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Superman (1941) (Mild-Mannered Edition)

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Over the last few weeks I worked on a little side project: fixing a few audio glitches in the Warner Bros. release of Fleischer Studios’s Superman short films.

These shorts were released in 1941-1943 and have been in the public domain for decades. You can find versions of them for free on archive.org, but most free sets I’ve found don’t look very good. The best one for a long time was a Bosko Video set from 2000 which had been made by sourcing several different releases of the shorts from over the years. In 2006, to coincide with the release of Superman Returns, Warner Bros. put out a boxed set which included new copies of the Fleischer shorts that were “remastered from superior original vault elements.” A few years later the shorts saw release as a standalone two-disc set from Warner Bros. The Warner Bros. set looks wonderful–my three-year-old noticed the color changes immediately–but there are some strange things going on with the music. Almost all of them cut out a little bit of music at the end of the prologue sequences, and do the same prior to the Paramount logo at the end. Some just outright play the wrong prologue. In the first short (which was nominated for an Oscar), the narrator says that Superman is on a never-ending quest for “true justice” instead of “truth and justice.” Often the audio during the prologue doesn’t sync to the video, and sound effects over the few title cards that have them are lost.

What I’ve done is to take the Warner Bros. releases and patch in audio from the Bosko Video versions where incorrect or shortened theme music plays. I have not done an extensive going-over of every single second of the films, but I think I’ve caught the major problems. I’m not a professional editor but do have a degree in film; I think I’ve done a pretty good job of making the cuts seamless. My hope is that you’ll be able to enjoy these shorts without ever noticing the work I’ve done. If anyone is really interested, I’d happily to get more into what changes I’ve made and which I’ve missed.

The 17 shorts are in m4v format suitable for importing into iTunes.

Please reply below for discussion of the shorts or PM me for more information.

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I can tell you there's a good number of people here that are fans of the Fleischer shorts but whether they come over this way depends on if they leave off-topic.

Count me as interested!

A Goon in a Gaggle of 'em

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Sounds like a great project.  I'm definitely interested!  I picked up a DVD set a couple years ago and the prints looked pretty nice, but for some reason they decided to stamp the year the film was released in the beginning of the cartoon... Seemed like an intentional screen bug.

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pufnstuf said:

I picked up a DVD set a couple years ago and the prints looked pretty nice, but for some reason they decided to stamp the year the film was released in the beginning of the cartoon... Seemed like an intentional screen bug.

Yeah, that's the Bosko Video set.

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Here’s a bit of a log of what I worked on:

Superman (aka the Mad Scientist): Fixed the “true justice” (or “truth justice”?), patching in voiceover from the Bosko audio.

Billion Dollar Limited and The Magnetic Telescope: entire videos use Bosko’s audio.

The Arctic Giant and Electric Earthquake: unchanged from Warner Bros. edition.

The Bulleteers, Japoteurs, Eleventh Hour, Destruction, Inc., Mummy Strikes, Underground World, Secret Agent: prologue uses Bosko Audio.

Showdown: prologue uses Bosko audio. “Streak of Lightning” etc. sequence uses Bosko video as well, as Warners video isn’t timed right (I think it’s taken from a different cartoon). The archive.org version has a police siren that plays when the bad Superman is on the roof and he looks over and sees the police cars pull up. That part is silent in the Bosko and Warner Bros. editions. I know there was an edition that added sound effects, so maybe the archive.org version is that one, but since I have two sources that agree, I’m using the silent version.

Eleventh Hour and Jungle drums have entirely the wrong opening sequences. They now use Bosko’s audio. I was able to cut up parts of the video to keep from having to use much of Bosko’s video, as the colors are way washed out (especially the reds on the Superman logo).

In Eleventh Hour, when the film’s main sequence starts, the Warner Bros. version cuts out several frames and fades in the music too late. I would normally here use the Bosko video, but that set superimposes a title over the start of the video with the date it was released, so there are a few seconds that use lower-quality from the archive.org set. It transitions back pretty quickly and I’m fairly happy with where I hid the change.

All shorts except Superman, The Arctic Giant, and Electric Earthquake use Bosko’s audio for the ending sequence. The Warner Bros. set in the other 14 shorts will fade out the music abruptly and then throws in a musical tag over the Paramount logo. Usually I make the soundtrack switch when the scene changes back to Lois and Clark for the epilogue.

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OK, I need to get this thing. I love the Fleischer shorts to death, and this looks like it's going to be a very good way of doing them justice. Good job, sir!

I’m just here because I’m driving tonight.

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Does anyone know how this compares to the DVD that was released by Image Entertainment?

