Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Cartoon Renewal Studios: Fleischer Brothers' Superman Cartoon "Billion Dollar Limited" (1942) Remastered

You forget that when old movies first came out, they weren't grainy and scratchy and tinny-sounding. They were new and vibrant. Cartoon Renewal Studios takes old cartoons and refreshes them. Why?

"I restored this because I love Superman and Max Fleischer," states Cartoon Renewal Studios.

In the early 1940s, bothers Max and Dave Fleischer ran their own Fleischer Brothers studio. They had completed their first feature, Gulliver's Travels, and were into production with a second when they were approached about doing a series of animated shorts based on Superman, who had been introduced in Action Comics just three years before.

"Not wanting to risk becoming overworked (which could compromise the quality of each project), the Fleischers were strongly (but quietly) opposed to the idea of committing themselves to another major project when they were approached by their studio's distributor and majority owner since May 1941, Paramount Pictures. Paramount was interested in financially exploiting the phenomenal popularity of the then-new Superman comic books, by producing a series of theatrical cartoons based upon the character. The Fleischers, looking for a way to reject the project without appearing uncooperative, agreed to do the series—but only at a (intentionally inflated) per-episode-budget number so exorbitantly high that Paramount would have to reject them, instead. They told Paramount that producing such a conceptually and technically complex series of cartoons would cost about $100,000 per short (in 1940s dollars, or $1,700,000 per short as of 2017); this was about four times the typical budget of a six-minute episode of the Fleischers' popular Popeye the Sailor cartoons of that period.[4] To the Fleischers' shock, instead of withdrawing its request, Paramount entered into negotiations with them, and got the per-episode budget lowered to $50,000.[5] Now the Fleischers were committed to a project they never wanted to do—with more financial and marketing support than they had ever received for the projects they had done thus far." - Wikipedia

The cartoons are beautiful, but since all 17 of the shorts have dropped into the public domain, a lot of time you see copies of copies, and the colors are faded and the film scratched. 

Enter Cartoon Renewal Studios with his Mac to administer the renewal process:

"This is my sixth full on frame by frame restoration. The AI did six passes over the 15,000 frames for 90,000 total frames processed. I restored the sound. The color in the source print was decent so I didn't have to work on that too much. This was done on my iMac 27 2019 24 GB / 25 TB (10 TB is SSD...) system running Catalina. I use only the tools that come with the Mac and open source, in addition to the AI, to do all this work. This was a three day project."

Here's the end result:


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