Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Public Domain Conditions...

Before I begin this post; I noticed how that some commenters thought it was a bad idea to talk about "WB merchandising" - I did explain this incorrectly but I'll say it in a simple way. What I meant was that at least once a week (or two) I'll try and post something WB-like instead of being stuck with just looking at the old 1930's cartoons; and I'll try to do posts that might be interesting to people. I'll try to make them interesting. I might even get to post "animator breakdown" on later shorts (won't review, go through animated scenes). I'll get to the point of posting animators personal info with extra bits and bobs (date of birth, family, etc.) on people like Phil Monroe, Irv Spence, Rod Scribner, etc. I said this in a comment - and I'm saying this again. I'm just doing this because I want to write posts I didn't get the chance to do. If you don't like the idea then you don't need to read them.

I discussed here that I was eager to talk more about the conditions and quality in the animation of the Looney Tunes cartoons that had fallen into the public domain. As far as I know; just about all of the Harman-Ising cartoons they made at Warner Bros. are in the public domain but that's me going off topic. Of course; the cartoons in the public domain weren't only before 1943 but their cartoons were in terrible conditions. Most of those cartoons had been reddened because of the bad shape it was in. The colors were very dark and almost invisible as though you can't see the characters like Bugs Bunny very well - that was the most annoying part.

When you saw the cartoons that had been restored for DVD; the cartoons looked much better; and even it made the audience appreciate the background views and the look of the animation. If there were a fan trying to ID animators from those tapes; it must've been tricky ;-).

Here is a screen image of the poor quality from Chuck Jones' animated short Case of the Missing Hare. The cartoon has done very stunning backgrounds here in which Chuck was experimenting with different backgrounds around that period. All that yellow; and the colors in the magic show scenes. However the quality here shows it's much darker and that the gorgeous backgrounds that Chuck was using look just rotten and needed cleaning up. As I've got the exact same image but in the restored version; it looks much prettier and you can appreciate it's backgrounds more. We know that the color of the tree is purple while I guess in the darkened quality; the tree probably had a more realistic color to it; but the colors once restored is much, much better.


Here in The Wabbit Who Came to Supper directed by Friz Freleng; we know that Bugs and Elmer are already inside the living room during the Happy New Year scene but in the darkened quality it looks rather dull when watching it.

The confetti is not even colorful but all it looks like is just plain dots to us while after it was restored; it gives the cartoon a rather colorful effect here. It appears to be a little blurred slightly which means we might be able to understand some of the jokes such as that the calendar tells us that that the month in that cartoon is July while restored or not in public domain condition; while in the darkened version it's barely visible. You can still see it but not too great; and it's not very noticeable. I also notice how that when I listen to the audio of that; it doesn't sound too right; the voices sound rather low and tedious while on DVD releases - it sounds really well as though it was only created yesterday.


 In the 1943 classic Falling Hare - the grass in the army fields really do look green. The grass in the unrestored, public domain version looks like a muddy grass on a cold January day during a football match. This cartoon has practically been in almost all public domain tapes available and probably one of the most well-known cartoons in that era where it's in it. The animation is glorious to look at; and I must say - the animation still stands out well in crappy quality. Thank you, Rod Scribner, Bob McKimson, Virgil Ross and others.

The Rod Scribner animation seen at the top is very kooky animation with that front teeth; exaggerated loose movement and it even looks great in the poor quality; so I guess the poor quality in great animation still has some advantages even though it's not as fresh as the restored part. I don't want to ruin the post saying this but "Falling Hare" has got probably some of the greatest smear animation in Looney Tunes history as it's packed with them. I'll show you one and compare it to the restored version.

To Duck or Not to Duck is another reason for public domain conditions. Compared to the restored versions of what the original backgrounds of the arena looked like. The quality in the frame on the right is reddened; darkness of color (no surprise) and the fact that it's definitely needs a good cleaning. It's an interesting look with the reddening effect but it's a bad damage to the quality here.

