THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
December 19, 2013 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Mid Century Modern, Volume 2: “Look Who’s Driving”

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Somehow a majority of the projects from this year seem to be wrapping up at the same time. On the new titles news, the Gulliver’s Travels BluRay is off to mastering still (hoping it’s back soon!), Technicolor Dreams and B/W Nightmares is running behind (but almost done), and a secret project with the Blue Mouse Studio is now finished (to be announced here soon).

Then there’s this one. I feel like this one title has been on the back-burner more than the others, but it is now finally finished:

Mid Century Modern, Volume 2!

Here is the cover (By Mike Kazaleh) and some still images from the disc (click thumbnails to enlarge), as well as a short video preview:

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This particular disc has mostly industrial shorts, but they are so much more than ‘old industrial films’. These are perhaps some of the most strikingly designed industrials ever made.

The first animated industrials I found were within the pages of the collector’s paper, The Big Reel. I think Destination Earth and Man on the Land may have been the first two I bought back around 1982. For you older film collectors that likely seems a lot more recent than when you first saw them! These films looked so amazing projected in 16mm Technicolor prints.

If you look a little bit back on the Thunderbean Thursdays, you’ll find Rhapsody of Steel. This was a 35mm Technicolor print with it’s share of wear. The final digitally cleaned up version looks overall great, though there’s a few scratches I wasn’t able to remove. I was searching for films that I always wanted a good copy of myself, and it isn’t until I’ve looked at the finished project that I realized it’s a really great collection of these films. I’m especially happy to have found a better print of the UPA classic, Brotherhood of Man. Though not perfect, it’s a big step up from past versions that have been available.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Amid Amidi for his book Cartoon Modern, making me aware of some of these harder to see shorts. If you don’t have this book, buy it now!

Amid did a nice commentary for Tune in Tomorrow on this DVD. It also features a commentary by Mike Kazaleh and our very own Jerry Beck.

Most of the shorts are by UPA and John Sutherland productions. I won’t begin to go into the politics of the many of the Sutherland shorts, but I do find it interesting that the smaller studios like UPA or Sutherland made industrials that likely really didn’t require the level of beautiful (and modern) design displayed in the final films. I have to wonder if the client considered the artistic style at all usually, or just accepted the look as the ‘house’ style of the studio.

The really interesting thing to me about the UPA shorts is the exploration of style and design ideas even in the simplest industrial. This short, Look Who’s Driving (below), has a solid story structure and well constructed design, making great use of solid block colors in both characters and layout. I think design can easily get in the way of story, but not here. I think it’s a great little short.

Mid Century Modern, volume 2 is available on Amazon as of today.

4 Comments

  • LOOK WHO’S DRIVING is terrific! Nice, surprisingly restrained voice work by Jim Backus.

  • Wow, that “Look Who’s Driving” is great! It even had changeover cues so it must have been shown in theaters. I heard Vic Perrin narrating it.

    • The MPAA logo at the beginning kinda gives it away I feel. The copyright info alone matches what they were doing with the Columbia shorts at the time.

  • Purchased! I’ve been anxiously awaiting this release. Looks fantastic as usual Steve.

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