David A. Scott Offers Up the VCR FROM HECK and Documents Animated Analog Obscurities Otherwise Buried in the Immense Realm of Public Domain. Toon-in for some Serious Analog Era Animation Archaeology!
Toons?! Tapes?! Heck?! SIGN ME UP.About when did you start collecting VHS? In late 1986, when I was about ten, my parents bought our first VCR. They tested it by recording about 30 seconds of "Annie" off of HBO. Movies on VHS were fairly expensive, so for a few years, we mainly taped things from TV. Because of the lower prices, the first pre-recorded tapes our family ever bought were public domain based copies of GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, THE LITTLE PRINCESS, and THE INSPECTOR GENERAL. The first VHS tape I ever owned was of NEW THREE STOOGES cartoons.
SPREADDDDD OUTTTTTTTTTTT!Why the propensity toward cartoons, PD cartoons in particular? Did you aim to collect PD cartoons, or did it kind of just happen naturally? I was young, I drew a lot, and my family insisted I'd be working for Disney someday. In the end, my interests veered more towards editing than animating, but I've always enjoyed or appreciated cartoons, especially after seeing WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? The public domain tapes were cheaper to get, and the covers were intriguing, if not always attractive. Once I got over the unauthorized (but legal) nature of these tapes, I started collecting what I felt were the really good ones. The 50-cartoon tapes with the multi-character artwork was always a hit with me. I would do numerous paint and marker drawings inspired by those "all-star" covers. How many tapes do you have in your collection right now? Do you still actively collect? I currently own somewhere between 500 and 600 tapes. At least half of those were purchased by or for me in the early to mid-nineties. The rest were found, purchased, or donated to me within the past year. I'm starting to get pickier about which ones I own, so I doubt it will ever surpass 1000, if even 700. Then again, I probably have bins with another 100 tapes in them, but those aren't public domain based.
Heck yeah, Starmaker tape. A full year warranty? Yes, sir. I like it.Where do you seek out your tapes? Yard sales? Flea Markets? EBay? I never get the time to do yard sales or flea markets, so I find my tapes mainly from Amazon, Ebay, and the half dozen second-hand or thrift stores in my area (the furthest being about an hour away). Do you collect any other kinds of tapes? I have a nice Beatles collection that ranges from official, to public domain based, to bootlegs. I was also big into BATMAN, DICK TRACY, and The Monkees, so there's another large chunk of tapes. And any time there was a Disney movie in a clamshell case, I would find it under my Christmas tree. I have about 50 clamshell releases, mostly Disney or Muppets.
Ehhhh, it's for you, Doc. While I wait... you got any eats?Are there any tapes that have evaded your grasp? Tapes that you’re looking for, but can’t get a hold of? My most frustrating experience has been attempting to complete the Kid Video / Hep Cat series from United American Video. Each of the covers have a white banner on the top, and a character standing in front of a spotlight. The simple design, plus the overall quality of the art, has become a personal favorite with me. I've wanted a complete set for decades! I got most of those tapes back in the day, so I finally organized them according to the ID numbers on the boxes, spending this past year trying to fill the blanks. The full collection has at least 29 tapes (labeled 0 through 28, and I just found #0 this past week). After plugging several gaps this year, I'm still missing at least two of the tapes. Searching the web, I could only find the Mighty Mouse one at a library that had already thrown it away, and the Porky Pig "Vol. 3" one has only shown up on Ebay once (an auction which I lost after forgetting to log in before making a last-second re-bid). And if that weren't enough, there's an entire series of these in Canada (labeled Kid Video, but not Hep Cat) featuring different characters and covers; I've only managed to find three of those, and just pictures for only two others. If anyone out there can help me track these down (or at least tell me which ones are out there), please do!
