UPA, UPA, and Away!

They’re out… and as Tony the Tiger would say: “They’re Grrrr-reat!

I will go out on limb right now and declare TCM’s UPA: The Jolly Frolics Collection the DVD of the year. This thing is loaded (full disclosure: I was involved in the process). It is beautifully and cleverly packaged and contains a 16-page booklet with brief essay by UPA historian Adam Abraham, capsule biographies of key UPA personnel, a UPA chronology chart with key events and a release chart timelime, plot synopsis and more…

The three discs themselves are packed with incredible restorations of 38 UPA cartoons. These restorations are so good, they will force many to reevaluate their opinions of these films. Cartoons I’d long dismissed as inferior – The Oompahs, The Miner’s Daughter, Baby Boogie and others – are suddenly vibrant, colorful and clear; what the filmmakers intended, and a lot better than I’d thought. Compare the frame grab of from my personal bootleg video copy of The Man On The Flying Trapeze (thumbnail below left to enlarge) with the restoration (below, center) to give you a small idea of the difference. Even if you have no interest in UPA, I think you’ll come to understand their importance through this set.

Sony went to great lengths to restore the cartoons on this collection – restoring original front and end titles (like the Fox & Crow title (below) from their first theatrical, Robin Hoodlum). Alas not every title could be restored (though most are), but what is here is from the original negs – and they are a pleasure to see anew.

I’m not even mentioning the bonus materials (Concept art, model sheets, storyboards, color styling sketches, background, publicity stills, movie poster galleries – and more, including audio commentaries and a Leonard Maltin introduction). If you’ve ordered it, it’s on the way. If you haven’t – what are you waiting for?

Adam Abraham’s important new history of UPA – When Magoo Flew – has also just been published by Wesleyan University Press. I’m not going to review it right now – but I will be giving a copy or two away in a pop-quiz contest sometime on Thursday. Adam will be in L.A. a week from Friday to sign copies of the book at LACMA, at the UPA tribute I’m hosting on March 30th. (Tickets available nowhint, hint!).

Adam has just launched a companion website for his book, When Magoo Flew.com, intended to utilize the archive of material he assembled while writing the book. More material will be added soon… but bookmark his new website now!


  • Mike Caputo

    Awesome work – any plans for a Blu version of UPA: Jolly Frolics?

  • http://bestanimatedshort.blogspot.com ajnrules

    I’m so sad. I pre-ordered the DVD back in December, and the TCM store says they are still processing my order. It’s agonizing having to wait some more! I want to watch the DVD right now!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I just ordered my copy last week, though I hope they’re not so backlogged with all these orders.

    • dbenson

      I also saw my order as “processing” yesterday, but this morning got an email notice it had shipped. (Unfortunate aging fanboy attempt at rebel yell)

      • dbenson

        Okay. I just got a very apologetic message from TCM saying that shipping won’t start until tomorrow, due to unforeseen warehouse something. At least we know the DVDs actually exist.

  • Anthony D.

    Lucky you getting the set! I’m still waiting for TCM to ship mine. P.S. Looking forward to your next appearence on Stu’s Show Wednesday! :)

  • http://artnote.blog.com Stephen

    Any chance you’ll be giving one away? Amid gives away books – don’t be stingy, now!

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    Great! Any possiblity of special edition DVD/BluRays of
    the 2 UPA features Mr.Magoo’s 1001 Nights or Gay Purree?

    • dbenson

      Gay Purree has been out on Warner Home Video for years.

      1001 Arabian Nights recently came out as an on-demand Columbia title. Keep hearing people say the latter will be in the Magoo box — any official confirmation?

      Also: Opening titles and soundtrack recordings of 1001 Arabian Nights include a song titled “Three Little Maids from Damascus”. I’ve seen the film twice — once fairly recently on cable — and the aforementioned three maids enter and exit without a song. Was the song cut pre-release or is there an edited TV version?

