THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
November 4, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Wrapping Up a 6-year Restoration Project: Reflections on the Flip the Frog Blu-ray

I thought I’d talk a little about the Flip the Frog Blu-ray project this week since it is rounding a major corner in the next few days. We’re working on the finishing touches for the final versions of the last four films on the set right now- and they’re close to completion.

The Flip the Frog project *really* started back in August, 2014. My good friend David Gerstein encouraged me to pursue a deal with David Shepard, who owned Blackhawk films and Film Preservation Associates. I first met Mr. Shepard in 2012, and each year at the Syracuse Cinecon I’d ask him if they were available to license yet. Once they were out of the last contract, David Shepard and I worked out details on how an agreement could work, with Dave Gerstein as a project partner on the set.

This writer and David Shepard, 2012

I signed the deal to license the Flip’s first, and it was followed by a visit to UCLA to look through the master materials on both the Flips and some of the Willie Whopper cartoons. It was a huge learning experience to have the opportunity to work with master materials in so varied of condition. I was immediately taken with the idea of reuniting all the Willie Whopper cartoons, although it seemed like a stretch since they weren’t all owned by Blackhawk. I loved the idea of trying to get Willies done first since they hadn’t all been together since 1960, and I thought I may be able to play a role in reuniting and releasing the set. Happily, with help from the Modern Sound Pictures people, the Willies joined together again, and that set moved forward through 2015, being completed in late September of that year.

A small look at the notes taken on some of the Flip material evaluation at UCLA

Flip was also an immediate challenge. If all the films were at one archive and complete, the project would have sailed forward much faster. Besides not having the complete set of films in top quality, there were other additional factors. Scanning was more expensive at the start of the project versus the end, newer and better scanners became available during the project and nitrate was expensive to ship. Purchasing faster computers and having a larger group fo freelancers changed the equation as well- for the better. Other projects came and went that both hindered and helped to move Flip forward, especially financially. A big chunk of the money Thunderbean has made over these years has gone directly to Flip. For the 38 cartoons that comprise the set, 87 elements were scanned, mostly 35mm. Materials from five archives and six private collectors completed what was needed. Elements scanned varied; sometimes a soundtrack, sometimes an additional print, sometimes original titles or a missing piece.

David Gerstein prepared this title card comparison to help identify materials at UCLA

This week, Dave Grauman is working on combining the Movietone sound print of Cuckoo Murder Case and the one existing 35mm full frame print. Devon Baxter is working on Little Orphan Willie before handing it off for finishing touches and Becca Smith is handing off The Village Specialist in the morning. This leaves me with tweaks for all those this next week, and some additional final clean-up on Fiddlesticks. It’s truly at the end of the project for the films. All told, the set has been the second most expensive we’ve worked on. Looking at the films as they’re finaled, I think we’ve done *close to* the best that could be done at this moment with each of them, and I really love the results. I know that somehow I’ll be tweaking more at the last minutes before mastering- it’s just the nature of the project.

Left: Becca Smith works on some final tweaks for ‘Fiddlesticks
Right: Scott Christy, seen here working on the Cubby Bear, worked on persnickety cleanup for ‘The Circus’

A ton of people helped on the project over these years. As I’m working on that list for the credits I’m somewhat overwhelmed.

We’ll be working on bonus features in the coming weeks, and I hope to get the set off to replication this month and hopefully have this two-disc set on its way to everyone in early December.

For this week’s cartoon, it clearly has to be a Flip. I debated what to show, but for now, it will be What A Life. The element here is the 35mm master positive. The soundtrack is mostly the 35mm positive track with the opening music and first few shots from an additional 35mm element and a third element in 16mm for the soundtrack that was missing at the end of the 35mm element. This is close to the final version except for cropping it to the academy frame matte.

I hope you enjoy this little Flip the Frog diversion on a somewhat chilly (here) November day.

Have a good week everyone!

18 Comments

  • I am so hyped for this set! You and your team really poured your hearts and souls into this set! It’s amazing that there are people like you that really care about these films!

  • Great news Steve! This is THE Thunderbean project I’ve been waiting on! I can’t wait to see titles like Fiddlesticks, and Techno-Cracked fully restored,
    So was Techno-Cracked originally in color or is that a myth?

    Anyhow i am excited about the whole thing. There are plenty of Flip’s that I’ve never seem The only ones I have seen are this one here, and the ones of the Cartoons That Time Forgot DVD’s from the ’90’s

    Again this is fabulous news!
    -Chrus

  • Beautiful news!!Congratulations to you, Steve and the entirely Thunderbean Studio Team. I’ve been a Thunderbean supporter since your First DVD release

  • Congratulations on reaching this milestone, and to everyone who helped along the way. If all the Flips look and sound as good as “What a Life”, you deserve the accolades of the acclaiming multitudes. Take a bow!

    I first saw “What a Life” (and most of the other Flip cartoons) on the Cartoons That Time Forgot DVD collection. The scene in front of the closet confused me for the longest time, because the bottom of the frame was cut off and I couldn’t see Flip’s hat on the floor. The bit where the woman shoves Flip into the closet goes by so quickly, it wasn’t clear to me that his hat came off. I could tell that the cop saw something just offscreen, and then he bent down to pick something up — but I didn’t think the object could be Flip’s hat, because when Flip walks out of the closet at the end of the scene, he’s wearing it!

  • Fascinating stuff! I can’t wait to see your finished Flip The Frog blu-rays!

  • Hey Steve,

    Is there any word on the Bonus Material as well as the Front Cover Art ????

  • Steve, KICK.START.A.SCANNER. Paying to have things scanned is not how this should work.

    • I second this, though it’ll need a lot of attention for it to succeed.

  • Thumbs up, Steve!

  • Congratulations, Steve!

  • WHAT A LIFE must have been clearly inspired by Laurel and Hardy’s BELOW ZERO (1930!

    Steve: Great job all the way around! Let us all know when the FLIP THE FROG set will be available!

    • OOOPS! I forgot a closing parenthesis after 1930! I must be getting (older)! There! NOW I’ve got it!

      As i said before, I’m really looking forward to getting this set! Did I pre-order this, Steve?

  • There’s a slight stutter in the audio at 0:28 that you might want to fix.

  • I can’t wait to see the final set! Will it be a Bluray/DVD combo set?

  • I loved working on “The Circus!” Being a part of these projects is so much fun. I wish I could do more!

    I’ve never seen “What a Life” look so good. These little previews make so excited for the final product!

  • Congrats on nearing the finish line. This is great to hear, and fortuitous timing for myself personally. The only Flip I’ve seen in its entirety is Spooks, on a recent TB disc, and wow, it looked pretty amazing. I also enjoyed the cartoon greatly. So I’m really looking forward to the release. I get to see all the Flips for the first time like I was a moviegoer in 1930! I feel pretty lucky.

  • I preordered this as soon as it was announced, and have been happy to wait on it, in order to get the best possible product. I know it will be a stunner, and should rightfully end up on some of 2021’s Best of the Year lists.

    My first exposure to Flip was watching promos on Bosko Video tapes of Van Beuren and Superman cartoons. I was absolutely captivated by that singing frog. “Dub dub!” I ended up getting Cartoons that Time Forgot on VHS, LaserDisc, and finally DVD. But upgrading to your Blu-ray will be a total pleasure. Can’t wait now!

  • About Flippin’ time!

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