THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
August 4, 2016 posted by

Cubby Bear is Here!

I’m happy to say that the The Complete Animated Adventures of Cubby Bear Blu-ray set arrived back here today, and packing all the pre-orders will be happening in these coming days.

The set is now available on Amazon here as well.

Cubby Bear Cover-600

The Cubby Bear cartoons are my favorite Van Beuren series. I always felt that there should be a really good set of them available, so the new set is an attempt to improve on the older sets. Maybe I can now put Cubby to rest and concentrate on stuff we’ve never seen available!

cubby250When I started ‘Snappy Video’ as a teenager in 1988, one of the first sets produced was called ‘Cubby Bear and Comi-Color’ featuring four Cubby Bears and four Iwerks’ Comi-Color Cartoons. The last sets I produced as Snappy Video was two Volumes of the Complete Cubby Bear, finished in 1993. I advertised it briefly, and I think it sold about 12 copies- if that! I have to admit that by that point I was a little half hearted in putting together VHS collections, and the Cubby set had been ongoing for years trying to gather all the films, much less good prints of all. For dubbing, I had a ragtag group of VHS recorders stacked together, some bought from a local pawnshop since I was always on a tight budget. Doug Ranny’s Whole Toon Catalog was my main customer back in those days, and I’d scramble to get the four or five copies of this or that copied as fast as he ordered them!

Most everything that Snappy Video released was mastered on 3/4” ‘Umatic’ format tape, a popular format for broadcast, and probably the best choice for a low-budget producer. I did an ‘insert edit’ from the master tape to make a dubbing master. The quality looked really nice on a standard def monitor back then- especially since I was trying to get mostly ‘Rank’ transfers- although I did get some done in Superior Wisconsin as well (see past TB Thursdays for details on that!)

cubby-crowLate 1993/ early1994 saw my first professional job in in animation, and the ‘sort of’ end of Snappy Video. I still thought about the sets a little here and there, and the idea of doing some others, but there was very little time that I wasn’t animating.

In 2004, the website “Golden Age Cartoons” caught my attention, especially since DVD was a booming format. My thought was to do a “Popeye” DVD with the best quality I could find – and lots of extras. A lot of those extras ended up having an after life bigger than the little PD set I did, finding a home on the official Warner Brothers Popeye DVD sets.

The second DVD Thunderbean produced was Cubby Bear, consisting almost entirely of the 1991 through 1993 transfers done on 3/4” tape. I remember Jerry Beck making a comment back then that Thunderbean would be the only company that would bother to do such a set – and maybe that’s still right. Looking back at that set now, I see how primitive my menus were- so there was room to improve all around- I was happy to revisit these cartoons in all new transfers.

CUBBY MAIN MENU-600

Revisiting the Cubby cartoons in HD has been a big part of the last six months here. Most of the set was together many months ago, and then we ended up getting a little into the weeds in attempting to find the best possible material for as many as possible. At one point, we attempted to go back to the 16mm negs that Modern Sound Pictures had made in the late 40s or early 50s. They had changed hands recently, and attempts to get them were unfruitful.

Note: This part is a little tech heavy, so forgive me for that- but if you’re interested, follow along:

cubby_bear_posterThis promoted me to pull out my notes from the mid 80s, and I’m glad I had kept them. Keith Smith of Modern Sound gave me a quick history on the material, and all these years later what he said now made sense to me, having now more experience with dealing with original materials. Smith had made the first runs of the Cubby Cartoons in 16mm as print downs, having used 35mm *negatives* given to him by the seller (Gutohn (or Guttloan in my notes!). These were fine grain negs – and he said these “lavenders” were unusual in that they were negs rather than positives, so he used them to make direct reduction prints into 16mm. My notes say he made about 400 prints that way ( I don’t know if that means 400 of each or 400 all together), and in fact, still had some of those 1948 prints- and even sold a few to me. He said he complied with the new law to destroy or properly store nitrate after 1948 and had all the nitrate at the lab had incinerated, except for one negative (the materials for ‘King of Kings’). He told me the later prints he made were from a 16mm dupe negative, but since he didn’t have the nitrate any more, they made composite 16mm negs (picture and sound) for each from the 1948 prints. This is why some of the Cubby Bear cartoons looked pretty dupey, while others were just beautiful when you’d find a print. In many ways, not having access to those 16mm negatives (likely all dupes) was fine since they would be lower quality than the older materials.

