Saturday, December 11, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not The Beatles Vol. 6

After a pretty long lay-off, I've re-visited the budget bins to assemble yet another collection of vintage Beatles cover recordings.

I've plundered not one, but two sets of "Alvin & The Chipmunks" cash-ins. Yes, the"real" Chipmunks recorded their own LP of Beatles covers, but the WYNCOTE and DIPLOMAT budget labels pulled off a bank-shot by ripping of rodents ripping off insects!

One source was "The Grasshoppers Sing The Beatles Hits" which featured some nice interplay, David Seville style, between the main grasshopper, Henry, and the manager, Jerry.

The other group of sped-up vocals came from a Wyncote LP that didn't even bother giving itself a title or identifying the "artists" in print. The cover just showed four chipmunks with "A HARD DAYS NIGHT" and a few other song titles splash across it.

Also featured are some "karaoke" versions of Beatles tunes from the "Sing A-Long With The Beatles" LP that was released on the Tower record label. At least this was a Capitol Records subsidiary.

Sprinkled in are also covers by a (mid-70s?) LP recorded by The Rip-Offs. Well, at least they're up front about it!

For the final track, I was able to create my own chipmunk version of "My Bonnie" by tweaking the Tony Sheridan recording. His guitar parts were also pitched up an octave, so now it sounds like he was rocking out on a mandolin!

Let me know if I need to upload a link to this masterpiece...

Friday, July 30, 2010

S.N.A.F.U. Alert

It's a five-alarm cartoon nerd emergency, gang. Code Red!

Thunderbean Animation has announced it will be releasing the most complete, best-looking collection of "Private Snafu" cartoons ever assembled come this October.

"Private What?" you ask.

These are cartoons that were produced during WWII to be shown to armed forces. Imagine cartoons made by the Warner Brothers studio, produced during their absolute peak with Dr. Seuss thrown in for good measure.

That's what these are.

Here are a few screen shot from "Rumors" (Friz Freleng, dir.) and "Booby Traps (Bob Clampett, dir.) The pictoral quality is stunning on these!


An off-hand remark ("Good day for a bombing!") gets amplified all out of proportion until the entire base has been convinced that they have lost the war. Pvt. Snafu ends up in a padded cell while he is taunted by the "baloney" he had let loose.

This one was scripted by Dr. Seuss.


A little WWII-era cheesecake for our fighting boys!

Even though the enemy has fled, soldiers should be on the lookout for booby traps that have been left behind. Note the characteristic Rod Scribner pose. Those teeth!

Snafu manages to blow himself to kingdom come for not taking heed.

I'll try to remember to post further info once this set hits the street.

This looks to be the cartoon DVD release of the year.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Breakin' Like A Mighty Wind

On New Years Eve, 1992 NBC broadcast "A Spinal Tap Reunion" as a TV Special.

This was ten years after Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean were seen as the Heavy-Metal Band Spinal Tap but eleven years before the same three guys became The Folksmen in "A Mighty Wind.

Yet, here we find The Folksmen on the concert bill to open for Spinal Tap's Reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall! (Note MTV dreamboat Martha Quinn!)

Backstage, we find them warming up by singing "Blood On The Coal" which is a folksong about a mining disaster and a train derailment.

I wonder if this was the first appearance of The Folksmen? "Blood On The Coal" would later appear on the soundtrack album for "A Mighty Wind."

It also makes me wonder about how long a typical gestation period is for the ideas these guys come up with.

Oh, well - I thought it was interesting.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

CD's CDs

I bought and installed my first CD-R drive back in 1999. It was a balky device that would run at the amazing speed of 2x. About one in three discs would have to be scrapped and redone thanks to the "buffer under run" gambit.

But, boy was I in heaven!

As a fan of mid-sixties garage bands I had spent the previous twenty years buying compilation LPs of obscure tracks. Now here was an opportunity to make my own nearly commercial grade comps!

But what good are CD-Rs without artwork to stuff in their jewel cases?

PowerPoint to the rescue!

Here are some random examples of inserts I've slapped together.

One category of comps are the ones I assemble by either transferring tracks from vinyl or cassettes or downloading from other "sixties-geek" websites. I usually just pick a song title from whatever group I've assembled and use that to name the collection-of-the-moment.

I like to use as much white space as possible to save on the old ink cartridge. It also looks "cleaner" to my eye.

Another category is where a fellow garage band enthusiast has created his own collection of tacks, but might not have done any artwork.

Once again, PowerPoint to the rescue!

Note: The bassist on the "World Without Fuzz" cover has a Vox violin-shaped bass just like one I used to own.

In looking around my hard drive, I found an insert that I ultimately didn't use. In fact, I had completely forgotten about it.

An Internet acquaintance (hi, Lee!) had published the artwork from a mid-sixties Tom & Jerry story and I thought that would pretty funny to use for one of my comps:

Somehow, It must not have filled the bill because I ultimately made new artwork and retitled the same collection of tracks:

Yes, I am a nerd.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One More Home Made Cartoon Compilation

Some would say that tinkering around with silent-era "Out of The Inkwell" cartoons is a superfluous exercise in "re-inventing the wheel." But, in the interest of learning more about my Pinnacle Studio 12 video software and my own cartoon nerdiness, I went and did it any way

So, "Neener, neener, neener," says I.

