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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Filmography: Betty Boop in Snow White

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Many classic cartoons have been released to home video since the introduction of VCRs. Some transfers from film to tape have been good, but too many have utilized techniques that compromise the cartoons. At the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, we are always on the lookout for the best sources to use for digitizing. We came across an example that illustrates how much you may be missing when you view a cartoon on home video.

Snow White Title Card

Snow White is probably the best known title in the Betty Boop series. It has been released on home video twice... first in the Betty Boop Collectors' Edition, and later in the Definitive Collection box set. Chuck Pennington, who has been digitizing video for the archives, noticed some interesting differences between the way the cartoon was framed on the two sets. In the earlier set, the image is cropped to include the top of the frame. About 15% of the frame at the bottom is eliminated. The later set is the exact opposite, with 15% of the top cropped off. Chuck determined that the aspect ratio of this particular cartoon is not the standard for 35mm sound films, but an earlier format where the larger silent aperture was used with the left side of the frame cropped to allow for the optical soundtrack. This resulted in an almost square format. To present the entire image on the TV screen, letterboxing bars on the right and left would be needed.

Betty Boop Title Card

By combining the two transfers into one, Chuck was able to restore the film to its proper aspect ratio. This isn't a simple thing... syncronizing the frames and balancing the exposure between two different transfers is very difficult. But Chuck's work is amazing. The line between the two versions is almost imperceptable. He also added a slight letterbox all around the image to prevent any of it from being cropped off when viewed on a television set. Here is a Quicktime movie of the restored full frame video.

Betty Boop in Snow White
(Corrected Aspect Ratio /Quicktime 7 / 20 MB)

If you compare this full frame version to others you may have seen, you will clearly see how important the extra bit of screen real estate is. Details at the top and bottom of the frame, like the mouse that pops up from the drop drawer of Bimbo's longjohns and Betty's head as she rolls down the hill in the snowball, fall into the area that isn't included in both transfers. Compositions that don't make sense in the cropped version look perfect in the full frame one. The Fleischer artists utilized every bit of the screen, and any cropping reduces the effectiveness of their work.

Betty Boop Title Card
Full frame from Betty Boop Collectors' Edition Laserdisc

Betty Boop Title Card
Full frame from Betty Boop Definitive Edition Laserdisc

Betty Boop Title Card
Both frames combined

If you would like to view the full frame version of Snow White, it is available at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1pm to 9pm. Thanks to Chuck Pennington for his great work.

Stephen Worth
Animation Archive


At 8:23 AM, Jeff Schiller said...

Great Work!

Steve, is there any way you can host these cartoons in MPEG-2 (i.e. DVD-compatible) format?

At 12:07 PM, Duck Dodgers said...

God bless Steve Worth !!

Tuesday is a serious candidate to become my favorite day of the week ! I always find update and downloadable rarities !

At 12:15 PM, Stephen Worth, Director: Animation Archive Project said...

Until the most recent version of Quicktime, it hasn't been possible to stream full size video with relatively high frame rates. I'm afraid that in MPEG-2 format, the movie files would be several times larger.

Stephen Worth
Animation Archive

At 12:36 AM, Mr.XYZ said...

Nice Post ....G8 blog!!

At 5:29 PM, Argus said...

Is that the original Paramount opening?


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