By Jerry Beck | Animation Scoop March 9, 2014 at 7:00AM
The 1939 Fleischer animated feature - Paramount's response to the phenomenal success of Disney's Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937) - fell years ago into Public Domain and numerous bootleg distributors have put it out on VHS and DVD over the decades. In 2012 Paramount did a restoration on their original negative – but have not created an answer print nor mastered it digitally. I had hoped to use that restoration when I appeared on TCM that year. We did a search for a good, complete copy with all its original titles, but the print obtained by TCM was the best that could be gotten at the time.
At the time, I had consulted with Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation in Detroit and he was intrigued with the challenge to restore this classic film. After 18 months work, Stanchfield has just completed his restoration - and its now available to purchase.
I just received my copy yesterday and I cannot rave about this BluRay enough. The restoration is magnificent - I dare say its better than any print I've ever seen. The Technicolor is vibrant, the sound crisp and clear. If you already have this film - throw it out and buy this permanent upgrade. If you are not a fan of the film, buy this DVD/BluRay set because this restoration will make you a fan. Steve has already done "the Lord's work" with his previous DVD compilations - but this may be his most important restoration yet.
Steve combed the country to find three Technicolor 35mm prints and did a high-def telecine of each. He combined the best quality elements of each print, then did digital clean up to perfect the image. In addition to the restored Gulliver Travels, (by the way, you get both the standard def DVD, and HD blu-ray in earh set) you get eight bonus Max Fleischer shorts from the 1920s and 30s, starring Popeye, Betty Boop, Koko The Clown and Gabby (the town crier from Gulliver).
In addition to a twelve page booklet - packed with fact-filled essays by Fleischer historians Ray Pointer, G. Michael Dobbs, John McElwee and Chris Buchman - the disc contains bonus materials ranging from the rare soundtrack album, trailers, production artwork and radio broadcasts, all relating to this landmark Fleischer feature.
Thunderbean's release restores this classic animated feature to a quality and a format that virtually allows it to live on for generations to come. It's something Paramount Pictures (and the major studios) should be doing with vault items like this, but leave it to the fans and historians to do their job.