THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
March 25, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

The Cult of “Rare” Pieces of Animation History

It’s really Jerry Beck’s fault that I think about things the way I do sometimes. When Jerry wrote an article for Film Collector’s World on missing pieces and rare things in cartoons in 1981, he sent this then-13 year old kid in a direction of trying to find rare cartoon-related things, including title cards and missing shorts. If anything, I guess I’m still trying to do that- sometimes with amazing help, and sometimes with scant resources.

I’ve found that the first thing to know when looking is that these things are generally *not* really lost. Someone has them already, and, often, that someone already knows about the rarity of that particular thing. Particular people — a small group — often have these things, and not by accident. They were looking for them all for years and years too— and shared them in different ways over the years. So, in a very real way, I’m late to dinner on finding ANY of these things – but choose to, if able, to share the meal with as big of an audience as possible.

Now, that said, the folks in this small group that have shared their information or allowed their materials to be shared have done an amazing service to animation history. First, they saved them to begin with. Then, many of them have been kind enough to share what they’ve found. Now these things are known more, and are shared more. I have to be honest and express my annoyance, at times, with the cultish aspects of things like animation identification, original titles, hidden messages, and even Flip the Frog fanfares. If I have to hear any more about Charlie Brown original versions I may explode. But, that said, I have a split mind on all of it in this. If I were born later, I’d probably be in this new group of people interested and following developments rather than spearheading some things.

It’s funny to watch these things grow in interest and spout a life of their own in the internet age. I know many people want to be involved in the process of revitalizing these things too- but often don’t have the resources or know where to start. I’m hoping that we are all collectively at least creating a trail of information that will help future fans be able to piece together the things that didn’t get the attention yet- and a possible approach to not only finding things but how to make them available to the larger animation production and fan community. The discovery of cool things shouldn’t be limited to a few people, but rather by those that continue to pursue them and collectively work to find and share things.

All of that said, I tend to get obsessive on details for a little while on each project. When they’re finished, I’m really not that way at all, and only come back to revisit them occasionally. Now the Cinecolor Rainbow Parades are pretty much in the can, I’m working a lot of the little details on the Flip the Frog project.

Over the last handful of days, I’ve been listening to all the scanned tracks we did for the project, specifically to ID the ones with the opening music ‘fanfares’ and to figure out what was missing, and if it could possibly exist in any of the material with the masters. I started out thinking I had possibly missed scanning a track that *could* have something we’re missing along the way, but on reviewing the list, I realized that we have covered everything from the nitrate masters at UCLA, but that there were a few things from the academy that possibly could have something we haven’t heard.

So, after listening to every track and comparing them to all the other tracks for best version, here is the current list of that little piece of music that happens just before Flip ‘glugs’ in each film. I’ve written ‘We’ll never know’ on the ones that there doesn’t seem to be *any* master or print materials that have shown up with the fanfare on a particular title.

The fanfares *did* stop at some point during the series, but it’s a guess as to what film they stopped at since the films directly after The Goal Rush are missing a master positive or neg track from MGM (or the fanfare was clipped off a track and used a a new master by Celebrity after the initial MGM run). Flip’s Lunch Room is the first one we know of that has the MGM lion just roaring with no musical background, and I think it’s safe to assume that the films after that point at least all started that way, although you can never be 100% sure. Here’s my current internal list:

01 Fiddlesticks – have opening music from Black and White master
02 Flying Fists – have opening music
03 Little Orphan Willie – waiting to hear 3rd soundtrack scan; otherwise opening music same as 16mm prints
04 Village Barber waiting to hear new scan; other scan omits fanfare
05 Cuckoo Murder Case – fanfare
06 Puddle Pranks – fanfare
07 Village Smithy – fanfare
08 The Soup Song – Fanfare
09 Laughing Gas – fanfare
10 Ragtime Romeo – fanfare
11 The New Car – fanfare
12 Village Specialist—waiting to hear new scan; other scan omits fanfare
13 Africa Squeaks– fanfare
14 Movie Mad– Fanfare
15 Jailbirds Fanfare
16 Milkman – wait to see if we have it on MGM print- has a neg track. M38697 is a print- other omits fanfare
17 Fire Fire– Missing fanfare— did m3613 and m38799 no fanfare on either—so we’ll never know
18 What a Life-fanfare
19 Puppy Love – has fanfare
20 School Days– unknown but sounds like a tiny piece of fanfare
21 The Bully– unknown
22 Office Boy– fanfare
23 Spooks – fanfare
24 Stormy Seas – fanfare
25 Circus ? — we’ll never know-only 16mm material
26 Room Runners – has fanfare
27 The Goal Rush – has Fanfare
28 Pony Express – ?— we’ll never know
29 The Music Lesson ? — we’ll never know
30 Nurse Maid ? — we’ll never know
31 Coo Coo the Magician ? — we’ll never know
32 Flips Lunch Room– MGM roar
33 Funny Face-MGM Roar
34 Techno-Cracked – Assume roar
35 Bulloney – Assume roar
36 Chinaman’s Chance – Assume roar
37 Pale Face – Assume roar
38 Soda Squirt – Assume roar

So- look at this list, and if you have any prints with the missing fanfares of course I’ve love to borrow them! I think at this point we have what seems to exist, sadly— but you never know when something shows up.

