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.
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.
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.
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.
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!