June 23, 2016 posted by

The Hunt-For and Clean-Up of Original Cartoon Title Sequences

Another busy week here at Thunderbean, and the usual summer running continues!

We have a sick kitty here right now, so nursing her back to health is our current priority, but all the other stuff needs to happen as well of course.

I’m just putting the finishing touches on the new ‘Thunderbean Thursday’ set, and hope to be dubbing copies in the next day or so. If you’ve ordered it, thanks much for supporting the projects underway.

On the Flip front: another batch of Flip the Frogs are arriving Tuesday here, so I hope to have next week’s article will be about the inspection of Nitrate materials, and I will do my best to get some nice closeups of the various prints, so as I talk about this stuff you can have some idea of what the actual materials look like.

For Fiddlesticks, the first Flip cartoon, there is a plethora of black and white materials, and a single original color 35mm print. That single color original will be one of the prints we scan. This is the material used for all available color prints of the film, made by Blackhawk. There is another existing print, at BFI, but I’m not sure of the conditon. The camera material on this and the other color ones in the series only exist in black and white materials at UCLA. This particular print appears to be using the Multicolor process, printed likely in England. There appears to have been no color release of any of the Flips in the states, but it looks like Pat Powers released at least four of them in color in England, before or at the very beginning of the distribution deal with MGM. This was recently confirmed by another archive’s researchers, and I’m looking forward to seeing the other color materials to determine if they are all in the same color process. All of the ones made in color appear to have Black and White fine grains with the complete MGM titles rather than the Flip playing the mandolin title card.

As we were searching through the Flip the Frog materials, my good friend Dave Gerstein was kind enough to make a title card sheet showing the original title cards we have seen up to this point.

Flip the Frog title card chronology

Using this I was able to identify what card was on each element at UCLA. Sometimes a single cartoon contained a different title card version on each element, some from original release, and many made later. There are actually 35mm materials that have the 16mm official films titles on them. One curious negative at the beginning of one cartoon had a whole series of Pat Powers Flip the Frog titles, complete with the full piano sequence, ending with a new filmed card for a different cartoon. The fine grain versions of some of those are spliced onto a fine grain neg on many of the films to this day.

Since I’m talking about Flip, I thought I’d share this (so far not cleaned up) opening sequence from The Goal Rush. This is from the MGM fine grain. This negative (and track negative) had additional music before Flip plays the piano, and there’s at least a few other negs on the Flips that are similar- although I haven’t heard all of them yet to see if it’s the same music que. I really like the little piece of music in front, and wonder how many had this music in the original release. We’ll probably know more as we transfer since many of the soundtracks we’re using are from the 1930 to 1934 MGM fine grains- there may even be some here that I haven’t compiled yet that have it.

Flip is taking a back seat for just a little longer as Cubby attempts to jump into the can. The project is coming along great, and since it’s what I’m working on most of the time right now, I thought I’d talk a little bit about putting titles back together, and show some of the results for the first time.

All the footage on all of the films are cleaned up now (except for Good Knight – getting finishing touches by restorer par-excellence Thad Komorowski). Now it’s time to compile the various pieces together, and it’s an around the clock job in an attempt to get the master at least very close to done this week. Sometimes that’s easy and one element is complete of the individual film, but often to make a better version it’s a mix of different materials- a title from this print, soundtracks from another, Van Beuren title from another, splice fixes from others. As they all come together and I’m working on the edit, I usually have a satisfied look on my face; It’s nice to see cartoons that for many years haven’t had their original openings. While they’re not all from the best material, it’s lucky that many of them exist at all, since most prints of many of the later films in the series only have the Official Films titles. We’re doing our best to make them look as good as possible.

I’ve put some of these original titles together here to show what the condition is of many of these titles, all from older 16mm, mostly rental prints. Here are the original title sequences in battered condition, from Gay Gaucho, Sinister Stuff and Fresh Ham. These are HD transfers, run with a non-toxic cleaner to reduce scratches (wet-gate) but otherwise just as they are on the existing print.

Luckily, many of the Official Films prints have the complete musical score during the Official Films titles, so it’s a matter of finding a spliceless 16mm print of each cartoon, including the beginning of the music. Often these old prints are *almost* complete, with a splice or two in the title, so sometimes I’ve had to patch a track together from several prints. Once in a while you get lucky and find an almost mint 16mm print, but usually not.

The distributor of some of the earlier Cubbys, Gutlohn, often only used the second half of the title soundtracks, so those titles are the biggest challenge; we may never hear the complete opening music on some of these unless another old rental print shows u with those original titles. Some of them, happily, never had the original titles replaced, so the prints all have these original sequences, music and title cards,

Here is the beginning of Love’s Labor Won, with the original titles, from a nice 1948 16mm print down, printed for Modern Sound Pictures, who bought the rights to these cartoons from Gutlohn. Happily, all of the music and original titles are present here. This is a telecine transfer, steadied and digitally cleaned up.

