March 1, 2018 posted by Steve Stanchfield

The 35mm “Parrotville Fire Department” Arrives!

The title of my column this week is: The 35mm Parrotville Fire Department Arrives – orRainbow Parade cartoons could be an unhealthy obsession- unless you’re putting together a Blu-ray set of them.

It’s the week before spring break here, and, honestly, it’s coming at a good time. A bunch of projects are wrapping up here, or at least I’m *trying* to wrap them up; the little details left to fix at the end of the Fleischer Rarities project have me behind as usual. Happily, it’s almost there, and I’m hoping it’s off to the replicators by the time you read the next post here.

The Rainbow Parade set is scheduled to be scanned right after the Flip the Frog cartoons are finished scanning, and I’m excited to see how so many of them look in 4k scans. Looking over the material at UCLA was exciting, but I need to take another trip and select the best prints on the later films from the series.

When David Shepard (Blackhawk Films) talked with me about the Rainbow Parades, he said there were no negs on *any* of them, just ‘master’ prints. These 35mm masters were used to make pretty much all the material we’ve seen on the films. These ‘Master’ prints were struck much later than the films were made; my guess (based on stock dates) is that they were all struck between 1944 and 1948. They are all on Nitrate film stock, but it’s the later Cinecolor and Technicolor stock with a Lateral (Linear/Parallel) soundtrack rather than the density tracks I’ve seen on 1930s Cinecolor and Technicolor material.

Here’s a cool little film clip showing the difference in two types of soundtracks used.At about 9 minutes in they show the different types of optical soundtrack reproduction.

The first version shown here is the older Variable Density track, and the second track is the Variable Area. From what I’ve read, the Variable Area soundtracks were not introduced until 1936. It has a higher frequency range than the Variable Density tracks, and is a more ‘modern’ way- although some people really love the earlier Density version more!

Sound Recording and Reproduction from EB films:

As far as material on the Rainbow Parades – Here’s the best material that exists on the films that we know of so far:

Pastry Town Wedding-1940 35mm print with Cushman’s titles
Parrotville Fire Department– the newly acquired 35mm Cinecolor
Sunshine Makers– two 35mm prints; one with Bordon’s titles, the other with original title but incomplete
Parrotville Old Folks– 16mm Cinecolor
Japanese Lanterns– 35mm Cinecolor
Spinning Mice– 35mm Cinecolor
Picnic Panic– 16mm Cinecolor
Merry Kittens – 16mm Cinecolor
Parrotville Post Office– 35mm Cinecolor
Rag Dog– 16mm Cinecolor
Hunting Season– 16mm Cinecolor
Scotty Finds a Home– 16mm Cinecolor
Bird Scouts– 16mm Cinecolor
Molly Moo & The Butterflies– 35mm IB Technicolor
Molly Moo & The Indians– 35mm IB Technicolor
Molly Moo & Rip van Winkle– 35mm IB Technicolor
The Toonerville Trolly– 35mm IB Technicolor
Felix & The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg -35mm IB Technicolor
Molly Moo & Robinson Crusoe– 35mm IB Technicolor
Neptune Nonsense– 35mm IB Technicolor
Bold King Cole– 35mm IB Technicolor
A Waif’s Welcome- 35mm IB Technicolor
Trolly Ahoy-35mm IB Technicolor
Cupid Gets His Man– 35mm IB Technicolor
It’s A Greek Life– 35mm IB Technicolor
The Toonerville Picnic– 35mm IB Technicolor

Here is a little video we shot last night showing the Parrotville Fire Department print. I’ve never had some many people informing me about an Ebay auction before. I’m just happy to get lucky enough to win it. I thought it would be fun to show the print on the rewinds this week and talk just a little about the Rainbow Parades material that exists. Scan and stills coming soon!

Have a good week everyone!


  • That’s awesome! That print looks to be in magnificent shape. I can’t wait to see it on the Rainbow Parade Blu-Ray set, here’s hoping more 35mm elements with original titles show up!

  • “Molly Moo-Cow and the Butterflies” has long been a favorite of mine, because of how blissfully odd it is, so I’m glad to see it’s one of the 35mm IB Technicolor prints.

    • I’m impressed a lot of later Rainbow Parades are in 35mm here, that’s quite an achievement.

  • I love the video! Can’t wait to see what PARROTVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT looks like. Also looking forward to seeing “Fleischer Rarities!”

  • Van Beuren cartoons are ALWAYS an unhealthy obsession.

  • Thanks for sharing your observations in video form Steve! ( and kudos to camera person Mary!) As a film collector myself, I’m always interested in the history behind the print. It’s possible to conjecture that this film somehow got separated from what eventually became the Shepard / Blackhawk materials, but good to know it will now be preserved with them.