I’m hoping in the coming weeks to have every element needed for the set; it’s pretty close at this point, and nearly everything has been cleaned up as well.

So, for those that love these fanfares, here’s a few more- including a pretty battered one from Puddle Pranks . Some are from cleaned up versions of the films, some not. One of the scans of the Stormy Seas track has a baton hit for tempo before the music – a pretty cool thing to hear. That track is first here.

Have a good week everyone and don’t get too stuck on the details!

15 Comments

  • I don’t think those two batons taps were meant to establish the tempo. That’s a very amateurish, junior high band sort of thing to do, and an experienced conductor like Stalling could have set the tempo quite clearly without resorting to it. I’m more inclined to believe that those taps were intended as an aid to synchronising the soundtrack with the film. If so, they should have been spliced out once the synchronization was complete. So you’re right, it’s pretty cool that this feature has survived.

    When you consider all the inking and layout errors in early sound cartoons, it’s remarkable that the soundtracks are generally so clean. This is not always the case with classical recordings of that period. I have a recording of a string trio from 1933 in which you can plainly hear whenever one of the musicians turns a page. There’s also an old Toscanini recording of the Verdi Requiem where you can hear the maestro yelling “More! More!” at the brass during the Dies Irae, And don’t get me started on Glenn Gould and his squeaky little piano stool. I can’t think of any cartoons with extraneous musicians’ noises like coughing, dropped bows, kicked-over brass mutes, and the like, but I’d love to know if any are out there.

  • My favorite Flip opening “fanfare(s)” would be, for instance, the one on The Goal Rush (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKVbMsVeuAs)—the fanfare itself works well as a lead-in to the Flip opening theme, and it has the M.G.M. lion roar. A few other tracks you’ve shared (such as The Office Boy in this article’s video) have the same fanfare or an equally-pleasing variation thereof, but without the lion roar. It just doesn’t feel right to see the lion roar but not hear it. In most of the other Flip openings you’ve shared, not only is there no lion roar but the “fanfare” is a distinct, unrelated piece of music from the Flip theme proper and comes across like it was tacked on as an afterthought. Regardless, I’m glad all of these are being reinstated where they exist.

    • The interesting thing about that is there is one element that *has* the roar for that open, and another that doesn’t. It’s the only one I’ve seen that actually has the roar as part of the musical theme at the beginning. The others (including release prints) do not.

  • I know I’ve got a Flip in 16mm with opening fanfare…rare, but they do exist on at least one entry!

    • I think that’s your ‘Puppy Love’ on the list that has the fanfare Tommy! If there’s another let me know soon pleeeeese!!!

  • The MGM “fanfare” can be heard in some LAUREL AND HARDY silents with the “Vitaphone” disc recordingss and PARDON US (1931). I don’t know about the early shorts. My feeling is that you can only restore what you have access to!

    Paul Ghoh’s comment about the “two taps” makes me think of a time when I once recorded the opening music for FRANKENSTEIN (1931) with the rare (at the time) introduction by Edward Van Sloan. When he starts to leave, I remember hearing two taps and then the music begins. (“… Well, we warned you!”) It’s very possible that this was done for the synchronization process for the original disc recordings as he mentioned.

  • So… what are the “lyrics” the Flip the Frog opening? I hear…

    Bum Bump
    Bum Bump
    Bum Bump
    Bum Bump

    Bump-Ba-Dum-Bump

    • To me it sounds like “Flip Flip, Flip Flip, Flip Flip, Flip Flip, Flippy dip Flip.”

  • Once again, Steve, this is fascinating and frustrating at the same time; so will the real originals please “stand out” or something! It must be so tiring and frustrating to find out exactly where the lion roar began and which lion roar came first. I notice this on so many reissues of the Hal Roach stuff, and the cartoons beginning with the first HAPPY HARMONIES title are different still from all such references throughout the FLIP and WILLY WHOPPER cartoons.