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Space Kaijuu said:

Does anyone know how this compares to ...

Well, let's start with these -- and anyone with other releases please cap & post:

captures =  Main Menu * Production Opening * Title * "The Mad Scientist" * Production Closing

 

                   
The Complete Superman Collection -- Diamond Anniversary Edition

by Image Entertainment (DVD disc files dated 2000)

 

 

 

                   
Max Fleischer's Superman   ::   Superman The Lost Episodes
  
by WinStar (DVD disc files dated 1998)

 

 

 

                   
Superman vs Monsters & Villains   ::   Superman vs Nature & War
 
by GoodTimes (DVD disc files dated 2002)

 

 

 

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“Your love of the halflings’ leaf has clearly slowed your mind”

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One thing I read about these which I couldn't verify was that, in the original first cartoon, Clark's line at the end of the first scene is, "Chief, don't you think that's a dangerous job for a woman?" On all the editions I have, it's just "dangerous job." I'd be curious to see if that's true.

Here's the Max Fleischer's Superman 1941-1942 (Warner Bros 2008) set I used for most of the video.

http://i.imgur.com/OFx6XK5.png

http://i.imgur.com/aKQa0eu.png

http://i.imgur.com/hyTbylw.png

http://i.imgur.com/F8bTjKl.png

http://i.imgur.com/GNTmAZq.png

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That WB 2008 DVD is clearly superior to previous releases shown here so far. (I've added click-able links to Image Entertainment's thumbnails for full-sized pictures and better comparison.)

Here is what the DVDs and a videotape show on possible edited dialogue:

Image Entertainment DVD 2000
• "... truth and justice ..."
• "Chief, don't you think that's a dangerous mission?" [fadeout over "that's a dangerous mission"]

WinStar DVD 1998
• "... truth and justice ..."
• "Chief, don't you think that's a dangerous mission?" [fadeout over "that's a dangerous mission"]

GoodTimes DVD 2002
• "... truth and justice ..."
• "Chief, don't you think that's a dangerous mission?" [fadeout over "that's a dangerous mission"]

Media Home Entertainment videotape 1985
• "... truth/justice ..." [one of lots of random film splices in this area]
• "Chief, don't you think that's a dangerous mission?" [fadeout over "that's a dangerous mission"]

It looks like "truth and justice" is not an issue for later restored releases, which fixed the film damage. On the other hand, a possible incomplete "that's a dangerous mission" is still questionable -- that hasty fadeout over dialogue does seem awkward. Only an even earlier consumer release (if one exists) or an intact 16mm print would be definitive.


“Your love of the halflings’ leaf has clearly slowed your mind”

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I used to have this version:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/6305078955/

It had the original mono soundtracks and predates all the releases that started adding extra sound effects and cheap stereo effects.  My brother had the Bosko versions on VHS and I recall it having better picture quality then those with a few scenes intact that were missing or altered due to extra fades and wipes added to the Bosko version.  Beyond that I don't remember enough about the picture quality.

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Space Kaijuu said:

I used to have this version: http://www.amazon.com/dp/6305078955/

 

A closer inspection of the The Complete Superman Collection -- Diamond Anniversary Edition (2000) package shows "DVD package design ©MM Image® Entertainment Inc.", while "program content and artwork ©1991 Bosko Video".

With your version, The Superman Cartoons Of Max & Dave Fleischer (1998), the package also has different credits between content and packaging (hard to resolve the blurry Amazon package picture to be more specific).

It may be both of these were simple repackaging of the same original content (verifiable with screen-caps from the older one).

 

Also, in the process of looking this up, I came across ImageFX's article Fleischer's Superman lands on YouTube http://beta.imaginefx.com/fleischers-superman-lands-youtube-61128. Warner Bros. posted on YouTube these first nine episodes of their DVD release -- up to 480p and with very good video quality (like the above posted samples!):
https://www.youtube.com/user/WarnerBrosOnline/search?query=fleischer
Thanks, WB! But, as davextreme noted, they are flawed and need fixing.

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“Your love of the halflings’ leaf has clearly slowed your mind”

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I was looking at my collection. I have the Fleischer series on 2 disc. The discs come from Platinum Disc Corporation, and they were released in 2004.

There are lots of problems with this release.

1) The audio was "digitally enhanced" in 5.1. Bleecccchh!!!

2) The distributor's logo will appear in the bottom right corner for a few seconds during each episode, like you see with TV station logo's.

3) The picture looks pretty soft.

From davextreme's posts, heseems to be working on looks and sounds like it will be far superior to what I have.