For Gay Gaucho, the single original title sequence was too splicy to use the music from, and all the Official Films prints cut off the beginning of the music! Luckily, the other Harman/Ising-produced Cubby, World Flight, uses the same opening music, and one of the three prints I used for the set had this beginning complete. The majority of the soundtrack from Gay Gaucho comes from a 35mm nitrate print I borrowed in 1991, and has since vanished. That print had the beginning music cut off, with the film starting at the iris in. Here is the Gay Gaucho version (still in progress) with the beginning music from World Flight, then an Official Films print, then the 35mm nitrate. This is a telecine transfer, digitally cleaned up except for a few pickup shots, the actual cartoon not steadied as of yet, edited together from the mentioned various elements. This is still very much a work-in-progress:

Finally, here are the titles from Sinister Stuff. The music bed on this particular Official Films print was complete, and the title sequence is from a rare print I won on Ebay many years back; that print looks like a reversal dupe from a somewhat beat up 16mm rental print. I wouldn’t be surprised if that print had been made using the in-home Cineprinter like this one below:


I wish the quality was better on the title, but it’s just nice to see it. Here’s the reconstruction, steadied and digitally cleaned up, edited together from the mentioned various elements:

Have a great week everyone!


  • Gotta love the names of the two universities “Nertz U” & “Burp U” in the Goal Rush. and that’s got to be one of the weirdest looking Sousaphone that I’ve ever seen!

  • This is fascinating stuff! I’m amazed at how elaborate the opening of the FLIP THE FROG cartoon is, and then, when MGM was distributing the HAPPY HARMONIES, the lion roar was not accompanied with music. As always, you are to be commended for your work here. I’m pullin’ for the FLIP set and, after sitting through the links in this post, I’m so psyched to get this set!! But, I do wish your kitty a speedy recovery. I have three cats of my own, and you really do worry about them. Here’s to your cats and here’s to FLIP and here’s to CUBBY *AND* the Thunderbean Thursday disk which I did order! I believe I ordered the CUBBY BEAR, too. Sure wish I kept better records.

    • This is fascinating stuff! I’m amazed at how elaborate the opening of the FLIP THE FROG cartoon is, and then, when MGM was distributing the HAPPY HARMONIES, the lion roar was not accompanied with music.

      That is kinda interesting they left it silent. Perhaps Hugh and Rudy wanted to think their productions were more austere so they asked not to have music during the lion roar for their cartoons initially.

    • I’ve never quite figured out if there was a specific policy for music to accompany the MGM lion back in the “Golden Age”. I’ve seen a variety of Laurel & Hardy shorts, and some have music during the lion sequence, and some don’t. During the course of “restoration”, it maybe be that the wrong sequence was added (or deleted) on some films. With the Harman-Ising “Happy Harmonies”, I wonder if at one point, there was a pending deal for H & I to retain control of the films after initial release, which was then altered, perhaps when the two came back as employees of the MGM cartoon studio?

  • That’s very interesting that the color Flip The Frog Cartoons were never released here in USA, only in Britain. That would explain why so many books and publications from the 30s and 40s frequently credit Ted Eshbaugh’s 1931 cartoon “Goof Goat” (aka “Goofy Goat Antics”) as being the first color sound cartoon and not Iwerks’ 1930 cartoon “Fiddlesticks”.

    • That is something due to geographical limitations. Now for the first time in 80+ years we’ll finally know the truth!

  • I had a tape of “Flip” cartoons years ago that had a completely different music queue before the piano sequence. Someone put together this version with the MGM lion, but there was no “roar” from the lion, which made me think it was from one of the pre-MGM Flip cartoons. The music contained some of the post-piano Flip music, which made me think it wasn’t some random music just spliced in for the heck of it. I believe it was “The Cuckoo Murder Case”, which is supposedly the first MGM title. Perhaps they took the music from an earlier film and added it to the opening sequence.

  • Funny you should say that, according to a Tralfaz listing, TWELVE color Flips were to be produced.

    Also, keep up with the nice Cubby/Flip title work! The fine grain titles on that cartoon seem interesting though, as I believe no print of any Flip I have ever seen retained Jackie pre-titles, so that is an extreme rarity. The things you find at public/private film archives…..

  • All the best to your poor kitty, hope he gets better soon!

    I appreciate your dedication to preserving the original titles for these cartoons. You’re right, there is something satisfying about seeing these cartoons with their original titles (even if in the case of “Sinister Stuff,” I’d rather see poor copies of the originals than the replacement cards). Even though it’s still a work-in-progress, you did some amazing work on “The Gay Gaucho” compared to what it looked like before.

  • Bummer… Please give my regards to your poor kittycat. No fun bein’ sick…

    I managed to get in my order for the 2016 Thunderbean Thursday Special DVD under the wire, last Monday the 13th (Friday the 13th fell on a Monday this month), so I’m looking forward to it. I have a Sam Bassett from Jerry Beck a few years ago, in one of his “Worst Cartoons Ever Made” series, and I have another Sam Bassett from you in last year’s Thunderbean Thursday special, so now my life is full.

    Looking forward to the Cubbies _and_ the Flips. It will be quite interesting to see some of those Flips in color!

  • Most of the cartoons on the Bosko Video Flip VHS tapes had an MGM logo at the beginning, but I assumed that they had been tacked on by Bosko Video since later video release of Flip cartoons didn’t have the MGM logo at the beginning.

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