  • OK, Mr. Rainbow Parade,
    Where is the “Holy Grail” RP, “The Foxy Terrier” or “Terrior” as OF MICE AND MAGIC calls it? My guess it that “The Rag Dog” was a home movie title that Official Films gave to “The Foxy Terrier”, but can’t say for absolute certain. Do you have an opinion? Congrats on securing the nitrate on “Parrotville Fire Department”, it couldn’t be in better hands.
    I used to imagine that I could actually visit Parrotville, when I was a kid, and hang around the “Parrotville Old Folks” home with Grandpa and the gang. Now, I’m actually almost old enough to go there! See ya in Parrotville!

    • The Parrotville shorts in particular are quite interesting as an original entity in the Rainbow Parade series, sadly not one that continued after three, but I like to think there were more fun adventures with the Captain and the others in town.

    • The Parrotville shorts in particular are quite interesting as an original entity in the Rainbow Parade series, sadly not one that continued after three, but I like to think there were more fun adventures with the Captain and the others in town.

  • Ok, Mr. ALL Cartoon Series,

    I think it was the working title for ‘Rag Dog’. Interestingly, the copyright was put in notice as ‘The Foxy Terrier’. I think we can probably find out what was released by bookings or a review if we’re that lucky… I haven’t looked it up yet. Interestingly, years and years back a collector sold me a print of ‘The Foxy Terrier’. It was indeed ‘Rag Dog’ but with no titles on the print- just adding to the mystery!

    • I’ve been browsing through old trade journals from 1935. I found three different titles given in various journals for the cartoon Van Beuren released on July 19, 1935: “The Foxy Terrier,” “Rag Dog,” and “Putting On the Dog.” “The Foxy Terrier” was mentioned early on, then disappeared. Release charts gave the title for the cartoon released that day as either “Rag Dog” or “Putting On the Dog.”

      One thing I can tell you about those release charts, journals weren’t always quick to update information on the listings if there were any changes to a film, particularly if it was something already in release, so it’s entirely possible that the cartoon could have started out as “The Foxy Terrier,” then briefly became “Putting On the Dog” before becoming “Rag Dog.” If “Putting On the Dog” was the title initially given to trade journals, it’s very much in the realm of possibility that some of them simply didn’t bother to update their release chart listing when the cartoon’s title was changed again to “Rag Dog.”

  • “The Foxy Terrier” is listed as an upcoming RKO Rainbow Parade release scheduled for May 31, 1935, in Motion Picture Herald release charts through the issue of May 4. As of the May 11 issue, the title “The Foxy Terrier” had been replaced by “The Merry Kittens.” It remains “The Merry Kittens” in the magazine’s release charts from that point on, with no further mention of “The Foxy Terrier.”

    “The Merry Kittens” was reviewed in Motion Picture Herald’s “What This Picture Did for Me” section on August 24, 1935. (“Good color cartoon comedy. Enjoyed very much by little folks.–P.G. Held, New Strand Theatre, Griswold, Iowa.”) There was another exhibitor review of “Kittens” on September 7. (“A fine color cartoon about the three little kittens and the dog.–C.L.Niles, Niles Theatre, Aramosa, Iowa.” There are no reviews I could find of a cartoon titled “The Foxy Terrier.”

    The Herald of June 15, 1935 lists a Rainbow Parade cartoon titled “Putting On the Dog,” scheduled for release on July 19. By August 10, Herald had added “Rag Dog” to their release chart as having been issued on July 19, but continue to show “Putting On the Dog” on that date, too.

    “Rag Dog” is reviewed in the Herald’s “What This Picture Did for Me” section on October 26. (“A fair cartoon with bad color–J.W. Noah, New Liberty and Ideal Theatres, Fort Worth, Texas.”) The cartoon is reviewed again in the same section on February 8, 1936. (“Pretty good.–P.G. Held, New Strand Theatre, Griswold, Iowa.”) A third exhibitor review of “Rag Dog” appeared on May 30, 1936. (“This is a very good color cartoon. Good program filler.–Rudolf Duba, Royal Theatre, Kimball, S.D. Small town patronage.”) As with “Terrier”/”Kittens,” I could find no reviews of a Van Beuren cartoon titled “Putting On the Dog.”

    Harrison’s Reports make no mention of “Putting On the Dog.” They have “Rag Dog” listed as RKO’s only July 19 Rainbow Parade release.

    Incidentally, both “The Rag Dog” and “The Merry Kittens” appear in an ad from Walter O. Gutlohn in the Number Two, 1940 issue of Business Screen Magazine. They are listed as part of “a new series of sound-on-film 16mm color cartoons. Exclusive commercial sponsorship available.”

