Dreaming in Technicolor: “The Shoemaker and the Hatter”

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The Shoemaker and the Hatter, 1950  [111-MSA-1134]
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Do you ever find yourself dreaming of a land filled with peace and prosperity where collaboration and cooperation always triumph? Have you ever longed to demolish the barriers and abolish the restrictions that only seem to stand in the way of realizing such worthwhile bliss? If so, and your idealistic aspirations have yet to come true, perhaps the trouble is simply that you haven’t been dreaming in Technicolor. This may seem like fanciful advice for those seeking a more utopian atmosphere, but that unmistakable mixture of colorful dyes combined with just the right amount of common sense seemed to do the trick for a kindhearted shoemaker we recently met in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab at the National Archives and Records Administration.
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While spinning through a two-reel animated short that recently came across one of our inspection benches, we found him in a tight spot. He could barely afford to make shoes for his deserving family let alone the people in his community due to border restrictions on international trade. While the Hatter next door rallied for towering tariffs so he could sell fewer hats for fantastically high prices, the Shoemaker was more of an entrepreneur than an opportunist. With an abundance of leather in his country and a shortage of basic necessities such as shoes, he reasoned to himself that “surely, he should make more not less”—but how?
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The delightful, prize-winning short, The Shoemaker and the Hatter, helps answer the Shoemaker’s question while endorsing the extensive benefits of the Marshall Plan, America’s post-World War II initiative to aid Western European economies.  To produce the film at the request of the United States government, the Economic Co-Operation Administration (ECA) teamed up with John Halas and Joy Batchelor, the husband-and-wife founders of the British animation company, Halas and Batchelor.[1]
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Despite nearing its 70th anniversary, this inspired piece of cartoon propaganda looks as though it could have been made yesterday, and—to our delight in the lab—so does the film itself, as our preservation copy is a stunning 35mm IB Tech print from 1952.
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As much as the “IB” could stand for “incredibly beautiful,” we don’t want to lead you astray. Introduced in 1926 alongside two-color printing and perfected even further in the 1930s with three-color, “IB” or dye-transfer prints were created through Technicolor’s imbibition process, in which cyan, yellow, and magenta-dyed relief matrices (created from three separate color records) were individually pressed and combined with the utmost precision on to a special blank receiver film. The matrices were a result of three black and white camera negatives with different sensitivities to red, green, and blue. Once each negative had been printed to the matrix stock, the silver image was washed away, leaving only a gelatin impression that was then coated [as shown in the image created below] in each of the three complementary color dyes.
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Example cyan, yellow, and magenta color records (produced digitally) of a still from The Shoemaker and the Hatter [111-MSA-1134]
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Renowned for their richly saturated and wonderfully resilient qualities, IB Tech prints such as this one—the “stuff” the Shoemaker’s dreams were made of—are excellent examples of unexpected celluloid treasures that will never fail to stir our imaginations as well as our excitement as they are rediscovered within our collections at NARA.
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Both reels of this sixteen-minute short may now be viewed
in the National Archives Catalog.
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[1] Leab, Daniel J. Orwell Subverted: The CIA and the Filming of Animal Farm. University Park: Penn State Press, 2008.

For more about Technicolor’s dye-transfer printing process, we highly recommend the following informational video from the George Eastman Museum:

Technicolor 100 — The Dye Transfer Printing Process
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