Chuck Jones' cartoons in that era in the early 1940s - his character layouts and animation was always slightly rough with those circled eyes; rubbery faces where they seem to shape change at times and feel as though they will float away, etc. I tend to notice that in restored version. Remember; I'm writing the conditions from my point of view; but when I see it in poor quality; the animation and drawings don't look too rough at all since it shows that the scenes look just as fine. As we see it restored; it's still a great improvement but the roughness is probably more visible; even though the roughness of Jones' character layouts were still visible very much in the public domain but not so visible where it doesn't look so bad.

Yankee Doodle Daffy probably one of my favorite Daffy Duck cartoons in the public domain. This one I've known so long. The layouts here (which I believe were done by Owen Fitzgerald) seem alright in that condition even though it's dark but at least we can see the angular backgrounds and layouts that is provided. The animation still looks good so I don't have much to complain about. When watching this cartoon again; I noticed mostly the Hi-Fi sounds different - of course; YouTube is compressed but so are the video tapes in those conditions. Daffy's singing I'm Just Wild About Harry (as well as the other songs) sounds much lower but in a way - more professional here (only because of the sounds). Once it's restored you can hear the way Daffy would often sing. Just watch those videos on YouTube in public domain condition and you'll see what I mean.

This is the examples I can provide so far; but I've noticed when I watched it - not only the animation and background quality suffers the most out of anything but also the sound quality is much different. When I listen to the "Merrie Melodies" introduction - it sounds much more slower than the other videos in which it sounds a little odd - like a ballard. We all prefer the higher sound for "Merrie Melodies" or "Looney Tunes" theme where it's cheerful, high and a real difference. Of course; the public domain would get access to these cartoons and could screw around with it which is probably why it's in that condition.

Smears are a very interesting technique; they look much better when you see them restored but how about seeing them in public domain conditions or comparison? ;-)

 Falling Hare (1943)

Daffy the Commando (1943) 

 Wackiki Wabbit (1943)

The smears in those public domain prints are definitely unpolished while the restored versions look beautiful, bright and very colorful. The "Wackiki Wabbit" print looks very dark with the backgrounds here as it's got beautiful backgrounds that Chuck Jones loved (as he used it on Dover Boys, Hold the Lion Please, My Favourite Duck, etc.) - in these prints I don't acknowledge it in poor condition as it is off-putting.

Of course - despite thee quality; as I was unaware of the perfectly restored cartoons. They still had the charm and humor I enjoyed looking at while watching them as a kid with the slow paces sound stereo and of course the quality. I recall then watching them in better quality on DVD either than the internet or TV and was truly amazed about how that the cartoons looked so fresh and as though they were released only yesterday. I wonder if the cartoons when first released in theaters were in great conditions? There are still a many great cartoons in the public domain that haven't been restored yet in good conditions; although they probably have been restored but released on home video.

I hope you've enjoyed this post -and this will probably be the last I'll talk about the public domain stuff (if I can think of more). I may have screwed up with analysis while writing this but I hope this was worth a read. I'll try and post something better next time if I can.


  1. The smears are unpolished not because the cartoon is unrestored, but because it's taken from TV video. You can see a difference even in a restored cartoon comparing a DVD version to a TV feed, which will always look murky.

    Growing up, I watched these cartoons on a black and white TV, sometimes from a wavy or snowy station 120 miles away. It didn't ruin the enjoyment; the people who wrote the first books on Warners cartoons saw them the same way.

  2. Let alone taking into account the quality of the film prints used as often those can fade to red through improper room temperature conditions over time. Prior to the 1980's and the whole video post-production deal, cartoons would've been distributed on 16mm to TV stations who ran them on projectors as a video camera would display the films in realtime. These were open to many interpretations in color, edits, lines, dirty and all sorts of technical limitations brought on by the care, handling or maintenance of said equipment and prints. Of course it didn't help when a number of cartoons lost their copyright renewals in the 70's and the future home video peddlers had at them all they want from what was available to them. I often saw many of these cartoons in all sorts of flavors on many different labels in existence.

  3. Were most public doamin prints of those cartoons were in Low pitch?

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