A look at the Kid Video / Hep Cat collection so far. Help David find these missing pieces, mang!!PD cartoons were certainly an oversaturated market in the video era. There’s just so many tapes out there, it’s practically innumerable (which is why I have such admiration for your endeavor!). Do you find it daunting since there are so many to go after, or is it kind of like a never-ending supply of animated awesomeness? I make a point of not trying to buy most tapes. As long as there's a decent scan or picture of it online, I won't worry about it. But if the cover is interesting enough, then I will purchase it and give it the higher-quality scan that it deserves. I take pride in being the first and only person to provide complete scans for these titles. Regardless of whether I buy the tapes or not, seeking out pictures is still a time-consuming, mostly thankless process. And since EBay auctions are a limited-time-only thing, I need to check there a few times a week, or risk certain item pictures disappearing before I ever get to see them. Since the material was public domain, there had to be a ton of fly-by-night companies doing these cartoon tapes, with lots of slapdash cover art and cheap-o production qualities. Do you have any particular releases that exemplify this sort of thing? For slapdash release, nothing compares to "50 Cartoon Classics, Volume 2" by Parents Approved Video. The audio on the first two hours is low, the video has tracking issues, and the tape runs out during the 45th cartoon! But none of that rivals the cover, with its badly hand-traced, lazily colored-in characters (three not even appearing on the tape), plus horrible '80's-style triangular and striped patterns. That this was considered a legitimate release to sell in an actual store astounds me, but it makes for a unique find, and justifies what I'm doing. If I hadn't found this monstrosity on Ebay when I did, imagine how many cartoon or VHS buffs could have missed its glorious awfulness!
Looks like good ol' Tweety bird got a slice of the bad stuff, man. I'M MEEEEELLLTTIIIINNNGGGG.Do you have any cartoons that might be otherwise lost if not for their PD video releases? Like, animation(s) that haven’t made it to DVD, and may only be preserved by the VHS format? I'm at a loss to say which individual cartoons would be otherwise unavailable, given the large number that have popped up on DVD (or even ArchiveDotOrg) in the past decade or so. However, there are many unique compilations that will likely never see an official disc release. For instance, Burbank put out some swell documentaries like BATMAINA: FROM COMICS TO SCREEN, DICK TRACY: SAGA OF A CRIMEFIGHTER, and THE STORY OF SUPERMAN. Whomever owns the masters to those must surely consider them too dated for a reissue. I hope to share some of these on my VCRfromHeck YouTube channel before the end of the year. (Of course, even with public domain material, YouTube's copyright auto-detection can be pretty weird, so I can't make any promises.)
Who could walk past this tape and not pick it up? WHO?! Oh, you? Well... if you see it, can ya grab it for me? RAD AND THANK YOU.What are your thoughts on the VHS format in general? There’s currently a huge resurgence in interest and a whole new wave of collectors out there who are slapping down a lot of cash for rare horror / sleaze / exploitation tapes. As a guy who’s collected for years and years, what do you think of that? Rare is rare, so good for them. Like you said, there is a lot of material that could never hope to make its way onto an official DVD. Also, the variety in artwork and packaging (sleeves, big boxes, clamshells, etc.) makes collecting these things comparable to the joy of owning music and other albums in their original vinyl format. However, I still remember when VHS was a "new" format, so I can't help but feel some sticker shock, especially with the cartoon tapes featured on my Tumblr. Some people say cartoons are kids stuff. What do you say to those of that mindset? Animation, like live-action, can be used to entertain anybody, not just kids. Many cartoons are made specifically for children, but even then, the good ones are worthy of adult appreciation. Most of the cartoons on the tapes that I collect were made to entertain everyone in the theater, and would even contain humor that might go over a child's head back then. Nowadays, I'd be wary of showing many of these older, often racially insensitive cartoons to children without proper context, a caution that these budget companies rarely felt like taking!
Party on, Toons. PARTY ON.Anything else you’d like to say to all the Videovores out there? Keep what you like, but share what you have. Rather than simply bragging about what I've got, I try to give others a good enough look at my tapes that one could enjoy them as if they were their own. In return, others have been willing to share their scans, info, and memories. With this Tumblr page, I have taken something associated with the loneliest period of my life, and turned it into something genuinely interactive. It took me 25 years, but hey.... Best wishes, David A. Scott The VCR from Heck http://vcrfromheck.tumblr.com
Damn, that’s some groovy stuff right there, man! David’s archival efforts are assuredly most excellent, and just a wonder to behold, regardless of your personal analog inclinations. The passion is apparent, and the fun abounds. But don’t take my word for it, Tapeheads. Groove on over to The VCR From Heck and cruise through an amazing array of classic cartoon incarnations. Go on now. GET TOONED UP!