Inside the Film Restoration Process

We have recently mourned the passing of acting legend Wilford Brimley, who died on August 1 at the age of 85. Brimley became a household name thanks to his appearances in movies like Cocoon, commercials for Quaker Oats, and ubiquitous public-service announcements for diabetes awareness. Brimley’s acting career gained him loyal admirers among film fans, who heaped praise on his performances in films such as Absence of Malice, The Natural, The Firm, Hard Target, and of course, the cult horror classic The Thing.

At TheArchive, we’re proud to have worked closely with one of Brimley’s many performances via our efforts to restore Where the Red Fern Grows: Part Two, the 1992 sequel to the 1974 film adaptation of the classic novel by Wilson Rawls. It was a privilege to construct a newly restored 4K master of this film from scans of original film elements. However, this proved to be one of the most difficult restoration processes we have undertaken for TheArchive. To give you a better sense of precisely what sort of effort this restoration entailed and what made it so complicated, here is part of my interview with our media archive manager, Sarah Smith:

TA: As the manager of Multicom’s archive, share a bit more on your process for restoring our titles, specifically the challenges with Where the Red Fern Grows: Part Two

SS: I have worked on a variety of restorations, but since I’ve been with Multicom, no restoration process has been longer and more challenging than Where the Red Fern Grows: Part Two. Many restorations are made up of anywhere from 5 to 20 reels of film, depending on the type and quality of the 35mm or 16mm film that we have for a specific title, but Where the Red Fern Grows: Part Two took a lot more. In fact, we used 30 reels of film and five reels of ½” audiotape to get all of the information needed to make a complete product. To put into perspective, the average 4K restoration at Multicom takes a total of 2-3 weeks. Where the Red Fern Grows: Part Two took almost two full months of work.

TA: At TheArchive we take a lot of pride in pulling together so many different film elements to return the content to as close to the original look as possible. This one was particularly challenging. Why?

SS: In the archive, we deemed this the “Frankenfilm,” because of how many different types and versions of the film it took to complete it. We combined three reels from one print set, six reels from another print set, 14 reels of one negative set, and seven reels from another negative set. No set of 35mm film was complete, and our editor had to put together our new master using what we had in the archive. On top of this, we did not have complete sound elements on film, so we had to send out ½” audio reels just to have the complete sound!

TA: What other issues did you discover through the restoration process?

SS: When watching the film, it is noticeable that different film elements were used because of the film’s coloring. For example, Wilford Brimley, who plays Grandpa Will, is wearing a red shirt under his overalls throughout the film. There are points where the reds slightly change, and at one point, even look orange. These slight changes are due to the quality of the film scanned and given to our editor. Sometimes color cannot be entirely matched when the assets scanned are almost unusable.

TA: Now that the project is done, do you feel a sense of accomplishment?

SS: Overall, I’m proud of the entire team who helped this long and challenging 4K restoration process, including archive team members Harry Eskin and Nicole Bajorek, and our editor Meni Phillip. I gave the film a watch on Amazon Prime and found it to be a fun story which looked very nice considering the difficulty the team had in its 4K restoration process.

We’re delighted that viewers can now see for themselves our restoration of one of the great Wilford Brimley’s lesser-known performances, albeit a good one, after all this time and effort. 



TheArchive channel is dedicated to aficionados and lovers of story, craft, and silver screen fun – streaming rare, retro, and restored films and classic TV. From indies and series, to Oscar winning documentaries, unearthed MOWs, and a killer horror library, TheArchive delivers forgotten, never-before-seen gems for free and many in 4KMarilynKarloff, and Orson Welles stream alongside ReeseKeanu, and Samuel L. Jackson. Find true stories of QueenHendrix, and Sinatra, an LGBTQ library, MLK bios, and world history docs. TheArchive has the movies and shows you either saw, should’ve seen, or should be watching now!