November 19, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

The Return of the “Cinegraph Sweepstakes”!

So, six years back, in October of 2014, I posted a Thunderbean Thursday about Cinegraph Sweepstakes – As part of the post, we put one of the shorts on YouTube that was part of this movie-game.

The idea of the film is simple: You place your bets, then randomly run one of the animated ‘horse race’ reels of film. Each has a different outcome- with a different horse winning. There were four 50’ reels that were part of this set. It looks like, from the article below (from a 1931 Cine-Kodak News magazine) show how the films were sold, and two sets of two films.

This same idea was repeated many years later with the much more popular Broadway Handicap game, sold for many years starting in the late 40s (in sound and silent versions). Here’s the setup of that game- including betting slips, fake money and 6 different races.

If you look at the comments in the Cartoon Research article from six years back, you’ll notice the first comment is from artist/cartoon collector Mark Newgarden- saying the search is over for all four of these Cinegraph shorts. I responded below that (with excitement), and somehow over the years didn’t ever get to it. Now, all these years later, Mark was kind enough to lend the film to me this week. He’s written a note saying the film has some damage… so I needed to inspect it and prep it for the scan. Kodak printed these films on cellulose diacetate- and the films all have a strong smell like mothballs/ camphor. I’ve always kind of liked that smell – but you don’t want to leave them out too long or you’ll have a whole room smelling like the film.

I had meant to take it to scan earlier in the week, but stopped until I had time to check out the issues that need to be fixed before scanning. You don’t want a rare film to break while on the scanner, leading to more possible damage. Thankfully we’ll be scanning on a Lasergraphics scanner- and that’s very gentle on films that are shrunken and have damage. It’s a sprocketless system without much tension at all- but I still will need to do some simple things to insure it runs fine as it goes over the rollers. I’ll supervise this one. I thought it might be fun to show taking a first look at it. A giant thanks is owed to Mark Newgarden for lending this incredibly rare short for the set.

This is the very last film to finish for the More Stop Motion Marvels Blu-ray. I’m hoping to put the four films on the set as both a play-though *and* a game, so it can be played at home as intended back in the late 20s. I’m hoping I can figure out how to randomize the play button to make it work… we’ll see.

I’ll be giving an update on the after scanning coming up next week – and when More Stop Motion Marvels will be all finished. In the meantime, let’s look over this reel together right now and see what is what.

Have a good week everyone!


  • Is it just me, or does it sound like it predates the modern day “video games” by several decades?

  • Fun video, Steve. The magazine ad claims there were six films, four sold in one set and the remaining two in another. What is the conclusion that there were only four films based on?

  • You shouldn’t wear a nice shirt if you’re handling old films with a strong chemical odour. How about a white lab coat, for that debonair Clyde Crashcup look?

  • I wonder if this was the inspiration for the syndicated TV show “Let’s Go To The Races” which was similar in execution.

  • Kind of like “The Great Puck Race” on scoreboards during breaks in hockey games, and similar “races” on scoreboards in other sports.

  • What a cool concept! Reminds me of the movie “Clue” and definitely worth preserving!

  • Intrigued by the puzzle of how to randomize them on a disc. Incorporating the films into a computer game would be pretty straightforward. Or you could download them onto a device that has a random play function. Not sure you can actually direct a DVD or BluRay to randomize.

    Clumsy low-tech work-around: A one- or two-hour disc with the six races repeated in random order. If your player has a memory to start a familiar disc from when it last stopped, that’s where you resume your next game. By the time you go back to the beginning of the disc you likely don’t remember who won when. Alternately, you give each race a code number and put them all on a menu screen (remember, you have 10-20 occurrences of each race, all mixed up). Then you roll dice or spin a spinner to determine each individual race or series of races.

    The old VHS tapes were accompaniment to board games, with the latter providing the randomizing.

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