    “The Merry Kittens” was copyrighted by Van Beuren on May 15, 1935. “Rag Dog” was copyrighted by Van Beuren on July 19, 1935.

    If I had to make a couple of guesses, it would be these: “The Foxy Terrier” was the working title for “The Merry Kittens.” “Putting On the Dog” was the working title for “Rag Dog.” The titles of both cartoons were changed prior to their release. Insufficient research has created confusion about which cartoon was titled what, and when.

    • That’s interesting. I’ve seen references online to a Van Beuren Rainbow Parade with the title PUTTING ON THE DOG but reference books and sites never mention that one. It makes sense it would have been a working title for RAG DOG because PUTTING ON THE DOG fits the plot to RAG DOG. Even the Internet Movie Database lists PUTTING ON THE DOG, but with no information other than release date, studio and director.

      Still a lot for us to learn about the Van Beuren cartoons, I guess. Do the studio’s files still exist anywhere? (I’m guessing the answer to that is “no,” but it doesn’t hurt to hope.)

  • Randy, you need to get out a little more.

  • Geez, I’m so glad that the Van Buren cartoons are getting the attention, now, especially when it is noted that just one cartoon has gone through so many title changes (“THE FOXY TERRIER”). It is the reason why *ALL* cartoons should be rescued from public domain hell!! For me, as I’ve stated previously, the joy will be hearing original soundtracks to title sequences that were never found for the laserdisk CARTOONS THAT TIME FORGOT series. At the time, those were stunning realizations, but, Steve, you’ve already made headway beyond that with the previous CUBBY BEAR blu-ray set. I can’t wait to check out the remaining Van Buren titles, especially “A WAIF’S WELCOME” which has a different soundtrack to the one that has previously appeared. I think that, for me, the true joy will happen when that FLIP THE FROG set is readied for shipment. Yes, I’m still on my Warner Brothers kick, but, sadly, so much of that is still tied up in whatever red tape. For every joy we can find in whatever title, the company can put up expensive obstacles, more expensive than the cost of restoration, I assure you! So we have you as an alternative, with some terrific restorations coming from other areas of animation history soon. Good luck, and may all your projects bear fruit.

  • Back in high school I became interested in optical sound as I was about to attempt my first venture into making 16mm sound films. I came across a Treasure Trove of historical information in a technical book by James Cameron (not the famous Director of TITANIC) that was reprinted for several decades, beginning in the 1930s that went into great detail about optical soundtracks and their variations. It was also in this same book that there was mention of Ted Eshbaugh’s proposed WIZARD OF OZ “series.” Of course only one was made.

    The history in this book indicates that Variable Area was in use at the same time as Variable Density, which would make it before 1936. The patent was acquire by RCA from General Electric when RKO was being formed to compete in talking pictures. Within the period of five years the Variable Area track was improved from the “Unilateral” to “Bilateral” and later “Push-Pull” track. In its original form, it’s reproduction range tended to be bassy in most cases, although the quality and range would vary according to how Recording Engineers worked with it. Interestingly, the sound range and quality of Variable Density seemed to vary among studios using the same equipment-each studio’s sound unique in how it was recorded and mixed. Even the introduction of the RCA “High Fidelity” System in the late 30s had a high frequency cutoff. In essence, it worked on the principle of an A.M. radio signal since the wave image is an Amplitude Modulation.

    Variable Density was a Frequency Modulation system and under the right handling had a greater dynamic range than Variable Area in its beginning. By 1937, the standards for optical recording became essentially universal for both systems. It was also at this time that some studios started using early stereophonic optical recordings for their music scores only to have them mixed down to monaural for General Release. Both RCA and Western Electric were offering this technology. And it was William Gerrity, an RCA Technician who initiated the original stereo recordings for FANTASIA in that same year.

    There were advantages and disadvantages over the two systems, mainly in laboratory processing. Area tracks were easier since the track image of the sound wave was two-toned. Density tracks relied on precise processing due to the gray range that represented the impulses. In this, the tracks had a separate “gamma” standard, or contrast than the picture. The rich blacks and grays in the picture were the result of the time in the developer bath. But the track area would suffer from this extended time in the developer causing the track to be too “dense” affecting volume. So the film would be printed and process first, then printed a second time with the track and processed a second time. This second developer bath would add the necessary “extra” time in the developer to get the rich gray range for the picture. Obviously, the advantage of Variable Area was that prints could be made in one trip through the developer, which was a savings in time and material costs.

    Variable Density continued into the mid 1950s and was phased out as Western Electric switched over to Area tracks. You see this change go into effect in 1956 when films display “Westrex”, which replaced Western Electric, which had by then been sold to Litton Industries, and continued to be the dominant sound system seen in most television shows and films produced by studios previously licensed with Western Electric.

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