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The set that's on YouTube is also for sale for fairly cheap on iTunes. The iTunes copies bundle two shorts per "episode" (and the last three together) which is a bit annoying if your kid wants to watch a specific one. Wanting to break those apart is how I got started on this whole enterprise.

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I wonder what it would take to do a really good 1080p upscale of these shorts.  Something that didn't have jaggies other issues due to excessive DNR and EE, a soundtrack that's not constantly going out of sync, and no stupid company logo in the corner throughout every short.

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This is what I had intended to do at some point, great work and info on the various errors and cuts on the WB transfers. It still puzzles me why it is the original material restored version that has all the errors and missing bits.

I still prefer the Bosko Diamond DVD because you can see all the grain intact along with audio that is straight optical complete with source defects. The only downsides are those awful superimposed release dates and the very poor condition of "Terror on the Midway", but that was like that in all other issues.

I'm also almost positive that the earlier Image DVD release is the same transfer and that overall these are the same work stemming from the 1992 LD release. (The opening video credits on the Bosko DVD refer to Laserdisc to boot) That would still be the best source for audio being PCM mono, but will have the same source defects as displayed on the DVD's lossy track. If anyone knows better about these earlier releases let me know.

These shorts need a proper restoration, as they have created a massive legacy still felt in animation. Personally I feel that these are the best ever adaptation of Superman in any format.

http://thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/the-fleischer-studiosfamous-studios-superman-theatrical-cartoons-1941-1943/

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

"George didn't think there was any future in dead Han toys."-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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Space Kaijuu said:

I wonder what it would take to do a really good 1080p upscale of these shorts.  Something that didn't have jaggies other issues due to excessive DNR and EE, a soundtrack that's not constantly going out of sync, and no stupid company logo in the corner throughout every short.

That's what I'd like to see. As I said, editing isn't my job and I don't have the experience necessary to really do this right. I think I could probably do a more thorough job given some more time, but it would have to be as a low priority hobby as my day job is requiring lots of time at the moment. (Also my trial of Final Cut Pro has expired, so I'd have to pony up for the full version but want to see if the new version coming out with the new Mac Pros is just a point bump or a true new version.)

What I'd like to look over are these questions:

1. Is the Bosko Video version definitive with respect to completeness of the films? No missing or shortened scenes, etc. (Like, can it be considered this project's GOUT?)

2. Is the Bosko Video's audio really superior start-to-finish? I'm not an audiophile to the degree necessary to judge it as compared to the Warner Bros. set.

3. Aside from the places where the Warners set just simply uses the wrong scenes, is its video superior in all cases, or are there places where the Bosko video is better?

4. What other versions would be useful sources?

From there, the question would be, should the whole thing be synced up to Bosko's audio? Are there places where Bosko's video should be used, perhaps with new color timing to match Warners?

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Spaced Ranger said:

With your version, The Superman Cartoons Of Max & Dave Fleischer (1998), the package also has different credits between content and packaging (hard to resolve the blurry Amazon package picture to be more specific).



It looks like the back of the package says "Program and Content copyright 1994 Bridgestone Productions"
I can't seem to find any details regarding this company.

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I was thinking ... if anyone (maybe the OP?) wanted the completeness of the Image Entertainment release but the better color of the Warner Bros. release, color correcting the IE might be the easiest way to go. So I tried it with the previously posted frames from The Mad Scientist episode.

 
                               color correct this                                                                           to this

In a paint program, use the Histogram Adjustment to alter the individual Red-Green-Blue components of the IE snapshot, while comparing it to the WB snapshot. Use an eye-dropper tool (one built in or an external program) to balance the whites & blacks and the R-G-B's of main colors in between. This is what I came up with after some back-and-forth (it takes some experimenting & practice to see what the settings do to the picture; the eye-dropper helps by showing the R-G-B numbers and which direction they move):

HISTOGRAM
RED        Gamma 0.7      Midtones +15 [compress]
GREEN    Gamma 0.75    Midtones +10 [compress]
BLUE       Gamma 0.7      Midtones +5   [compress]

This produced a good balance but the colors were weak. So I followed up with the Hue/Saturation/Lightness to increase the color strength:

H/S/L
SAT       Saturation +55

The resulting color correction ..

.. is not perfect, but it's pretty close.


                     IE original                                          IE color corrected                                       WB original

The releases seem picture-stable enough that this single correction should work for the full episode and maybe the entire series.

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“Your love of the halflings’ leaf has clearly slowed your mind”

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There is no video release with "...a dangerous mission for a woman" (other accounts say it was "for a girl"), and to my knowledge no print has ever surfaced with the line.

