THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
January 14, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Van Beuren “The Office Boy” with a Beautiful RCA Track!

Thunderbean Update:
I was hoping that I’d have Stop Motion Marvels on its way to the replicator at this moment. It’s not quite there yet, but almost- just waiting for the last commentaries. I’ll devote this space to the title when its actually finished and on its way. I have no complaints since I’m very happy with how the project looks.

As of today, it appears that the animation is finished for the Rainbow Parade titles- the very last thing needed to complete that master.

I’m slowly organizing the next projects to be finished- and enjoying putting files from the master scan hard drives into the project hard drives. Right now, my Aesop’s Fables project hard drive is called Those Ugly, Badly Produced Cartoons – a charge leveled firmly at the studio by another producer of DVDs and Blu-rays. The Van Beuren Studio will always and forever be underdogs of the early sound era, but their bizarre brand of humor and funny New York cartoony drawing has its merits. I will always enjoy these merry films, even when I’m not properly dressed for the occasion.

I think one of the coolest things about getting to do a lot of these projects is being able to scan 35mm prints of some really rare things. Collector and Loonic Video owner Lory Ringette really did me a solid by putting out so many Van Beuren cartoons on VHS in the 80s as well as teaching me a little bit about print downs versus 16mm prints made from another 16mm neg. He made it possible to see things I had no other way to see since it was even hard to see *any* of the Van Beuren cartoons without actually buying a print. Finding them and releasing the best versions I could became an early goal back in the ‘Snappy Video’ days. Now, finding that 35mm prints where we can is especially exciting— but not just for the improved picture- for the soundtracks too.

RCA’s Photophone System was truly incredible for its time; perhaps the best sound reproduction of any for film in the early 30s. An interesting part is that the history of the type of track used is literally a case-by-case—it’s not consistently done one way. There appears to be a lot of experimentation in the early 30s, and this is the earliest example of a linear track that I’ve seen I think- and unusual looking at that (although not unique). It’s clear from this print that RCA was already experimenting with high contrast linear soundtracks as early as 1930 (as opposed to the much more common variable density tracks). The track here (as seen in this HD transfer) is crisp and has a wide rage— sounding great for a 1930 recording- 90 years ago!

This scan of Office Boy is from a rare 35mm print that showed up on Ebay in the mid-2000s. it was in fine shape, and on Kodak 1930 stock. It is post digital cleanup here but before final crop and contrast. It’s pretty decent looking with its Movietone aspect ratio fully on display.

I’ve grabbed this copy from the ‘main’ scan. The titles went out of frame at the beginning and I scanned them separate, so you’ll notice this is out of frame at first. Looking at the overall visual quality, I wonder if the prints were made from the camera negative rather than making a fine grain and a dupe neg. This is a print I wish I would have kept!

Of course, this is one of the cartoons Disney cited in his lawsuit against Van Beuren. I wish we had 35mm on every Van Beuren of course, if only for these crisp soundtracks. Fortunately there are some that have survived.

Have a good week everyone!

9 Comments

  • That really is a beautifully clear soundtrack. It’s just a shame that so much of it consists of nothing more than wood blocks marking out footsteps. But at least I can finally make out all the lyrics of the song at the end.

    Mickey and Minnie never merged mouths in song! That must have been strictly a Van Beuren thing.

  • Oh my gosh! I LOVE the song in this cartoon. (Which I first heard on your now discontinued disc “Classics from the Van Beuren Studio.”) “And how I’d love to bite my-y-y initials in your cheek” is one of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard! Was that a saying back in those days? I kind of hope not. What a hoot if the lyricist just made it up!

    Does anyone know any details about this song? Such as… who wrote it? Was it written specifically for this cartoon? And was it ever recorded by anyone else? I did a cursory Google search back when I first heard it, but couldn’t find anything on it. My guess would be the song was written specifically for the cartoon since, 1) I couldn’t find anything else about it, and 2) because the line “You’re a fascinating fuzzy little bunch of loveliness.” seems to be referencing an animal rather than a person.

  • It took Western Electric to develop optical sound on film, but it took RCA to refine it. In the early 1930’s it seemed like Western Electric wanted to rest on their laurels. RCA took the ball and started running with it getting patent after patent on new sound film technology and new patents on microphones too.

  • Mickey and friends eventually moved to RCA sound production at some point, beginning with Mickey’s Good Deed and Santa’s Workshop (don’t let the fake title restorations fool you), and then eventually the Fleischers many years later– but only after they became “Famous”…

  • If Charlie Chaplin had sued his imitators the list would have been long.

  • Oh my goodness, I have to only mirror comments above; I love the exclusive song in this cartoon, and I probably have your volume on which this cartoon previously appeared. Being able to decipher the lyrics in this cartoon means that I will definitely enjoy the cartoon when and if it appears on bluray as full and complete restoration. So you see why I someday want to hear some of the HAPPY HARMONIES as full restorations. Sound films may have still been “new” but those well-thought-out soundtracks are such a delight. I’m looking forward to the RAINBOW PARADE restorations and all other projects whenever they come and thanks for these sneak previews.

  • The “raw” version I have on the “Tons of Toons” special disc has the rest of the end music; I don’t understand why it’s cut short with a fade-out in the cleaned-up version. (And the track from the 35mm print is still coming almost entirely out of the left channel – did the scanner transfer it as if it was stereo?) It is an astounding print, though, missing the Pathé end logo but otherwise mostly there; and even the non-“cleaned-up” version looks clean enough that you could’ve just put that out and probably gotten away with it.

  • How come New York voice acting is so poorly documented unlike L A

  • Loonic Video! Jeepers, I never thought I’d encounter that name again. The only VHS I’ve ever heard of from that label was called “British Animation No. 2”, with packaging that screamed Unauthorized Bootleg, and quality to match.

    The Bubble and Squeek series of cartoons you can find on YouTube were sourced from that tape and posted by me. Which is why they look so wretched. But something is better than nothing.

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