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Posted by Osi Osgood (Member # 424) on December 09, 2012, 04:31 PM:
 
One of my passions for Disney prints have been the earliest official releases of Disney shorts, and over time, I have found a number of interesting curiosities … some of them solved and others still being mysteries.

When most people think of the earliest 8mm Home Movie distribution companies, they rightly think of three in general, Official Films, Excell films and most notably, Castle Films. All three rightly so, deserve they’re status in early 8mm history, but there was another company that released 8mm very early on with impeccable quality, (that is, until later on) …

This company was called “Hollywood Films”. Long before Disney started it’s own distribution company, (Walt Disney Home Movies), Hollywood Films released prints of they’re cartoon shorts for many years. Hollywood Films had an exclusive contract with the Disney studio for their shorts. This was never extended to Disney’s features and this would remain the domain of the later Disney Home Movie company, and in the form of digests of features.

As many of the early 8mm distributors did, Hollywood Films released in both 8mm and 16mm. We are talking however, of the double sprocket 16mm, (giving an idea as to just how early Hollywood Films and other like minded distributors started out), but, after all, standard 8mm was simply double sprocket 16mm split into two prints, so it was a short step to distributing standard 8mm prints. I would have to guess, (and I’m sure that others that are specialists in these early formats could verify), that the double sprocket 16mm prints were first, quickly followed by the standard 8mm prints.

At first, Hollywood Films released only what was made available by the Disney studio’s, and that was the classic Mickey’s of the black and white era. It’s hard to imagine, but Hollywood Films made available for purchase not only 200ft 16mm, but 100ft versions and even little 50ft versions on 16mm (imagine just watching a minute and a half Mickey short on 16mm!).

What was striking about these 16mm prints, was that they were incredibly sharp and very well struck prints, with very good saturation of grey tones and incredibly sharp! This would follow with the standard 8mm reels.

However, the standard 8mm reels would not extend to the 200ft versions, (more on that later), but would be released in the now class 100ft very full reels, which ran approximately five or so minutes, giving you a slightly edited 200ft short and they were so well edited that unless you had seen the shorts in the movie theater, you’d never know what was missing.

Now, when it came to the standard 8mm releases, the quality would vary. At first, the 100ft reel versions had impeccable quality. They were exceedingly sharp, looking nearly as perfect as the 16mm versions. However, this collector would advise that if you search out these prints, look for one film stock in particular …

In the beginning, there were two film stocks used, the often used Kodak safety film stock and, the Dupont film stock.

Of the two film stocks, surprisingly, the Dupont film stock standard 8mm print had the best sharpness and overall quality. Great grey tones, beautiful jet blacks and unlike the occasional Kodak prints which could be slightly washed out and hard to focus, the Dupont prints tended to be just right. I can’t verify, however, as to whether this was due to processing in the film lab or the stock.

However, with the advent of color standard 8mm film photography, (largely due to the glorious Kodachrome!), along with castle Films, Hollywood Films would also join the ranks of color releases. These, are among the most collectible of the “Hollywood Films” releases!

While castle Films would use the Kodak Safety stock for it’s color releases, (using the Ub Iwerks Cinecolor masters), Hollywood Films were able to use the Technicolor master materials. Instead of using the common Kodak color film stock, Hollywood films used, instead, Ansco safety films (which would later become known as AGFA, still the best color film stock for super 8!).

Instead of the old title cards for Hollywood Films releases, They would make generic turquoise blue title cards with the title of the short, and intertitles which were also of the same turquoise blue color. These were the 100ft releases, (though I have heard that there were also 50ft versions of these color releases, but I have never seen one). These titles, quite interestingly, were the late 30’s into the mid forties Disney shorts, (perhaps wanting to keep they’re releases up tempo with the current look of Disney shorts at the time in the theaters. Such shorts as “Tugboat Mickey” looked glorious on the Ansco film stock.

