Missing Footage – As Well As Remembering Things That Never Existed!

The usual busy weeks. A new scanner situation is great news, and all goes well as things move forward. If I have my druthers I’ll be chatting about something finished here at this time next week!

A bunch of years ago as a kid of maybe 10, I was desperate to learn about the animation history that wasn’t Disney. There was an animation history book (maybe by John Halas) that I borrowed from the local library here in Ann Arbor. In a section about the Fleischers, it mentions a preview for Mr. Bug Goes to Town that had the film introduced by Bob Hope. I have yet to find *any* evidence that such a preview actually exists, but it was one of the first films I really pined for, just before I started actually collecting films.

Now, the question becomes, did this actually exist at some point, or was the writing influenced by the Mr. Bug ads that ran in magazines, asking us to play the latest movie game (“Is Hoppity Bob Hope? Is Honey Madeline Carroll?”)

My guess is that it never existed. I think the writer may have thought that such a thing existed, having no idea he would drive a 10-year old nuts trying to find that for the next 40 years.

In any genre, there are all sorts of things that are viewed and misremembered. Human memory seems to frequently correlate related material and produces a pastiche memory or several pieces of material. With the history of film, the rarest material is so wanted, that I think sometimes we remember seeing some aspect of it without *actually* seeing it.

At a film show a handful of years back, I was selling a print of King Kong (1933). It’s always been a favorite film, and as we were running a reel, a collector came up to us and told a story about the famously missing spider pit scene. He remembered his father coming back home from a friends, and said he saw the whole sequence, with sound! Of course, this is the stuff that dreams are made of for us collectors, so I have to wonder if he told the story to his son to keep him dreaming, or if he just misremembered seeing the surrounding footage as ‘the spider pit’.

Here’s a cool little clip that shows that some of the models from King Kong were used as props in other films. Willis O’Brien worked on these films, and it seems he enjoyed decorating the sets with stop motion models from the past:

Peter Jackson recreated the ‘Spider Pit’ sequence from the script and some stills as well as new footage. This is a true fan doing something like this with his resources. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

Years back, a friend made a VHS dub of some animated test footage done for Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! It was a bunch of stop motion tests and it was pretty cool stuff… probably about 3 or 4 minutes of 3rd or 4th generation footage. I lent it to a student of mine I the very early 2000s and it vanished forever. When I went back to ask the friend who dubbed it for me originally, he said he didn’t think ever had it. Now, I know I had it (and saw a piece of it again at a Tim Burton exhibit) so *that* was wasn’t a misremember! Of course, the final film uses CG animation, and the cool stop motion that was started was abandoned.

A lot of people I’ve met misremember a scene in Disney’s Pinocchio that features Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket riding on the crowned dove that represents the Blue Fairy. Of course, that scene was never in a final version of the film. My guess is that people remembered it from an illustration in the Golden Book that features that very thing. One person I talked with insisted I was wrong, and that he’d find the copy he’d seen with the sequence!

Of course, it doesn’t help that some films are actually edited into different versions. One of my favorite films since I was a child is the Laurel and Hardy classic Babes in Toyland. There’s a few different cuts of the film. Lippert Pictures re-issue of the film from the late 40s was missing the whole opening of the film, and because of that, I didn’t see those handful of minutes (known as the ‘storybook opening’) until many years later. My grandmother remembered the scene from seeing it in the 30s and told me it was missing. An ‘Erkco’ print I bought many years later had the scene (as well as the ‘Go to Sleep’ song missing from Lippert’s print) but edited out all the closeups of the Boogie Men through the end of the film! Funny enough, my mother remembered a scene that never existed from the film where, after the grand ending, we return to the town and all is peaceful again. The actual film ends with Stan pulling darts out of Ollie’s back. Perhaps a TV station showed a piece from early in the film as they wrapped up the showing.

Here’s the real end:

Another example of remembering something actually missing is the Bugs Bunny Cartoon Fresh Hare (1942). The end of the film is missing from many prints, leaving the kids who saw it to wonder what happened to it on additional viewings.

You probably all know this one, but here it is uncut:

Funny enough, now it’s harder to find the ‘Cut’ version!

About 35 years back, Collector and dealer Frank Bueno told me many stories, but one it seemed he actually believed himself. He swore he had a 16mm blue track technicolor print of a Pluto with the full RKO radio tower at the beginning, with no splice before the Pluto title coming on screen. He was so sure he had it that, even after I had stopped caring, I watched him thread every Pluto he had there to check it. It’s a beautiful card in Technicolor, but I’m close to 100% sure it was never on the head of a Disney cartoon officially.

Sometimes actual prints have a sequence cut out of them, and other times it’s edited on the negative. The Flip the Frogs we’re working on represent a mini-nightmare in that there’s *many* different cuts of some of the films, each missing something different. That said, I’m still looking for a color version of Flying Fists (1930) since more than one cartoon person remembers seeing it in color at a show somewhere. I have yet to find an actual print that is color (other than a fake on youtube). We’re finally running out of time on the set, so the mysterious color version may stay just that. Hope springs eternal that one will show up though!

Now — do *you* have any stories of either you or someone finding a scene that was missing or remembering something that never actually existed? I know there’s some good stories— let’s hear yours!

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