Now, the next problem was finding as many in “print downs” as possible. The collecting community has never let me down, and I was able to borrow multiple prints of each title I needed from different collectors. I had managed to find better prints of many of the cartoons from both eBay hunting and finding some at Cinevent and other conventions over the years. Mark Kausler and Tom Stathes lent the best copies I’ve seen of several titles. Dennis Atkinson lent several Official films prints in beautiful condition. We were able to use absolutely mint 1948 prints that Chris Buchman had, bought from Keith Smith in the late 70s or early 80s. Many original title sequences were now available that hadn’t been before, including the one for ‘Gay Gaucho’ lent from what may be a unique print owned by collector Ralph Celentano. Milton Knight created a nice piece that’s being used for the cover of the booklet.

cubby-milton

One of the cooler things I found in putting together the set was a tiny piece of the RKO ‘Radio Pictures’ logo, almost entirely faded out, at the very beginning of a very beat up print of ‘The Last Mail’. I had seen the RKO logo one other time, at the head of the first Little King Cartoon. Since it was likely on the front of at least the Radio Pictures Cubbys, I included the logo at the head of the first ones in the series.

John McElwee of Greenbriar Picture Shows lent great support near the end of the project in replication. His blog, full of rare photos and publicity items impeccably presented, is a wonderful read. If you’re a old movie fan, what John presents and writes is a invaluable, and he’s been instrumental in both convincing me to start doing Blu-rays as well as helping with production support.

Overall, I’m very happy with the quality of the set. For extras, Mark Newgarden and Todd Federman lent amazing original materials for the extras, including this amazing puzzle game:

cubby-puzzle-1-600

Puzzle courtesy of Todd Federman

Puzzle courtesy of Todd Federman

Here’s a little preview of what the Cubbys look like. If you’ve pre-ordered, thanks much for truly helping to support the set.

Thanks again everyone!

21 Comments

  • Wow! It looks amazing! I have the DVD, but this just blows it away. I can’t wait to re-watch these films. Thanks for all your hard work, Steve.

  • I love the menu title! (Would love to know what fonts you used!). The shots from “Opening Night” (one of my favorites) in the promo video look phenomenal as well! Excellent work Steve!

    • John Vincent did a great job with the menus on the set!

  • I can’t wait to get this! Thanks Steve for the tireless work you do to bring us these great cartoons. Without you, your team, or the great collectors you mentioned, it would be impossible for us to see these cartoons in this magnificent condition.

  • Ooh, I can hardly wait to receive my copy of this upgraded CUBBY BEAR set. I’ve always liked the standard edition and I truly want to hear these copies for the soundtracks, especially that one Hugh Harman effort. While I don’t entirely understand the technical end of all this, it is interesting to note that there is *STILL* a collector community out there for classic cartoons. I never give up hope entirely that you’ll find some things that even the studios didn’t know still existed; if only they’d listen! Anyway, thanks for all you’ve done throughout all those years. I started collecting from you since ATTACK OF THE ’30’S CHARACTERS, and at the time, that had some truly collectable titles on it, including one that I always hope sees a major upgrade from the company/studio that once created it, if such a pristine copy still exists. Hey, you probably know more than I.

  • Does this set have a DVD included?

    • I need to know about that, too. No DVD, no sale for me.

  • Actually, the “Superior, Wisconsin” transfers were done in Duluth, Minnesota; with Dave Kirwan’s brother-in-law Bill Ward directing the sessions and myself supervising. Bill just retired last week after about 35 years with KBJR-TV; a great guy and, like myself, an inveterate punster! The transfers were done on an old RCA film chain that hadn’t been used in years, and it took Bill a couple days’ work just to get it running again. That machine was destroyed when KBJR’s studios burned out in the late 1990’s; their new studios are all-digital.

    • Thanks Jeff- I always get that backwards!

  • Looks great, Thunderbean! Amazing work- love the little preview.

  • WOW STEVE!!..VERY ANXIOUS TO WATCH THIS WONDERFUL UPDATE TO THE OLD DVD (WHICH I HAVE) AND BEEN ON SCHEDULE TOO!!!…KNOWING OF THE HARD WORK YOU DO FOR ALL OF US WHO TRULY LOVE THE GOLDEN AGE OF ANIMATION A BIG HURRAH!!. YOU’RE THE BEST!

  • Steve,

    Is it intentionally that the Blu-ray is not available for international customers on Amazon ?

  • It’s available now- thanks for pointing that out!

  • I’m with the commentators above who will not buy it if it’s Blu-Ray only.

    I, and my circle of friends, find Blu-Ray grossly overrated and oversold, especially when it comes to vintage material.

