Willie Whopper and Modern Sound Pictures - Forum.
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Justin Delbert  
#1 Posted : Monday, January 8, 2018 7:02:47 AM(UTC)
Justin Delbert

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For Christmas, I asked for a good number of Thunderbean releases to catch up on. One of them was Will Whopper. As I went through the booklet, I noticed something inside that said that six of the 14 cartoons were sold off to a different company called Modern Sound Pictures Inc. Very little info is out there about that company, but they must have made new 35mm material, they made it so you could rent out 16mm of these cartoons, and they held these cartoons hostage for a while until the release. You can actually see those new re-issued titles on the set, and as you look, you may notice something looking familiar. That's because they also distributed for 16mm rentals Santa and the Three Bears.

So the question then becomes how did Steve get the ok to release those six as well. Did Blackhawk made a deal prior to the set even begun to be thought of? I'm pretty sure Modern Sound is defunct by this point.
Ken Layton  
#2 Posted : Monday, January 8, 2018 7:35:48 AM(UTC)
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Modern was a long time 16mm film distributor to homes and schools. They went out of business a couple of years ago.
Steve Stanchfield  
#3 Posted : Monday, January 8, 2018 9:20:50 AM(UTC)
Steve Stanchfield

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Hey Justin and Ken,

Modern Sound was started in the mid 40s by Keith Smith. It was a fairly large 16mm (non theatrical) rental company; Any 'non' theater showings of films (Schools, Churches, VFW Halls, outdoor summer festivals, camps, etc) would book films through a 16mm rental company. All of the major studios eventually offered rentals this way, and would have their films at these various companies. These companies would also sometimes buy rights to various films and become a distributor of those films.

Keith acquired quite a few properties over the years from various places. I got to know him just a little from calling and chatting with him as a teenager. I was fascinated at the history of this stuff, and picked his brain about a handful of things related to animation. He had told me that he got the Cubby Bears in 1948 from the company that had bought Gutlohn, and had 35mm 'Lavenders' of them (I would find out much later that the term referred to a fine Grain. Kodak put these finegrains on slightly tinted stock so they could always be identified as such; I've also heard that the slightly blue tint allowed them to be a little less contrasty, and a special filter was used to make a good dupe neg to make prints off of).

In either the last or one of the last conversations I had with David Shepard, he told me he remembered when Blackhawk sold the material to Modern Sound. They had acquired the Iwerks cartoons from a company that had been buying up lots like this to distribute. I trace that sale to the early 60s (I think 1960 but would need to check my notes). Modern Sound also acquired 'The King of Kings' from the same distributor that had the Van Beuren cartoons, and that was perhaps the smartest move he made in that that one ownership was the most popular film they rented for many years.

I bought a 'Santa and the Three Bears' directly from Keith many years ago. He said they had exclusive rights for the film and had sold ti to small UHF stations for years and years. They were offering it still, but now on 3/4" tape, when I bought the print. They had more than the rental rights, they had somehow bought all rights for the film is my understanding (even though the film wasn't technically copyrighted). I think the reason for the cutdown version is so it would be easier to show in a Television package.

I really bugged David about the Willies. He was pretty unwilling at first to attempt to even try to find out the rights issues. I researched it and found that, at least in the chain of copyright, that these films never *really* got transferred to Modern Sound's ownership. In fact, they never really were taken out of the earlier companies name in the chain of copyright (and the same goes for many films in that package if not all). It was amazing timing that the films became for sale when they did. I had called over the Modern Sound and found out they would be interested in selling the rights. I then told David, who followed up. That's the simple version of how that happened without all the back and forth. Many of Modern Sound's negs were transferred over to Archive.org, where they now live.

Did Modern Sound make new 35mm material? Yes. Was it good? No! Sadly, the material that David got back from Modern sound wasn't of great quality for the most part. It had more complete picture information (top and bottom of frame) than the 16mm reduction prints that are often cropped, but the 16s looked better in some ways! Modern Sound's older 16mm prints were actually nicer; somehow all the 35mm on the Willies seemed slightly out of focus- a problem sometimes caused in contact printing. We got ok versions out of a few of them. There was an article from the late 70s that noted that Modern Sound was going to restore these films- and even had a restoration company lined up to do so. My wonder if when the Nitrate material vanished on many of these. I did find a nitrate lavender on Vanishing Creme at UCLA that was much nicer than the Modern Sound material, so we used that. The soundtrack was doubled up with another. I used the first shot of Caveman from Modern Sound's materials, and the rest from the just slightly incomplete camera negative.I think we did a scan on a deteriorating nitrate of Spite Flight that was just too beat up to use. Their version of 'Davey Jones' was not helpful at all picture -wise, but it preserved a complete soundtrack that was, otherwise, missing. Happily the successive exposure showed up at UCLA on both the color shorts, as requested by David (and found!) We did the best we could with the title.

Edited by user Monday, January 8, 2018 9:42:20 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

thanks 8 users thanked Steve Stanchfield for this useful post.
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