“Movie Phoney News” (1938) – A New Universal Cartoon!

It’s spring break this week at the school, and I’ve been attempting to make the most of the week by catching up with lots of little projects here as well as Thunderbean stuff. The extra time so far has been put into getting “The Little King” Blu-ray nearly finished. At the moment there are not permissions to scan the original camera negative for the one Little King that has a master element intact, so we’re cleaning up the 16mm scan (from film hero Dennis Atkinson’s 16mm original print). I’m of course relentlessly pursuing permission still and hoping we’ll be able to move forward.

Flip The Frog is in a similar waiting pattern, but for not much longer. We’ll be sending both these sets to replication in March, finally, one way or another! The rest of the in progress sets need our attention, and both these projects really look great, thanks to the talents of all the folks that made them, with a little help from all of us. I’m looking at all the things we want to accomplish this year with the goal of getting material out monthly. Many of the releases this year are things we’ve been working on for a while- I feel a little against the clock in trying to get the official sets both as good as we’re able and keep them rolling out.

We’re working with the Diamant film restoration package now, thanks to our association with the Fleischer’s restoration project. It’s been a tremendous help in getting things done much faster than the software we had been using- so it’s a big boost to the Fleischer restoration project as well as the things Thunderbean is doing. We only have one chair of the software currently, so the freelancers have been working up at the office, then I grab the computer and drag it back home to clean more material up at night. It’s been pretty dizzying, but also an excellent crash course is how to best use the new software for the best results. We plan to get more chairs as soon as we’re able to!

The new software package has really made us re-evaluate a lot of the elements on the Van Beuren Tom and Jerry set and get them looking as good as possible- and the Rainbow Parades we’ve been scanning. I’m looking forward to getting more scans from the ComiColor project as well and I’ll share things here as they start to roll in more regularly.

A big piece of me loves the idea of getting a lot of these things back to actual film. The advancements in recent years are astonishing to me in terms of the quality of scanning as well as restoration software- and I’m sure those advancements will continue. We have big plans this year for some of these things.

We’ve got a new special set pre-order up at the Thunderbean Shop called Secret Cartoon Set 2023. It’s the usual, unusual collection of prints we’ve managed to scan. I know we won’t do these forever, but it’s a lot of fun to gather all these rarities and make them available. Thanks to all of you that have helped support all these things through these years.

And— this week’s cartoon!

I’ve always been fascinated by the really odd films that are a part of the regular release schedules at pretty much every studio. Movie Phoney News (1938) is one of those sorts of shorts – in this case, it’s a ‘cheater’ using footage from lots of different films as part of a Newsreel Spoof (“Movietone” is likely their target), with Billy Bletcher as the narrator. In some ways it’s the best reuse in terms of a framing device (although I’ve always liked The Adventures of Popeye and the live action footage in it.

This short is still puzzling — a strange mix of clips from various Lantz cartoons from the few years before it was made. Oddly, in a way it’s a nice review of the films they were making at that time. The disjointed aspect of their presentation works really nicely with the newsreel format, although the overall flavor of the short seems a little odd. I’d love to hear your opinions.

Ron Schwartz was kind enough to sell this print to me, so, just as if I was projecting this for friends, I’m sharing it here. Who knows if Universal will ever release these things- but I don’t think this one is at the top of anyone’s list! Enjoy!