      • Adam Abraham

        “Three Little Maids from Damascus” is a genuine UPA mystery. I mention it in chapter 9 of the book “When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA.” As fas as I can tell, the song was recorded but cut before the film was released and made available to reviewers in 1959. The running time of the released film was 76 minutes, same as the recently available versions.

        And, yes, I was told that “1001 Arabian Nights” will be in “The Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection.”

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Still, that’s a nice way to compliment the Mr. Magoo set itself with including the one theatrical feature he was in!

  • http://www.fluffyandmervin.com Debbie

    Is this set pressed DVDs or DVD-R discs?

  • http://www.fooksie.com Fooksie

    I have been looking forward to getting these. Great looking colors.

  • http://animationreview.wordpress.com/ Gijs Grob

    YAY! I’ve ordered the DVD a few days ago, can’t wait to watch these precious cartoons!

    I hope, Jerry, that you’ll now be able to move on to other long lost gems, like the Columbia Screen Gems or MGM’s non-Droopy/non-Tom&Jerry-cartoons :-)

  • http://www.oerd.fr Oerd van Cuijlenborg

    Living in Paris, France…how can I get my hands on the DVDs (on the website there’s only the option for the US and Canada unfortunately). I would love to see all these shorts…

    • Chrisron

      I live in Europe as well ( Norway) and ordered mine from here:

      http://www.moviesunlimited.com/musite/product.asp?sku=D59457

      • http://www.oerd.fr oerd van cuijlenborg

        Great! Thanks!!

    • http://pianoville.fr piano

      So do I … And i’ve been waiting for years for this !!

    • frye

      check moviesunlimited.com. they have the set and i am told they ship internationally.

  • William

    Great to hear, Jerry! Could you please comment on whether the discs are pressed and how they’re packaged exactly? A recent TCM set had very cumbersome packaging that scratched the discs. Thanks!

    • http://www.cartoonbrew.com/author/jerry Jerry Beck

      The DVDs are not DVD-R – they are professionally pressed. The packaging is superb. Here are two pix of the UPA discs resting in their trays:

      upa dvd tray

      • Chris Sobieniak

        COOL!

      • William

        Fantastic, thank you Jerry. Will be ordering mine soon!

  • Eliran

    Is there a way to order it outside of US or Canada?

  • Adam Abraham

    This is for Andrew Kieswetter, above. I believe that “1001 Arabian Nights” will appear on the upcoming DVD box set “The Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection,” which should arrive in June. I have not heard of any plans for “Gay Purr-ee.”

    • Andrew Kieswetter

      Thanks.

    • Andrew Kieswetter

      Btw,are there many stills from ‘Gay Purr-ee’ in your book? That’s my favorite UPA feature.

      • Adam Abraham

        My publisher allowed a limited number of images in the book, so I think only one represents “Gay Purr-ee.” I will be adding more material from that film to the Web site whenmagooflew.com.

  • http://www.kustomonsters.com Craig Clark

    Great work Jerry! A long time coming! Order up everyone!

  • uncle wayne

    For once (at this site), I am confused. How do the Fox & Crows get included in the UPAs? I thought they were early-40s Columbias?? Pleez splain!! Thanky!!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Here’s my two cents. When UPA started to make cartoons for Columbia, they had to make a few with the established characters from the Screen Gems studio (I suppose as a test to see how capable they were on fulfilling Columbia’s deal), so Fox & Crow were used for those first couple years before they were retired for good. Those cartoons were Robin Hoodlum (1948), The Magic Fluke (1949) and Punchy DeLeon (1950). It’s great that they’re on this set as they should be there to remind us of where they started and how it evolved over time during the years they were producing cartoons for Columbia.

  • Gerard de Souza

    Yes, it is amazing how poor quality prints can effect our opinion of a film without really being aware that is what’s going on at a subconcious level. And conversely how a good print can change our opinion.

  • Toonio

    WTF, not available on amazon? what were they thinking?

  • Anthony D.

