First, some Thunderbean news:
Its going to be a handful of days really hunkering down here, again. I had hoped to get the Thunderbean Grotesqueries’ Blu-ray listed on Amazon before this article; It’s finished now, but we’re still not done dubbing pre-orders, so I’ll wait until next week. Chances are it will be up on Amazon late on the weekend or early next week.
Lots of progress on everything here- and it’s all looking really good. I haven’t been able to get over to the office since Tuesday morning, so, chances are, as you reading this I’ll be hunkering down to work on things that are getting close to the finish line as well as helping to get the mail pile down. There has never been so many projects getting close to being finished at the same time, but then again there are more projects in some state than ever before too- I’m grateful for the help at the office. Noveltoons has just rounded the corner on having nearly all the final edits finished as well as the Rainbow Parades, so it looks like the next ‘official’ releases will be Noveltoons & Rainbow Parades volume 1, with others following close behind. The other big release of the summer is the first half of the Flip the Frog series, if we can get the extras done in time. More clarity next week on these fronts next week.Since it is currently Felix the Cat’s 100th birthday, I feel like there needs to be a lot more discussion of this important and influential series, and I hope to start some coverage of this soon as well. In more recent years I’ve been lucky enough to see many of the less seen cartoons in this series, and I hope to share some of those here and in other ways soon.
Our fearless CR leader Jerry Beck is at the San Diego Comic Con right now, and since he’s the master of posting these (and I know he’ll be posting late) I’m keeping this simple.
Since we’re nearing the end of the Noveltoons Blu-ray set, I thought I’d share the send to latest film that just been finished in cleanup and edit— the 16th out of 20 to do a final edit— Enchanted Square (1947).
I never saw this cartoon growing up; my first encounter with it was having animation collector and artist Jeff Missinne transfer an old NTA print for ‘Snappy Video’ back in the late 80s. Jeff loved this cartoon, even in its NTA reddish state. Funny how these particular films were seen by television audiences in the 50s and 60s either in black and white or just ok color, then later on pretty washed out VHS tape versions.
Seeing the film in Technicolor was a revelation, especially the almost neon-bright contrasting color palettes in Shane Miller’s backgrounds. Miller also takes a story credit in this film. The story actually takes place on Halloween in this short, but there’s barely a reference to it. We’ve had this cartoon on the original DVD of the Noveltoons, and then on Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares. I was lucky enough to find another Technicolor print that matched the first one we used. This new version combines the two prints to repair the splices in the previous version. I’ve found that along with Suddenly it’s Spring people have strong feeling about this particular cartoon and it’s success or failure. Rather than spout about my opinion, I’d love to hear yours, especially on story and the use of color in this film.
The ‘usual’ NTA version of the film:
And, the latest version we’ve put together for the new Blu-ray:
Have a great week everyone — and happy Comic-Con to those out there pushing through the rows of people!
This really is Shane Miller’s film — Shamus Culhane in his autobiography gives Miller a lot of credit for his background work in the Miami Fleischer efforts Culhane was involved with, and the washed-out NTA Red prints that circulated for years took away a huge part of the visual impact of the cartoon (Famous did make a serious effort in the late 1940s to do cartoons that were less gag-based and more story-driven in Disney vein, with this and other efforts like “The Wee Men” and the Red Lantern trilogy. But bunched in with all the other Noveltoons, Screen Songs and the later continuing series and being viewed on small B&W TV sets or on color sets, but with washed-out prints, they weren’t going to get much love compared to the straight comedy efforts kids of the late 1950s through the 1970s were tuning into see)
I thought THE ENCHANTED SQUARE looked good even on the older DVD version, of the NOVELTOONS set. But this “new” version is ASTOUNDING!
Which beings me to another Noveltoon, CILLY GOOSE.
On the existing set it has the rerelease A PARAMOUNT CHAMPION: Brought Back By Popular Demand title. I wonder if this will be corrected to original release title.
Also will the other Raggedy Ann Cartoon SUDDENLY IT’S SPRING get an upgrade.
Is there a restored version of the Raggedy Ann & Andy film from 1940?
There is indeed a newly preserved version of the Fleischer Raggedy Ann two-reeler.
UCLA did it (and THE RAVEN) as part of Asifa- Holllywood’s preservation program two years ago. It only exists for public screening as a 35mm answer print. It looks great, though It has not been digitally restored yet. That’s up to Paramount. Unlike the two Famous Studios Shorts, the Fleischer Raggedy Ann is not public domain, and still protected by copyright.
I would come awfully close to killing (maybe just some serious maiming) to see a print of “The Raven” with restored color!
Whenever I see a Fleischer/Famous use of the word TECHNICOLOR on the title page, I wonder why so drab? You’d think they would want the word to pop on the screen, yet there is no use of red, or another color that would stand out.
Though it’s got an unusually strong opening, with Raggedy Ann being thrown into a trash can under the credits, typically the Famous crew missed most of the dramatic opportunities in the story of a little blind girl wandering around her shabby block imagining it to be a magic amusement park. Still, it’s one of the better efforts of the studio, genuinely moving in its way, and well deserving of the restoration it’s been given. Halloween, Thunderbean!
‘The Enchanted Square’ has been one of my favorite non-Popeye Famous Studios shorts, even when all we had were washed out NTA prints with hacked up titles. For me, Winston Sharples’ score and songs made up for the lack of visual appeal. Do we know who provided Raggedy Ann’s singing voice? Seeing the film now really makes me wish it could have been a two-reeler like the Fleischer effort. Whereas the 1940 short felt like a feature squashed into a short, this one needed just a bit more breathing room, especially towards the end in the transition from the joyous, carefree dancing to the melancholy ‘I wish I could see my mother’s face’ moment and then back again with the happy reunion.