    The lion roar that you chose for some of these and the WILLY titles can be heard throughout the CAPTAIN AND THE KIDS and COUNT SCREWLOOSE series and so many major motion pictures from MGM studios throughout the 1930’s, and the lion roar heard before “THE CAPTAIN’S CHRISTMAS” ushers in that which would be heard majestically throughout the 1940’s, 1950’s and so on;so I guess this is more accurate. Yet, as I said, these are inconsistent when it comes to the OUR GANG films, especially the earliest talkies. I would assume that this is due to the shorts moving from hand to hand over the years. You’ve done an amazing job here fitting the puzzle pieces back together with one or two jarring “fits” here and there, but I can’t fault you for that for reasons I have mentioned above.

    Oh and yes, I guess we can all “blame” Jerry or Leonard Maltin for reigniting an interest in classic cartoons…or those knowledgeable television stations throughout the years for airing and daring to air uncut cartoons from all eras and imaginations. In the 1970’s, many television stations kept film prints of so many classic cartoons lying around. I’ll bet that New York’s WOR-TV, channel 9, was a place to find prints of so many of the BUDDY cartoons from Warner Brothers or complete and uncut TERRYTOONS because these were run regularly in the early 1960’s for a time. The best of luck in continued searching for absolute original titles on the FLIP cartoons. My head is reeling just listening to this stuff…and, yes, it bothers me that I cannot see the results of your pain-staking work to restore, but the sound of these things is enough of a perk-up to my day. I look forward to the weeks ahead and good news coming to your door but, as I’ve said before, no need to stress too hard over the smallest detail, unless the cartoon itself is riddled with splices.

    What you’ve found on the FLIP cartoons at this moment, looking at your list of “fanfare” discoveries, is nothing short of amazing, stupendous, colossal…and any other adjectives or superlatives I could toss out there like so much confetti.

    • Kevin— you said “The lion roar that you chose for some of these and the WILLY titles can be heard throughout the CAPTAIN AND THE KIDS and COUNT SCREWLOOSE series and so many major motion pictures from MGM studios throughout the 1930’s,”

      This is the thing: I *didn’t* choose *any* of the lion roars for *any* of the Willies! The were all accurate to the original release prints (although, to be fair, the drawn one on the front of ‘Hell’s Fire’ that was complete on the SEN is so totally bizarre that I have to wonder if MGM replaced it on the actual release prints. Some people have written me and thought we made that title card up since it doesn’t appear on any other films, ever. With Willies though, I was lucky enough to find prints of *all* of them that had a lion (mostly in 35mm but some in 16) but had better material on some of the original titles on prints that didn’t have a Lion but had beautiful condition title cards. I already had prints of a few so we knew before starting the project on some– and scans from friend’s prints for others. For one of them (Viva Willie) I had Blackhawk’s 16mm printdown neg, a 16mm reversal (with a splicy MGM title), a mag recording of the soundtrack (from 35mm) and Mark Kausler’s really, really good print. I think I had another print too- but scanning many elements for these things is sort of usual at this point now here. I’m not remembering at the moment exactly what was used on that title, but it was the best combination of those things, staying accurate to what lion was used on that bad quality 16mm reversal with the MGM lion. So, where we had the title only in 16mm and the 35mm version looked better but was the exact sequence, we used it. I’ve been frustrated myself when these particular elements are not accurate, so it’s super important to me to at least get it right if it’s completely possible, and with Willie, it was!

  • My personal favorite fanfare music is definitely “Spooks” but I also find “Laughing Gas” has a unique rendition of the same rhythm. Also, I am still praying a color copy of “Puddle Pranks”, “Flying Fists”, or “Little Orphan Willie” shows up out of the blue, but that will be a REAL lucky find and I highly doubt any color copies will show up anytime, even if they exist. Still, maybe there is one in England that no one has found but then I would be worried if it’s even usable or complete.

  • Hey Steve, here’s an idea for a future installment… how about telling us what all the single frame messages mean in the lead up to the Flip cartoons you supplied above! None of it really made sense to me, as I’m not a film projectionist. But the warnings seemed dire! I especially don’t understand how they’re saying that if you’re missing one frame then the whole sound synchronization is thrown off? The soundtrack is “married” to the film, so if you lose a picture frame you also lose the sound frame, so why would they get out of sync? Surely this isn’t talking about some other sound system, like playing a record along with the film is it?

  • Steve this is such a wonderful job you are doing on the Flips. Have an old DVD set of Flip but the quality of course is nothing compared to what you have done, and again working with what is available, Of course many of us sometimes wonder if there were any of the original negatives were in the MGM film vault that caught fire in the mid 1960’s. Understood there were many original cartoon negs stored there, let alone many other film elements (London After Midnight comes to mind). It s sad that we may never know. Looking forward to your Flip DVD’s and thank you.

  • There were wood block hits used on the Warner Bros tracks too, Seems Staling liked them to establish tempo.

  • I assume that everything from “The Pony Express” and onwards is simply just “Flip” and the lion roaring.

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