    The disc art is very clever! :)

  • Robert Reynolds

    I got an e-mail today from TCM stating that there’s a warehouse delay and they’ll begin shipping the set tomorrow. I’m looking forward to this set and the screenshots look great!

    I’ve already pre-ordered the Magoo set scheduled for a release in June.

    • William

      Numerous people at the IAD animation forum have posted that they’ve received several delay notices since the original date was announced (including two or three very recently).

      I hope this doesn’t affect sales of this great looking set.

  • uncle wayne

    Thank yoo, Chris. Oh i KNEW about the latter-day ones….but wondered if allll F&Cs were included???

  • Zippy

    I got a shipped by UPS (not UPA) notice last night via email – shipped out of Nashville, should be here tomorrow.

  • Robert Schaad

    Ordered both…and they’ll get here when they get here.

    The discs and packaging look great!

  • Zippy

    Just got my set today – Disc 1 was covered with scratches. I just contacted TCM Customer Service about this – hope they follow through with a replacement disc.

    • Zippy

      TCM emailed that they’d be sending a replacement for my damaged disc – nice to see a quick response to my problem…

  • randyo

    Mine came today and I like it a lot. But I’m confused as to whether these should be watched in widescreen or not.

  • Lorne Bjorn Yorn

    Are there any plans to release a new DVD of the Stanley Kramer/Irving Reis 1952 film “The Four Poster”, a Columbia feature, which contains some of UPA’s finest work as a studio, the animated interstitial linking sequences? There is currently only one used copy available on Amazon.com, and it’s way overpriced (and of unknown quality). Each of the black and white “Four Poster” animated sequences was handled by a different UPA unit and all of the animation done for “The Four Poster” is Class A theatrical quality UPA stuff, reflecting production values far above that which was routinely cranked out by UPA in the late 1950s and early 1960s with lesser crews. As for its historical significance, “The Four Poster” was the seminal film that Zagreb’s animators rented and ran over and over in the infancy of that studio’s life, virtually inspiring a cadre of talented overseas filmmakers. If not the entire “Four Poster” feature, at least the UPA cartoon sequences would have been a great addition to the Jolly Frolics DVD, though none of the subject matter could be described with either word.

    • Adam Abraham

      You are absolutely right; the animation for “The Four Poster” is masterful. I talk about those sequences in my book, “When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA.” I had to go to the Library of Congress to watch the film because it is unavailable! Thus far, I have heard of no plans to release it. Maybe Turner should distribute “The Four Poster”….

      • http://www.cartoonbrew.com/author/jerry Jerry Beck

        I believe the rights to THE FOUR POSTER are tied up with the estate of the original playwright. It’s a crime that this film is unavailable.

    • Adam Abraham

      There seem to be a few copies on ebay. They may be DVD-R….

  • Tom Minton

    A viewing of “The Four Poster” would peel back the eyes of any souls who might not be quite ready to rank UPA as a truly stellar animation studio. I saw the film in the early 1980s on television and was amazed at the depth of what UPA’s creative artists had pulled off and they achieved it while working in a limited monochrome palette. Adam Abraham mentions in his excellent book that “The Four Poster” is UPA’s finest work in black and white and he’s not exaggerating. In “The Four Poster” UPA isn’t merely telegraphing story points using clever graphic symbols, they are advancing and illuminating what would be a wholly claustrophobic live action set piece without their significant cinematic contribution, which happens to be in the form of 2D animation. There should have been more such well-funded theatrical side projects to showcase what UPA’s A team could do, before they departed the studio and the subsequent UPA management change so drastically altered the quality of its output.

  • Scott Harpel

    Considering the size limits of DVD, and how far into the high def era we are, in kind of baffles me if you went this far, and judging by the restoration work jerry showed, and the box art, to release this on a now very defunct format. Though considering TCM is releasing these, which is part of Time Warner, for Sony/Columbia. Particularly when Warners is releasing Looney Tunes on Blu.

  • James Fox

    care to explain about how are several post-53 shorts being presented in widescreen (including “Ballet-Oop” and “How Now McBoing Boing”) in this set?