In fact, it's been somewhat of a point of contention whether the line was ever longer than it is now. On an animation forum back when the 2006 movie box set came out, someone claimed to have seen a print with the line at a George Eastman House screening in 1978. But Fleischer historian Ray Pointer doubted that the line ever existed at all, and asserted that no print has ever turned up with any such extended line.

(I seem to recall that Pointer discussed it again on the late, great Animation Show Forums, but since the entire forum was shut down several years back, and not all of it was archived by WaybackMachine, that thread seems to be lost to the ages.)

Yes, there's an abrupt fade-out, but Pointer said he could not detect an audible soundtrack edit, so it could have just been a sloppy fade that was there originally. For all we know, "for a woman/girl" could be a complete myth, like Luke missing his first grappling hook swing, or the shot of Anthony Hopkins' scalpel actually cutting into Ray Liotta's brain in Hannibal.

We will probably never know the answer.

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I (used to?) have some old VCDs (or just computer CDs?) that had some (all?) of these episodes. They came in cardboard sleeves like Wii Sports. If I can find them, I'll have to check and see if there are any differences. I was always planning to buy that 14 disc or whatever Superman set but never got around to it.

So, davextreme, how hard would it be to, or can you, make this back into DVDs?

I don't have an ipod/ ipad/ iphone (or any smart phone or tablet) and I hate watching things on PC. How would the quality be if the M4V's were converted back to MPG/ VOB?

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I've never really messed around with DVD authoring software.

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I've come across a couple more editions of Superman (1941):

captures =  Main Menu * Production Opening * Title * "The Mad Scientist" * Production Closing

 

                   
The Superman Cartoons Of Max & Dave Fleischer

by Image Entertainment (DVD disc files dated 1998)

 

 
                                                                                                                         (closing only at DVD's end)

 

                   
A Fleischer Studios Cartoon - Superman -- 9 Fabulous Episodes  ::  8 Fabulous Episodes
 
by Delta Entertainment (DVD disc files dated 2003)

 

 

 

And here is what those DVDs show on possible edited dialogue:

Image Entertainment DVD 1998
• "... truth and justice ..."
• "Chief, don't you think that's a dangerous mission?" [fadeout over "that's a dangerous mission"]

Delta Entertainment DVD 2003
• "... truth and justice ..."
• "Chief, don't you think that's a dangerous mission?" [fadeout over "that's a dangerous mission"] 



“Your love of the halflings’ leaf has clearly slowed your mind”

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I guess I should add the current Blu-ray release to the list. (But beware ... it gets the kryptonite logos):

                
Max Fleischers Superman - Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]

by Gaiam (released 2012)

I don't have access to this one for matching pictures. (Can someone PM me his picture links to include here?) Until then, let these reviews suffice:

Max Fleischer's Superman Blu-ray Collector's Edition
http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Max-Fleischers-Superman-Blu-ray/50279/
You can't blame Gaiam for trying with this new set, especially since Warner seems intent on sitting on its corporate hands and never spending the time and money to properly release the Fleischer
Superman cartoons in high definition. But the problem with a PD release is—well, it's a PD release, which means the label wants to protect their handiwork (read: logos AKA bugs) and the source elements are more often than not completely inadequate for a real high definition presentation. That's sadly the case with this release.

Max Fleischers Superman: Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
http://www.amazon.com/Max-Fleischers-Superman-Collectors-Edition/dp/B008IG0EHM/
Customer Reviews (multiple reviewers)

  1. CAREFUL BUYING THIS...IT'S NOT FROM WARNER BROS.!
  2. But here's the big, "BIG", problem with this set, the sound sync is off (only milliseconds for the first episode, but the next episode, The Mechanical Monsters, part way in when Lois and Clark are talking, the sound is so far off that it sounds like Lois is talking like Clark, as her lips are moving to Clark's spoken line).
  3. First of all, each frame has a logo imbedded on the corner which is unacceptable. Second, this is not Blu-Ray quality image! It is full of artifacts and pixelized. It is just a blown up version of a smaller digitized edition of these cartoons.
  4. It sucks Kryptonite, because if it wasn't for the sound sync issues, I'd actually prefer it to the Warner DVD's (even with the detail issues and the watermark in the lower right of the screen) because of the Blu-ray's vibrant colours, removal of the consistent print debris that plague every frame of the Warner DVD's and attempted sound enhancement which make the Warner DVD's sound flat by comparison.

 


“Your love of the halflings’ leaf has clearly slowed your mind”

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Did any one attempt to make a video restoration of the Fleischer Superman cartoons? Davextreme's project looks like more of a audio restoration.

I suppose the bluray logos could be patched with an up-scale of the DVDs and then some colour-correction done.

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