Welcome to a Thunderbean Thanksgiving Thursday: Where today we are being thankful for animation, and all the supporters of this odd-love of ours.
I hope you are enjoying Thanksgiving day, wherever you are. If you’re not in the states this particular American holiday may not be as familiar; it’s often a time of family gathering, and sometimes reflection, sometimes arguing about politics, sometimes sharing your life. I find that I think about the different families I myself have. Since I have the bully pulpit here, I’m going to thank the community a little today.
I was doing a bunch of film transfers yesterday, and as I was transferring some really beautiful 35mm prints and negatives, it struck me that the reason that I’m even able to see these beautiful prints isn’t the result of one person, but rather a community of people who love these films and support the interest and ability to have access to them. We are, collectively, making this a period where there in unprecedented access to the animated films of the past. I consider myself a relatively minor player, in knowledge and actions, compared to the giants who have helped me produce these little Thunderbean collections. In the bigger picture, I do hope to at the very least have been able to present many of the films that we all want to see, but without so much help these efforts wouldn’t go anywhere near as far. Here are a few people that I’m grateful for being part of this community, some that are friends, some that have just been great inspirations. I like the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to get to know so many people that have the same fascination with these little moving drawings. I’m humbled, and thankful:
For sharing the information: Jerry Beck, Leslie Carbarga, Leonard Maltin, and ALL the Mindrot folks:
I had lunch with Jerry Beck seven or eight years back during the Ottawa Animation Festival; we spent the majority of that lunch talking about the forthcoming Fleischer Popeye cartoons on DVD – a longtime wish that was finally going to happen (this is well before the announcement officially). Jerry has been a tireless researcher and supporter of projects related to animated films. You wouldn’t be reading my ramblings here if it wasn’t for him of course. I’m grateful he exists.
I was near downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan in high school, and often after class I’d go visit a local used book store, and of course ended up in the film section looking for books on animation. There was a little sleeve of magazines and publications, and it was here that I discovered the fanzine Mindrot, along with the later version Animania and even some xeroxed issues of Apatoons. The folks who write the articles for these are all still around and often still contributing to the world of animation history information. I read about films here I always hoped to see, so it’s their fault more than anyone else when you see a post from me here showing an old cartoon.
Sometimes I think about Leslie Carbara’s statement in the first version of The Fleischer Story, where he says he devoted years of his young life to writing the book because no one else had bothered to. Carbarga (and the many people that helped with the book) did a much bigger service to history than he was probably aware of at the time. This writer was 13 years old when first discovering the book, and now, at 45, it is still one of the major inspirations in my attempts to present cartoons to a larger audience. When I present films in these days in my animation history class, I think about how on the right day, a certain film will inspire a young artist to create something amazing. One of the things I love most about sharing animated films is that you never really know the threads of inspiration and enjoyment that have happened.
Maltin’s (and Beck’s) Of Mice and Magic was a ragged paperback within the first year I purchased it, and I’ve run more than one copy into a similar state over the years. This concise (considering what it covers) volume gives the best overview of American Animation of any book.
There have been so many amazing books since of course, but those two are essential.
For keeping the faith, preserving history and spreading the enjoyment of watching animation: Mark Kausler.
Speaking of essential, Mr. Mark Kausler holds an important place in both interest and preservation of animation history.
He has helped with countless books, articles, shows and video releases. His generosity in allowing me to transfer rare materials from his personal collection has often filled in the important missing item on a set I’ve been putting together. What is funny is that what I’ve enjoyed most about knowing Mark isn’t any of that stuff, but rather the conversations about things not really related to animation, or flipping some of his animation drawings and enjoying his own sense of comedy in his drawing style and animation. In my interest and presenting of classic animation, I am a mere piker comparatively, and will always be.
For helping with starting the companies:
I started Snappy Video when I was 19, in college, working at the University of Michigan’s film and video library as a film inspector. I can chart pretty well the people that helped that tiny venture succeed in it’s modest way, from transferring films and the film collectors like Collin Kellogg and Jeff Missinne to the folks who sold me so many rare prints, the first tiny ads in Animation Magazine in the late 80’s, The people that bought those early collections, some that have become lifetime friends.
I’m grateful for all the people that helped me through the technical challenges in figuring out how to make the DVDs better and better- but especially to Pat Mathews, the best telecine guy ever. This year I’m especially grateful to John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows, for helping so much with the new BluRay collections.
For presenting animation in Detroit: Elliot Wilhelm, curator, Detroit Film Theatre
I was lucky enough to be able to curate many of the shows that coincide with the ‘Watch Me Move’ exhibit at the Detroit Institute of arts. I’m presenting a show on Saturday this week and get to show many rare things, a handful likely showing for the first time since l the 1930s. It’s been a rare chance to present a wide variety of animated films on the big screen outside of Los Angeles, New York or a major film festival, and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity.
In addition, I’m grateful for great cartoony friends David Gerstein, Mike Kazaleh, Milton Knight, Jonathan Boshen, Luke Virgin, Ken Preibe, Thad Kommorowski, Mark Mayfield, Chris Buchman, Rex Schneider, Craig Davison, Dave Kirwan, Paul Mular, Eric Greyson, Ray Pointer and so many more. I know I’ve just missed dozens of you that have helped make these things happen, and continue supporting the community in many ways. I’m especially thankful for Mary, my other half, often staying up late while I cleaned dirt off of yet another Snafu, Cubby Bear or more recently Gulliver’s Travels.
Lastly, I’m thankful for this period in history, even with the bad stuff. We’re lucky that the community can exist and that so many of these films are accessible in good copies. Happy Thanksgiving.