Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Bray Studios on 1940s and 1950s Television
As a hardcore fan of the Bray Studios cartoons, their lengthy (yet mildly obscure) exposure on 1940s and 1950s television is of great interest to me. Film collector and animation enthusiasts who may be "purists" usually are very dismissive of television versions of theatrically released films. As I will stress again and again, television-era prints of such films are in many cases the only circulating (or even extant) sources for these masterpieces.
J.R. Bray's cartoon studio had a powerful yet seemingly short life...approximately 15 years (1913-1928). Regardless, Bray was unlike his peers in that he had confidence that there would be some sort of perpetual interest in the films produced at his studio. As a result, he would make dozens and dozens of films available to schools, libraries, and other interested parties in the 1920s first by offering (now obsolete) 28mm prints. Later he offered them in 16mm which became something of an educational and amateur standard by the 1930s.
As television caught on in the late 1940s, Bray revitalized some of his cartoon stock and offered over 80 vintage titles in the form of newly titled 16mm prints, some with music and narration soundtracks. In the New York area particularly, baby boomers may recall seeing Farmer Alfalfa (Bray and or independent-Terry produced), Bobby Bumps, and possibly Out of the Inkwell on Fred Sayles' "Uncle Fred" kiddie TV show. According to one website, the station purchased and amassed a collection of 300 silent-era cartoon prints which would be used by Sayles to narrate in his show starting in 1948.
Although televised in limited amount when compared to Non-BRAY packages of Farmer Alfalfa (Gray), Out of the Inkwell, so on and so forth, it did mean that part of a new generation was given access to these cartoons.
You ask, what cartoons were these? Well, have a look! (Special thanks to Mark Kausler for sharing this with me a few years back.)
(Note: Both Dinky Doodle and Pete the Pup shorts were packaged as "Dinkey Doodle")
Amazing, eh? What is more interesting is that these cartoons were still available directly from Bray up until the early 70s. Unfortunately, by then some of the TV negatives had already decomposed and some titles were unavailable. Even so, with so many available rather recently, it is a shocker that most of those titles remain as good as lost...but if I have anything to do with it, let's hope that changes soon.
Here is an example of what the title art looked like:
(Special Thanks to Ray Pointer. To read about Ray's exposure to silent animation in his childhood, please read FINDING KO-KO.)
For anyone interested, so far I have four TV versions of these cartoons on my DVDs. BOBBY BUMPS' GOATMOBILE (1916) and BOBBY BUMPS' HYPNOTIC EYE (1919) are on my Bobby Bumps DVD while PERPETUAL MOTION (70s dupe) and CIRCUS (with original narration!) are on my Out of the Inkwell DVDs. Click the Tom's Vintage Film banner on top to find the DVD list.