However, inherent in the Ansco Film stock was a less than perfect sharpness to the prints. It was just good enough, but nowhere near the sharpness of the earlier Dupont film stock standard 8mm. What they did benefit from was the lovely Technicolor hues that the Disney films had, (which the Castle Color prints didn’t have with the inferior Cinecolor).

Alas, this was highpoint for Hollywood Films. For there to be a highpoint, there is a gradual downhill …

As standard 8mm graduated from the 100ft reels to the 200ft reels, Hollywood films did the same, but instead of striking brand new prints of the full length cartoons, they instead chose to use they’re existing 100ft versions. This couldn’t have been due to Disney taking away the rights as, if that was the case, they wouldn’t have continued to release the product legally, (and Disney was very watchful over every element of his animated empire).

What they did, quite sadly, was take the color negative material used for the Ansco color prints, and make black and white prints of these earlier released color films. These would be double features, (as those 100ft shorts would fit on one 200ft reel doubled), and that did most certainly have a novelty value to it …

But the problem was that, gone were the incredibly sharp standard 8mm prints of old. Gone were the lovely beginning “Walt Disney Presents a Mickey Mouse” title. These prints were marginally sharp, (like the Ansco prints), they did, however, have lovely grey tone saturation from the switch from color to black and white but they were, quite frankly, far less than what “Hollywood Films” originally produced.

These 200ft boxes had a more generic look to them as well. Gone was the classic Mickey Mouse Illustration from the early 30’s, replaced with the then current design of the late 1940’s and early 50’s. In some cases, the boxes wouldn’t even have an illustration of the characters but would instead, just have a blue box with “Home Movies Made in Hollywood California” printed on it, (these 100ft versions would even replace the lovely title cards with a less than desireable “Hollywood Films Presents” title card with the title of the film.

These would be the end of the line for Hollywood Films Disney releases. I don’t know for a fact when Disney chose to start releasing his own films under his own banner, but these Hollywood Films prints were widely available for years.

However, one must applaud the very existence of Hollywood Films for two things …

1. They’re lovely Ansco color prints of the Disney classics.
2. The release of a myriad of Disney black and white Mickey Mouse films which were nearly ignored by the Disney Studio when they started they’re own company, thinking that no one, with color film available, would desire the black and white classics. A pity.

I thank you for your time and I hope you found this review informative!

and, of course ...

Long Live Super 8 (and standard 8mm!)
 
Posted by Jeff Missinne (Member # 3373) on December 23, 2012, 07:28 PM:
 
Thoroughly enjoyed your article on Hollywood Film Enterprises. HFE was a film laboratory (I believe they may still be in business under another name) that went into the home-movie biz just to keep their equipment running between outside orders! In addition to the Disney cartoons, they had a handful of Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and other comedies; Westerns with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers; and a series of Tarzan reels edited from a silent-era serial. Also related to Disney, they had 8mm souvenir reels of Disneyland attractions; which I assume were also sold at the theme park. I believe they pulled out of the home-movie business in the mid-60's when Disney withdrew their license and started their own 8mm division. HFE also offered a handful of Disney cartoons in heavily (but well) edited 16mm sound versions. Please check out my posts and others on the 16mm forum page under DISNEY SHORTS IN 16mm.
 
Posted by Osi Osgood (Member # 424) on December 26, 2012, 01:20 PM:
 
They probably had to edit them by order of the Disney studio. In fact, even in most of WDHM's own short subject cartoons, they would edit them slightly, so as to still retain complete control of the comnplete cartoons, (however, WDHM's left that behind for at least the "masterworks" series, which consisted of "The Old Mill", "The Band Concert" and "The Ugly Ducking", which were complete editions of these films.
 
Posted by Panayotis A. Carayannis (Member # 1220) on December 30, 2012, 09:22 AM:
 
Who will ever find and scan for us a complete HOLLYWOOD FILM ENTERPRISES catalogue ???
 


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