Still, it’s a fantastic film and well-deserving of its reputation. Truly a last gasp before Famous allowed itself to slide into relative mediocrity.
I feel like the film is trying really, really hard, and has some very strong moments as well; the musical score near the end is beautifully realized with the action during the reunion; I’ve always thought it odd that the mother figure here has no eyes, but it’s clearly on purpose. This and the other Raggedy Ann short I think come the closest to a feature film feel out of the studio (some design in both films reminds me of Mr. Bug in layout especially). The middle of the film is trying hard to incorporate story into the various ‘fun’ events, but none of the ideas build very well onto the others.
The little scene with Giuseppe crying I think misses the most- it’s really unclear why he’s that upset since it only built out of one scene earlier, and his emotional reaction beyond that moment doesn’t resolve well at all, leaving the audience to not really care about this particular situation. There seemed to be an attempt to show outward kindness in this moment of the film on the part of Billie. I wish this part worked much better since it could have had the ability to further pull heart strings. When Raggedy Ann first starts singing, another wonderful chance is missed in building her imagined world. That section more than any needed imaginative imagery to pull us into the world in an interesting way.
Still, the film has some strong moments and some really nice animation. The opening is especially beautiful as you noted. Thanks too for helping on the journey to a better version, Dave!
As much as this was Shane Miller’s pet project at least some of the credit must go to Orestes Calpini, who was head animator and co-writer. Steve, you outdid yourself bringing this cartoon back to life with a sparkling restoration. I’ve never envisioned colors like this in a Famous cartoon, having sat through hours and hours of NTA beet-red prints.
The Enchanted Square is a VERY visual-driven cartoon. Neither Calpini nor Miller had ever worked on a cartoon story/script before or since this cartoon. But what an effort they made.
Steve– thanks to you this film is looking absolutely fantastic! Speaking for my dad— thanks for all you do–
Ginny (Kneitel) Mahoney
To be honest, I fell like the Fleischer two-reel was better and more emotional than the two Famous shorts even if they got the relationship with Ann and Andy wrong (I wonder if Fleischer would’ve had similar relationship confusion with Superman and Supergirl had Kara been created around the time of the shorts).
How I have waited more than 10 years for this day.
Ever since I first discovered this cartoon on a $1 Digiview DVD back in 2005, it quickly became one of my all-time favorites. Through the muddy NTA print and the poor video transfer (wherever it came from), I can see such a beautiful story and a timeless message. Since I was younger back then (I’m 28 now.) and was amazed at Disney’s track record at the time for restoring their classics on DVD (I know that’s still debatable.), I couldn’t help but think for a long time how it would feel to see this cartoon and many others like it receive such a restoration. And Mr. Stanchfield, despite there still being a few splices at head and tail of the film, you and your team have pretty much made that dream real.
Steve, I saw your earlier comments on how certain moments should have been fleshed out more, and well, I guess all I can say is that it took me all these years to notice and to quite agree with you. I wonder how Famous Studios felt at the time about two-reelers like the Fleischers did. This film could have made a nice 20 minutes or so. However, for a 10-minute cartoon, I really thought back then, as I do now, that they did pull on my heartstrings enough to care about every part of it, from beginning to end. It still made its point, and it did a beautiful job doing so.
Regarding David’s comment, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by visual appeal on what part of the cartoon. I honestly thought there was enough of it to go around by the time Billie’s imagination broke through. But yes, I agree the song and music score absolutely played a HUGE part on captivating me for a whole 10 minutes. Makes me wonder if isolated music tracks for any of Paramount’s cartoons still exist, especially for this and “Suddenly It’s Spring.” Come on, we can make a 5.1 track out of the cartoon! (I’m not overdoing it, am I?)
I saw a comment on the film’s IMDb page, written by a user who goes by “elicopperman” and this guy seems to elaborate on the beauty of the film better than I ever will. I could go on all day about how I feel about the film myself, but I’ll just say once more: Thank you, Steve. Seeing this upgrade is like me being able to step into Billie’s colorful world for myself. This was truly overdue.
P.S. Back in 2015, I had the privilege of seeing the film and several other Technicolor cartoons as part of a program at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in good old 35mm. It was truly something I’ll never forget.
By lack of visual appeal, I was referring to the copies we had before Mr. Stanchfield provided us with such a stellar restored version. Watch a badly faded NTA print with black bars over the Paramount and Technicolor references and I think you’d agree they really did not do this short justice.
I had never seen the full version of this “Enchanted Square” cartoon until I got the “Technicolour Dreams and Black-&-White Nightmares” DVD+Blu-ray set and it was incredible to see … I do remember vaguely seeing it before when I was little. So it was great to be reacquainted with this new version.
My only problem, even with the latest combo disk, is that there is a slight jump in the audio and video when Raggedy-Ann sings “You can see with your heart, make the dark clouds depart” – the skip/jump is NOT on either of the YouTube versions shown here.
It’s a bit disappointing that the YouTube is just that tiny bit more complete than what I have on home video, but that’s not so bad – though I still wish it wasn’t an issue for me and wonder if anyone else has the same thing?
Also I believe this was the only one of the three theatrical Raggedy Ann shorts of the 40s produced in New York City instead of Miami.