THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
May 22, 2014 posted by Steve Stanchfield

New DVD Release: “A Conversation with Walter and Gracie Lantz”

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I promised I’d talk a little bit about this title a few weeks ago- and It’s finally back from replication as of today! It’s one that has been near and dear to my heart for a long time. We’re premiering it in a few days at the Columbus Cinevent, a film convention/ show that happens once a year in Columbus, Ohio.

A Conversation with Walter and Gracie Lantz is a new DVD title that has been in progress over four years, and there are truly years of work into the set! Although a rare one hour interview with Walter and Gracie are the centerpiece, it’s chock full of additional materials; I think those ‘extras’ are the heart and soul of this production. It’s a sort of love letter (and a labor of love) to movies and a lifetime of enjoying and presenting films.

classics34The project started with a ‘conversation’ between my friend, film-maker and artist Chris Buchman and I. Chris had hosted a show in the early 80s called Classics 34 that aired on WNIT, a PBS station in South Bend, Indiana. The show featured classic films programmed by Buchman as well as special segments (called ‘Reel Curiosities’ ) featuring special guests. Over the three years and 150 shows, he featured guests such as Carmine Coppola, Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, Dennis James and many others.

Chris had contacted Walter Lantz over the years, and was happy to have both him and Gracie on his show in 1981. They were in town for a plate collector’s show, but clearly the highlight on their trip was the visit to Chris on Classics 34. Although Chris was nervous that day (the only time Chris seemed to be in any of the shows I’ve seen) he still did a good job with a very relaxed and happy Walter and Gracie.

Chris-BuchmanChris has scoured his personal archives to present a series of stories and recollections, illustrated with films, hundreds of original graphics created for posters and trailers produced for various film showings. He’s also created through clips and new graphics a series of bonus features running from 3 minutes to nearly an hour. Chris recounts his years presenting films both personally at at various venues, most notably ‘The Bijou’ a long running series at John Hopkins University in the 70s. He also recounts his time hosting Classics 34 and other adventures that include playing piano to silent films in a former speakeasy in Baltimore. It includes highlights from many of the other Classic 34 shows (the Halloween shows are especially fun), Lantz cartoons and lots more. I’ve very much enjoyed helping produce the set over these years; Chris is an encyclopedia of information on films and music from Hollywood’s golden age.

Chris Buchman and Rex Schneider are the owners of the ‘Blue Mouse Studio’. I had worked with both of them before on all sorts of projects over the years. Rex has illustrated many of the backgrounds for the Thunderbean spots over the years too. They are both frequent contributors to Thunderbean DVD titles, helping with everything from covers to essays. I’ve also helped produce their two other DVD titles, Back the Attack and Grotesqueries.

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I’ve put together a little ‘Sneak Preview’ of the title here:

The DVD is available now on Amazon.com. Here is a small sample of Walter’s “Happy Art” from the 1980s (click thumbnails to enlarge):

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4 Comments

  • What cartoons are on this set?

  • Cartoons:
    Red Riding Hood with Dinky Doodle
    The Tale of the Wag-Jerry on the Job
    A Quick Change- Jerry on the Job
    A Tough Pull-Jerry on the Job
    Without Coal- Jerry on the Job
    Knighthood-Colonal Heeza LiaR
    Pantry Panic (Woody)
    Boy Meets Dog (with Ipana plug)
    A Woody Kellogg’s Rice Krispies commercial
    Some of the other bonus features:
    Universal newsreel story about Lantz
    Gallery of Lantz home movie boxes
    Galleries of artwork, Gracie’s Filmography and more

  • When will you be premiering this at Cinevent and will you be there the whole weekend or just one day ?

  • I suppose one could say this DVD is akin to the George Bailey legend of Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE in that it stems from a lifetime of warm and friendly relationships with personages in the arts, music, and letters whose personal interest, encouragement and courtesies allowed me the luxury of sharing those interests with the public at large. Some of that ancient history is chronicled on the programme in the essays The BIJOU, CLASSICS 34, and WALTER & ME in Acts Three and Two, respectively. The fact is, were it not for that ancient history, I would never have had a classic film teleseries and the interview with Walter and Gracie would never have happened.

