befall him in a similar matter as Mickey Mouse, although Mickey is clearly an adult reacting as a child to the events surrounding him, while Scrappy really *is* a little kid.

This particular cartoon seems a little more rushed to me than others in the early part of the series. Scrappy’s design various greatly throughout the film, depending on animator. There’s some really fun posing throughout, but nowhere near as strong as in some of the other early shorts.

More soon! Have a good week everyone!


  • The word nickel is spelled wrong when turned to camera.A common mistake but slightly annoying

  • At the risk of seeming dense–who is “Scarfoot” McCrory? And why has this cartoon not even been mentioned in histories of Warner Bros.cartoons?

    You’ll find more mention of “Spooney Melodies” than you will of “Buster Bear”.

    • I’m the first to admit that this film is not in any of my previous books or research on Warner Bros. cartoons. Technically, I consider it as much a Warner Bros. cartoon as “The Door” (1967) – which is to say it’s a valid animated short, produced by an independent studio, released by Warner Bros. – and belongs to be counted among cartoons released by the studio.

      Many of us were aware of this title for several years – it’s listed vaguely in Roy Liebman’s fine filmography VITAPHONE FILMS (McFarland, 2003) – but only recently thanks to the efforts of Steve and some of our CR contributors, has a print surfaced (Thanks, LoC). As many of the early Vitaphone shorts are still to be preserved and restored, who knows what else we’ll find?

    • John McCrory’s name appears (though it’s hard to see) on “Korn Plastered in Africa” (1932), a short starring radio star “Uncle” Don.

    • The film print was discovered by David Gerstein and Tom Stathes on one of their many Library of Congress jaunts.

    • Because WB found out John McCrory, creator for Buster the Bear – Mr. McCrory, would beat his staff. They replaced McCrory’s comic with Looney Tunes, and cut ties with the film and the animator.

  • That last still of Buster Bear standing on the plank in space looks like some sort of riff on Universal’s logo at the time, yet it’s a Warner Bros. picture. Poking fun at the competition?

  • Lucky Cinecon! Hope to see Buster sometime…

  • I wish I could make it to Cinecon. I’ve never heard of “Buster Bear” and am intrigued to see it.

    All the best getting ready for the school year! I’m currently in that same situation!

  • In all the years I’ve been watching the Scrappy shorts found through Thunderbean, I’m finally moved to ask are there any known to exist with something other than the “Samba Pictures” legend on the titles?

    • Yes- but it is very rare to find a 16mm print that has the original titles on either the Scrappys or the Krazy Kats. The original materials on the films vary from what I’ve looked at in terms of camera negs and fine grains. Many have the original titles completely intact, while others have the Samba title attached to the front, but also have the original title and end title rolled up and in the can with the neg. The same is true for many of the Krazy Kats. I do hope to look through all of them and have a list of what is what at some point…

    • Thank you for explaining, Mr. Stanchfield.

  • Hoping those who can’t make it to Cinecon can see Buster Bear someday. I’m sure the majority of us cartoon lovers have never even heard of this short.

  • I do remember Mike Barrier mentioning that around 1929, Warner Bros. tried to open an animation studio in Brooklyn and attempted to animate a series based on Vic Forsythe’s comic strip “Joe Jinks”. However, they couldn’t figure out how to synchronize to sound with the picture.

  • Wow, an as-yet-unknown Warner Brothers/Vidaphone cartoon? I sure hope to hear more about this cartoon in the coming weeks! Boy, if this cartoon were found weeks ago, it could have been a secret extra on the PORKY PIG 101 set, even though it has nothing to do with early PORKY PIG cartoons; it is still a possible attempt at a pre-LOONEY TUNES superstar, right? Loved the SCRAPPY cartoon, and I sure hope that the SCRAPPY series is fully restored one day and issued to us all over the U.S. and even elsewhere. Hey, there are avid toon fans all over the world, and there is your audience!

  • I’d love to see at least a representative set of Scrappy and Krazy Kat; on my wish list it’s about level with a Terrytoon set (the Mighty Mouse / Talking Magpies years) and somewhere below a Tex Avery set.

    Meanwhile, semi-patiently waiting for “Hoppity (Mr. Bug?) Goes To Town”.

  • As Jerry mentions above, the first cartoon of Buster is mentioned in Roy Liebman’s VITAPHONE FILMS (McFarland, 2003) as Vitaphone number 1127. Apparently a second film, SPRING CARNIVAL, was dated April 14, 1931, but… gosh darn it!… I can’t remember where I found that information. Either FILM DAILY or MOTION PICTURE HERALD in the Internet Archive. In any case, a second was completed and the FILM DAILY does list Buster as a “series”. Hopefully somebody here can double check me. My guess is just the two films were made.

    • As our friend Yowp points out…

      “McCrory had attempted, in 1930, to create a series of Buster Bear cartoons. Some elements of two of them were copyrighted—“The Life and Adventures of Buster Bear” (March 14, 1930) and “Buster Bear in the Spring Carnival” (April 14, 1930).”

      The copyrights were not registered to Warner, and quite predate the early 1931 films that surround Vitaphone 1127 on the Warner schedule; so my educated guess is that the cartoons were in production before McCrory made his Warner deal.
      Vitaphone 1127 began life as the “Spring Carnival” cartoon, as evidenced by some signage in the opening scenes. But the actual episode title has been spliced out of the surviving film elements—there is only the BUSTER BEAR series title at the start.

      What of the earlier “Life and Adventures”? The Stathes collection includes a silent print of what is probably this film, and it’s even cruder than “Spring Carnival”; my educated guess is that Warner saw “Life and Adventures,” rejected it, edited the episode title out of “Spring Carnival” to turn it into a one-shot, and bear-ly cut their losses.

  • any chance this could be fully released some day?

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