May 3, 2012
National Archives Debuts its First Digitally Restored Film in Beijing
Restored 1949 film "The Sailor and the Seagull" is NARA’s 1st digital theatrical release
Washington, DC…The National Archives and Records Administration premiered the newly-restored 1949 film Navy recruitment film, The Sailor and the Seagull, last week in Beijing before a crowd of 300 at the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) Conference. This debut marked the National Archives’ first ever digital cinema theatrical release, and the first time the National Archives has contributed to the conference. This restored historic film can be viewed on the National Archives YouTube site at http://tiny.cc/sailorseagull.
The theme of this year’s FIAF Beijing Conference was animation, and the Conference focused on film acquisition, preservation and restoration, and access. National Archives Supervisory Motion Picture Preservation Specialist Criss Kovac, who brought the film to Beijing, explained why The Sailor and the Seagull was selected: “We chose the film because it was done by United Productions of America, an emerging film studio in the late 1940s. This animation studio produced industrial films, World War II training films, theatrical shorts for Columbia Pictures, and went on to create several popular series including Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy.”
The 12-minute cartoon opens with a Navy soldier longing for civilian life. A dream sequence complete with scantily-clad dancing girls and a hookah pipe delightfully depicts what civilian life could be. Then, to the soldier’s dismay, the next sequence shows what civilian life would be – rote assembly line work, deductions for taxes and social security, huckster insurance salesmen, high costs of rent, food, haircuts, and clothing (all of which are provided free by the Navy). The soldier eagerly reenlists.
The National Archives film preservation team painstakingly cleaned and digitally restored the film in full high-definition. Work began on the 12-minute film in January 2012, and took more than 80 hours. National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Specialist Bryce Lowe led the project.
“This work is labor intensive,” Kovac explained: “Film takes, on average, four times longer to restore in the digital workflow than the traditional photo chemical-based workflow. This film is a special case because most of the tools we’d normally use on restoration, we couldn’t use on this film because animation has much softer lines.”
The National Archives film preservation team is currently working on digital restorations of other titles including The Negro Soldier (produced by Frank Capra, 1944), and Let There Be Light (John Huston, 1946). Years of Lightning and Days of Drums (United States Information Agency, 1966) is slated for work this summer.
The National Archives and the University of California, Los Angeles, were the only American members in the approximately 200-delegate FIAF conference. The National Archives, as the nation’s record keeper, holds one of the world's largest moving image repositories, with more than 360,000 reels of motion picture film titles.
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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-357-5300.