    Moreover, were it not for Steve Stanchfield, whose work I have admired since he was a teenager, this DVD would not exist. He is a Master Videographer – if that is the term – whose creativity, composition and timing are second to none. The interview, the longest the Lantzes ever did for television, which Steve beautifully restored from surviving elements, is quite an accomplished, well-polished edit. I just wish Walter and Gracie were here to enjoy it.

    The opening ‘Theatre Facade’ sequence for CLASSICS 34, created by Rex Schneider, has also been beautifully restored anew by Rex and Steve.

    We, myself, Rex and Steve, created the DVD expressly to give to The Walter Lantz LMU Archive, and for the “express purpose of preserving historical accuracy” – the truth and serious significance of ‘that’ statement is revealed in the CLASSIC 34 essay.

    One of the joys in viewing the show, as you will discover, is the affection Walter and Gracie display for each other. Priceless! The WALTER & GRACIE Album (extra) is also heartwarming.

    Enjoy.

    Chris Buchman
    16 July 2014

    Several reviews follow:

    A pure delight! by Estelle Bohanon

    It was wonderful to see the Lantzes so thoroughly enjoying themselves as they reminisced about their careers. Chris Buchman drew them out knowledgeably and engagingly, resulting in an encapsulated history of animation in general as well as of the career and creations of Walter Lantz.

    Many other very talented individuals, such as co-producer and distinguished artist Rex Schneider, also appeared in and/or contributed to this work, as is evidenced by the amazing artwork, music, puppetry, etc. I found it particularly interesting to see the steps involved in creating, developing and building a stage background set.

    The Classics 34 TV program retrospective was very entertaining. It was also an interesting and somewhat disillusioning peek into the behind-the-scenes workings of public television, and perhaps all television production.

    I work in a library, and I think this DVD should be in the collections of public libraries as well as in entertainment-history speciality libraries and museums. It will be interesting and entertaining for knowledgeable animation and live-action movie aficionados as well as for the general public. I enjoyed all of it and learned a lot from it.
    _________________________________________________________

    Loving tribute to Woody and film history by Greg Sinn -Rye, CO

    For those familiar with Baltimore in the 60s and 70s or Northern Indiana in the early 80s, the name Chris Buchman will no doubt recall his elaborate presentations of classic feature films from the silent and early sound era, fascinating lost short subjects, golden age animation, accompanying detailed film history and related ephemera.

    The piece de resistance of Chris Buchman’s nostalgia moving picture presentation legacy was Classics 34. This was a Saturday night staple on PBS affiliate WNIT (for Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan) showcasing all of the above, invitingly and knowledgably presented by Buchman in partnership with his longtime collaborator and accomplished artist Rex Schneider.

    I was fortunate to be associated with this boundlessly creative team as producer of the series while a staff member at WNIT. For many in the region, the tradition on Saturday nights was to make some popcorn, fix your favorite beverage and settle in for an entertaining and informative evening with old friends: Chris and Classics 34.

    The series was famous for bringing to life the era of a respective evening’s feature presentation – replete with posters, lobby cards, glossy production stills, period equipment and tons of background on the film and the shorts imparted engagingly by Chris. His enthusiam for film history was infectious and the series soon became a fan favorite and major fundraiser for the station. Interviews with stars or period guests further enhanced the authenticity and aura of Classics 34. A highlight of which was a very rare interview with the creator of Woody Woodpecker (among other famous characters), Walter Lantz and his wife Gracie.

    It was obvious that Walter and Gracie were most impressed with Chris’ knowledge and affection for their creations and willingly gave of their time and insights providing undoubtedly the definitive interview of their careers. If you want to revisit those fond Saturday evenings with Chris and Classics 34 or learn first-hand history of Woody Woodpecker directly from Walter and Gracie, you will thoroughly enjoy this fond stroll down a warm and entertaining memory lane.

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