In 2007 and 2008, Warner Home Video released a baker's dozen of these "Out of The Inkwell" cartoons as bonus features on their POPEYE THE SAILOR box sets. Unfortunately, the versions of these shorts they offered up were absolutely mute. So I made it my mission to add music and sound effects to enhance my own viewing experience.

The earliest cartoons, from 1919/1920, had dark, blurry "Bray Studios" title cards. I replaced them with my own versions and added vintage music tracks from old 78s.

The next group of cartoons, from 1921 - 1924, received new music beds from the 78 rpm archive as well as laboriously synched-up sound effects. The Pinnacle Studio 12 has a rather limited palette of sfx, but through the use of judicious sound-editing I managed to mix it up a bit. "Trip To Mars" turned out especially well, I felt.

The last three cartoons in the set received "Stuart Productions" music montages. Missing main title cards were also created and inserted.

Two "bonus" cartoons were added:

1. "Finding His Voice" was an early sound cartoon that the Fleischers produced in association with the Western Electric company. It explains how the sound-on-film process works. I've had a 16mm print of this for decades and it always bothered me that the sound track falls out of synch about two minutes into the film. I was able to bring the whole picture back into synchronization and it is amazing how well-timed this thing actually is! Mind you, the animators had not yet perfected how to animate dialog, but they were obviously giving it their best shot.

2. In the cartoon "Koko Back Tracks" time is made to run backwards and hilarity ensues. I took this cartoon, reversed it and created "Koko Back Tracks (Backwards)" which has to be about the most useless bonus feature ever. But, hey, "Dat's how I roll!"

Have I finally sated my unwholesome desire to tweak old cartoons via my computer's video editor? Is the animated monkey finally off my back? Don't I have anything better to do?

I wish I knew.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More Home-Made Cartoon Comps

What better way to while away the house-bound Winter months than to nerd out with my various low-end video editing programs? (Also, being unemployed helps to create a huge window of opportunity!)

Thus was "CARTOON CAPERS" born.

Initially, I had concentrated on tweaking silent-era cartoons and this spilled over into the first volume. Included are Three silent "Aesop's Fables" and a like number of "Out Of The Inkwell" cartoons.

From then on, I decided to concentrate on sound-era cartoons.

My first task was to take the Felischer Talkartoon "Radio Riot" and re-synchronize the soundtrack. For some reason, the track on my video copy slid 'way out of synch throughout the cartoon. It actually turned out pretty good and emboldened me to continue my experiments.

The Terytoon, "Bull Ero" was interesting. The source for my video copy seemed to have been made up of a couple of prints that were spliced together in such a way as to repeat certain scenes and make for a very confusing narrative. (Suddenly that's an issue for a Terrytoon?) I did a little scene shuffling and trimming. I also lifted a song from the middle of the cartoon and used it as the "bed" for the new title cards I created.

For "Farmer Al Falfa's Ape Girl" I simply took stills of the existing title cards and redid the opening to remove some unsteady framing issues. I did a similar thing for "The Lorelei" but also increased the brightness, as it looked rather murky.

I felt my experiments on the first group went well enough to continue with a second volume of all-sound cartoons.

"Jazz Mad" was another dark and murky-looking Terrytoon that needed considerable "brightening up." I made no attempt to re-edit it as no amount of fussing could possible make a dent in this cartoon's incoherence.

"Ye Olde Songs" and "Radio" got new title cards.

The Fleischer cartoons "Yip-Yip-Yippy" and "Pudgy and the Lost Kitten" got new title sequences. In the case of "Yip-Etc." it was to re-do the curious case of the main title being inserted twice during the sequence. The Pudgy ones were done to remove some German subtitles. I didn't remove the subtitles during the cartoon itself, though.

The "Stone Age Cartoons" all received new title sequences to spiff up edits, sound track glitches, etc.

I tackled "cleaning up" the titles on a bunch of "Scrappy" cartoons. Particularly he short main title for "Scrappy's Expedition."

I redid the main titles for a bunch of "Oswald" cartoons, as well. This was mainly to get rid of the Sunset Films TV titles and to approximate (my concept) of their theatrical versions.

Included are also some "Aesop's Sound Fables" that I had been wanting to tweak for some time now. Number one on my "hit list" was an entry from a dollar DVD called "Frisky Frolics." The whole cartoon was about two seconds out of synch and I was able to remedy this using the experience gleaned from the "Radio Riot" experiment, above.

The title sequence for "Cinderella Blues" had some framing problems and I was able to remedy that by grabbing a section that was stable and looping it over the soundtrack. The synch wandered in one part due to a splice in the track, but it seems to corrects itself quickly enough.

For volume four, I took an entire disc of Terrytoons and played with them.

Nearly all of them got new title sequences to remove the standard cut-n-paste TV title cards. I left a few with "Castle Films" and "Barker Bill" title sequences in tact just because I liked them that way.

I think I'll stop after four volumes. Unless, or course, another pile of old cartoons fall into my lap and I once again am bitten by the bug to tamper with them.