This week another top-ten list: five favorite finds and five most-wanteds; the continuing search for the missing stuff!
I’ve of three minds when it comes to the reasons to continue searching for the odd and forgotten animated shorts from the past…
The first reason is selfish – I want to see a lot of these things! I’m sure most of you folks that love this kind of stuff can relate. A lot of years ago (back in 1981) Jerry wrote an article for Movie Collector’s World about the search for elusive films and original title cards. It fascinated me to learn that these things were out there, really just waiting for someone to sell or trade it. I really had no idea I’d be searching for these things years later with the intention of sharing them with anyone, I just wanted to see some of this stuff.
The second reason is that I really love the idea of these things not being lost to the sands of time. Films come alive again when we watch them. So many film are lost because there isn’t a major company to support them.
For a while it seemed like I was always defending the Van Beuren Cartoons as the Thunderbean sets were being worked on and coming out. It was never my goal with any of these things to place the cartoons on some sort of higher status or to herald them against the best films in the industry- instead, the goal was to make the best possible version of the film available, so it could be looked at, represented in a version that is fair to the film, enjoyed- and perhaps act as a piece of work to understand the history of the medium just a little better.
The third reason is really all about the creators. Animation takes a lot of work to produce, whether it’s for a feature or a commercial, and of course the work is varied in quality and appeal – but it’s someone’s work, someone’s life, and it should at the very least be available to those who’s like to look at it.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have found a lot of cool stuff in collecting, and the collectors who have come before me (and now after me too!) as well as archives have been incredibly kind to lend so many astonishing things.
Now, all of that said, the mission continues! Here is a short list of the most wanted films that are STILL hiding as well as some of my favorite finds, all in no particular order.
These days it’s pretty easy to find someone that has put Thunderbean stuff on Youtube… I am much happier when they at the very least mention where they got it from!
Top ten favorite founds:
1) UPA Dr. Suess Commercials.
I do hope to find the rest of these someday; there’s now a lead to where 3 more may be, happily. These were borrowed & transferred from a print of a 1949 football game that Ford Sponsored. I think there were either seven or eight produced originally. The last one here is my favorite:
2) Mendelssohn’s Spring Song by Cy Young (in color!):
It was a treat to have a print of this short show up in color, after seeing a black and white print many years back. Very early on in this column we talked about this short. It has an important place in history in that it’s the film that led Disney to hire Young for the special effects department. This is the only known (almost) complete print, and is now preserved at the Library of Congress.
Here’s a nice little summery of the film from Steven Hartley’s blog.
3) The Peanut Vendor (experimental animation by Len Lye, 1933)
Technically, not a ‘find’ in that it had been available as part of a Stop Motion Animation program that Em Gee film library used to rent. As my friend Ken Preibe notes, it might very well be a the creepiest puppet film ever made. Of course, Len Lye’s more famous films are quite wonderful and beautiful, and deserving of being seen- I have to wonder if Lye would rather this little experiment be forgotten rather than showing up on a blog in 2014. I have an occasional nightmare with the monkey leaning back while singing ‘sleeeeeep’>… It appears on the Cultoons, Volume 3 – Monkeys, Monsters and More.
4) Kinex Studio’s Stop Motion shorts (1928-29)
The Kinex Studio films fascinate me still. A film collector friend, Ralph Spitulski, Introduced me to these films first around 1982, trading me a reel of them for who knows what. They’re not the best animated, but interesting just
the same, and full of early stop motion innovations. For a long time, I was trying to find ALL of them for a DVD release, and finally settled on what we were able to get. Someone industrious posted many of them here from our DVD,
Stop Motion Marvels:
5) Tom and Jerry in ‘Doughnuts’ with everything intact.
The Van Beuren Tom and Jerry cartoons ended up with different distributors. It isn’t unusual for a handful of things to be cut from these pre-code cartoons on re-issue. One film, Doughnuts, seems to have at least three different cuts perhaps more scenes were taken out as the film went to Television. the mighty Tom Stathes managed to unearth a print with everything in it, replacing another print with ALMOST everything in it, assembled together by Mark Kausler. It
features perhaps the most bizarre Jewish Stereotype gag of all in the middle of the film.
AND NOW, a Top Five STILL WANTED:
1) DR. SUESS cartoons from 1931: ‘Neath the Bababa Tree and Put on the Spout
These two shorts were released by Warner Brothers in 1931, and are high on the list of most wanted cartoons. They appear to have been made at Audio Cinema, sponsored by Flit and likely animated by Terry. The scores for the shorts are by Phil Scheib. Will these ever show up? That’s anyone’s guess.
2) Benny the Bear in A COWBOY I WOULD BE. A search of the US copyright catalog has a listing from 1930 for this title. A Racket Sound Cartoon. Animated by Alexander Cruickshank. Whatever this is, it just has to be great- and it’s been on my personal most wanted list for 25 years.
3) Romer Grey’s cartoons. There appears to have been at least two cartoons that were completed by this small studio. Here’s a nice little article that covers the studios history very nicely… though the statement that none of the films survived isn’t completely accurate any more.
4) The long lost Popeye and Betty Boop stag film.
This short was long rumored to have been produced in 1938 for a party, animated after hours by Fleischer Animators. I can’t confirm this story and it might not be true, but I’ve heard that once someone brought this up in an interview with Dave Fleischer, and he punched the interviewer. I asked a couple of animators about it, funny enough. Gordan Sheehan confirmed that it had been made, and even admitted to doing a little work on it. Myron Waldman waved his hard though the air and said ‘It was dumb…and I don’t think anybody kept it’. Who knows though. It was shot in 16mm.
5) Goofy Goat in ‘Getting his Nanny’
Ted Eshbaugh’s films always have fascinated me, and I’m happy to say that the Technicolor Dreams and B/W nightmares disc comes ever closer to having a master, so it will be finished soon. I’d love to find this in color. Some sources credit this film as being the first color cartoon, but of course it wasn’t…
Now, what are YOUR holy grails??