    • Depends on the size of your screen, among other things. Another factor besides resolution is that the Blu-Ray versions have less compression artifacting than the DVDs due to the greater data capacity of the discs. Both of this are major improvements to my eyes, and the Thunderbeans are extraordinary. Think about the future – some day you may get a screen big enough for you to see the difference – which I assure you is there – but you’ll be stuck with the inferior DVDs you bought now. You can now buy Blu-Ray players – which play all disc formats – for the price of two or three DVDs.

  • Blu Ray is NOT over-rated. All it is is a CONTAINER. Without that larger container, you do not get the full resolution of the scanned film, especially the 16MM will look pretty dull without the extra storage space for a larger scan file. Add some compression for a DVD and then whats really the point of all this. I think you lack the knowledge of what is really going on here. Blu Ray is not a thing that supposidly makes the old movies look better, its a strage container for the files that are larger than the dvd can contain.

    If you scan a pristine 35MM Nitrate print in 2 or 4K and restore it, without blu ray container, you get standard definition and not all of the picture as if you were IN THE THEATER at the time. Get educated and stop being a bunch of whiners. I feel bad for Steve putting in all this work only to have people complain that if they dont have a dvd they are not buying. Well, its the buying and enjoying these in theater quality that allows Steve to do MORE IMPORTANT WORK! Relax people. This is not a bilk.

    • I just want to applaud Jason for stating the obvious. People, please join us in the 21st century. Just about NOTHING comes out on DVD these days. If you actually support Steve’s (and others’) efforts, you’d plunk down $65 for a Blu-Ray player at Wal-Mart. You can even use the RCA jacks to connect it to your old TV if you have to. (Obviously, if you don’t see the difference, it doesn’t matter that you’re not getting full 1080 resolution any way.)

      I do blame Sony’s stubbornness, as it’s cost the Blu-Ray technology the chance to be widely embraced, and adaptable (you can create a Blu-Ray with fully functional menus on a Mac, but you can’t actually play said menus on a Mac). But you’re all doing yourselves (and Steve) a disservice by not taking the leap.

  • Thank you, Mr. Stanchfield! Looking forward to the Cubbies. I think the Cubby Bear DVD set was among the first “glob” of DVDs I bought from you many years ago, and I liked it a lot. So I want to see how they look in these new versions.

    I have mixed feelings about Blu-Ray, but I certainly won’t go back now! After we first bought our big 46″ LED HD TV and a BLU-Ray DVD player, my wife and I watched “What’s Opera, Doc?” first on regular DVD, then on Blu-Ray. We could see a difference, but it was subtle. However, I hasten to add that both of us have “funny” vision problems, so we are not good judges. As for HD TV, like I mentioned above, we’ll never go back. I think I’d recommend HD TV and Blu-Ray to anybody… Now I’m just waiting for the new Cubbies to arrive!

    P.S. to Mr. Stanchfield: Received “Thunderbean Thursday Special 2016” DVD on Monday, the 1st. TOBY the PUP! Thank you very much! (I don’t care what Charles Mintz thought of Toby… In fact, I don’t much care what Mintz thought of anything. I _like_ Toby; I think he’s appealingly goofy!)

  • Jumping to Steve’s defense is not necessary. I did not attack him or his product. I merely said that I would like to know if the set will be available on DVD and stated that I will not be buying it if it isn’t. Which I won’t be, because apparently it isn’t. That is entirely Steve’s choice. He knows his market better than I do. There is no reason to leap to Steve’s defense as if he had been deeply slandered and his reputation besmirched. His previous Blu-Ray sets have all been DVD combo packs. It is a fair question to ask if the current one will be. It isn’t and that’s fine. I’ll spend my money elsewhere. Nor do I need to be lectured on the miracle of Blu-Ray. I am perfectly aware of the format and its strengths. That I do not choose to adopt it is my business. Next time I will save the group’s members a meltdown and address my query to Steve directly.

    • I do like the DVDs and had thought of doing combo with Cubby, and still may do so; it’s been a time-crunch here working on finishing so many projects in a small time that porting the title to DVD hasn’t happened as of yet. We may still do this as a DVD version as well as the Snafu disc.

      I do like both formats, and a DVD can still look pretty good, but of course is a much lower resolution. I still like super 8 and 8mm, and 16mm, and VHS myself- sand have stuff in even more formats than that. Blu-ray players are cheap now of course. Believe it or not, I didn’t get a blu-ray player myself until I needed to start testing the Gulliver Blu-ray (Thunderbean’s first in the format).

  • Just got around to reading this post. Have the pre doers shipped out yet? Looking forward to seeing it. Thanks.

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