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Columbia’s Barney Google


One of the “Holy Grails” amongst us cartoon historians is the series of four Barney Google cartoons produced in Technicolor by Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems cartoon unit in 1935.

King Features had it in their contracts with Hollywood studios that the films adapting their comic strip creations would be destroyed after ten years (popular demand allowed exceptions to the rule for the Popeye cartoons, Flash Gordon serials and Blondie movies). Thus, many of King Features movie adaptations were considered lost for many decades (luckily prints of King’s numerous serials – The Phantom, Mandrake The Magician, Secret Agent X-9, etc. – have surfaced in recent years). However, Google still remains on the “Most Wanted” list by cartoon buffs and comic strip historians. (A 1946 Paramount Snuffy Smith cartoon, Spree For All is, as far as I know, still non-existant).

British film collector Lee Glover has tracked down several 50 foot rolls of black and white silent Barney Google 16mm home movies versions (excerpts of the Columbia Google cartoons were sold to home movie enthusiasts of the era). He has virtually reconstructed Teched In The Head (1935), the first of the series. It’s no classic, but it’s a treat to see one of these, just to get a taste of what we’ve been denied all these years. Check it out on his website. Thanks Lee, nice job!

(Cel set-up above is from the final Google film, from 1936, Spark Plug)

  • Stephen DeStefano

    As a huge Billy DeBeck fan, I must say this was quite a treat to see. Many thanks to Lee for piecing this together, and to you Jerry, for pointing it out.

  • uncle wayne

    ohhhhhhh, WOW! How stupid am I….as an avid fan & daily reader of the strip…the only films I knew were those awwwwwwwwwwful 1959 films (with the catchy theme song!) What a rare treat to see them in full animation!! Thank YOO! Whoa!

  • Adam

    Ah, newspaper syndicates. Always forward thinkers.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > Ah, newspaper syndicates. Always forward thinkers.

    Too bad King Features just couldn’t see the big picture on some of these (thank god for Popeye sometimes, just imagine what kind of world we’d be in if it wasn’t for that popular demand that saved it from the incinerator). Glad to see the efforts of a few to piece together the past the best they can.

  • LNG

    God, even crap was fully animated in the golden age. This short hammers home what a lost art journeyman character animation has since become.

  • OM

    …You know, Jerry, you could do a book on those 8mm “home versions” and how they were the predecessors of the VHS/Beta market *and* the concept of “Closed Captioning”. An old buddy of mine during my Boy Scout days – Jeez, was that *really* 30 years ago?? – used to collect the hell out of these way back when, and it was a hoot to watch the ones that were silent 8mm versions of talkies that had captioning at the bottom of the screen. It was even wilder when you saw ones that were silent to begin with, and in order to save film stock they cut out the caption cards and supered the text over the scene instead, usually with the dialog expanded!

  • Blimey! I never expect my video to be big news on this great website! Many thanks, Jerry, and also thanks to everyone for the nice comments both here and on my blog!

    As this cartoon is becoming very popular, I’m going to make this available for 8 weeks, not the usual four. Enjoy for longer!

  • V.E.G.

    It is very unfortunate that Spree For All is lost. Snuffy Smith is voiced by Solomon Hersh Frees, best known as Paul Frees. I think they set fire to the negatives. No copies are known to exist. It is believed to be the only Snuffy Smith cartoon is lost.

  • kim deitch

    I just got my hands on a hundred foot 16mm home movie culled from a Barney Google cartoon called getting the gong. Is there a need out there for this one for reconstruction purposes?