Spring break here has been really busy so far. I’ve been trying to make the most of this week away from the school by traveling to pick up some nitrate cartoons as well as some safety ones, work on scanning a lot of things, and trying to organize things. I got word just a bit ago that CCS, the college I teach at, will be closed an additional week as we figure out how to transition to online courses as much as possible in response to the current health challenges. I know we all hope things return to a more normal state for all of us sooner than later, worldwide, so I send my best to you wherever you are reading this.
On the travels, I was lucky enough to be able to swing by and say hi to our own Devon Baxter, who I had never met face to face. It was nice to now have met in person every member of the usual Thunderbean team now. We spent a brisk hour talking about cartoons and research, and I’m always impressed at his knowledge.
Although it’s largely virtual, getting things really up and running on the Rainbow Parade menu screen animation has been a lot of fun. I’ll be talking more about it in the coming weeks, but I hope to have things moving pretty fast as the first half gets closer to the finish line.
Something that us (largely older) folks that collect film take for granted is the coolness of seeing and working with original old film prints.
One of these weeks I’d like to haul out some things here and do a short video on looking at the actual materials. I’ve been looking at film since I was a teenager, and I was truly thrilled looking at some of the things just acquired. There’s so many more things to get to before they don’t exist. Many of these things are in peril, and even though they are in private hands and being cared for, sometimes that’s just not enough to combat the ravages of time, especially ‘Vinegar Syndrome’ (really just acetate deterioration).
After this weekend’s film pick-up, I’m pretty excited to get things on the scanner since some projects are now really coming together. One of them took a huge step forward. Between what is already here and some of the new material, there are 14 Paramount ‘Little Lulu’ cartoons here we haven’t scanned yet- some 16mm, some 35mm. We decided to do a special set to help support some of the other projects in the hopper. Details are here.
While sometimes the amount of projects in progress here has been dizzying, it’s also been a great opportunity to be able to get various films for all sorts of things scanned as they become available. While I really do enjoy a deeper dive into a single project for some time, I’m more than happy to have a bunch of them steadily on their way to the finish line. I only wish the operation was big enough to support them all moving forward all the time.
Something I hope to update at some point (way down the line!) is a set called ‘Makin’ ‘Em Move’. This DVD featured behind the scenes films showing the making of cartoons. More films of this type have become available, and even though a set like this is never one of the more popular ones, the footage is especially cool and often really rare.
One of the films on the set was an RKO Newsreel from 1938. The first half of the newsreel, ‘Spirit Swindles’ features tricks of the trade used by scam spiritualists. It’s pretty campy and fun when viewed today. The second half, ‘Cartoon Craft’ features behind the scenes footage of the Disney Studio producing Snow White. I have a pretty decent dupe of this newsreel (scanned here) but since then I’ve heard of a collector that either provided the print that this one was made from or another better print. This one will do just fine for today’s post though.
There’s a wonderful shot at the beginning of the segment showing Hyperion Ave in 1938. That area today is, of course, unrecognizable. Walt pulling up to the studio, followed by some wonderful shots that give you a nice glimpse into what the studio was like around this period. From there, there are shots of Ham Luske, Les Clarke and others, along with Frank Churchill playing piano. While It’s not a terribly illuminating little peek into production, but still lovely.
Some of the same footage was recut and used by RKO in more than one film. Here’s another newsreel that features some of the same footage:
Have a good week everyone!