THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
June 13, 2013 posted by Steve Stanchfield

People and Things I’m Grateful For (Part 1) or Why I’m Grateful in Some Way to ‘Kid Pix’

I’ve been transferring more and more nitrate prints these days. Many of these films have just not been seen since their original theatrical runs- so it’s about time they made it a new audience! As a cartoon nut, very slowly some of the bigger ‘holy grails’ are actually surfacing in one form or another. I still marvel at each transfer session and can’t help but think how I’ve been lucky enough to help bring some of these films to a wider audience, and I think back to how
it all started often.

flaming_gunsWhen I was first collecting films (in the waning days of Super 8mm) there were still super 8mm cartoons available to buy at Kmart in the photo department, where I would take my newly shot Super 8mm film to be processed- usually stop motion clay, but sometimes drawings done on Index cards. The first ‘real’ film I bought was a super 8mm sound reel of a piece of something called Flaming Guns with Rory Calhoon. I think at this point the 8mm films were on clearance, so westerns were the last things left on the shelf and cheap- maybe for $3 or something. I was hooked – and now needed a sound projector – The collecting bug had started.

This was right about 1980. Most of the other collectors I know still think of me as a newcomer- well, compared to their sometimes 40 years or more into it!

So, first, I owe a debt a gratitude to Castle Films and Rory Calhoon.

scrappy16mmNow, I’m sure there is a similar story with so many folks both older and younger, but I felt (and still feel) like I was at the very end of a group of folks that were REALLY into 16mm and 8mm as I entered into the film collecting world at 13. A few years later the kids my age were mostly into collecting films on video; few cartoons could be found at that point. But cartoons were everywhere in the Big Reel, a magazine of ads by film collectors, and movie and memorabilia shows. A dealer at one of the shows (who I would later find out was famous in the collector world for various, er, things) had a whole table of cartoons in 16mm, all without reels on little plastic rolls without edges (I’d later find out these are called cores). They had various prices on them, so I picked out a few. As the dealer came over to me and informed me that all the prints were $3 each, so I could get a lot more than I had in my hands. Moreover, he would send me 100 cartoons for $2 each if I’d like. When they arrived I was treated to Van Beuren cartoons, Columbias, Terrytoons and lots of other oddities. What could be better?

popeye_vhsPDSo, secondly I owe a debt a gratitude to Frank, someone I thought I’d NEVER thank honestly, but it’s his fault in some way.

Now, I could write about all of the people who I’d thank (or curse!) for getting me so interested in finding the rare things, but I’ll do that later. Instead, I thought I’d briefly thank a company (and companies like it) for helping to introduce a new generation to classic cartoons, just as they were starting to vanish from the airwaves, and after many of them had been gone for years. One of my friends thought the cheap VHS tapes from the mid to late 80′s were recorded on reslit computer tape, but I’m not so sure- what I do know is they were all on SLP speed, and often were full of dropouts. The years haven’t been so kind to the following clip. Other folks may know more about why the company mascot is dressed like Michael Jackson (a failed Chipmunks ripoff?). Many of the kids who grew up watching these poor versions of Public Domain cartoons are the newer generation of diehard cartoon collectors now.

So, here’s a thank you to Amvest Video, Congress Video, Goodtimes Video and all the other little PD companies around this time.

Now, all of THAT said, this clip offers very little in the way of an actual cartoon, so as not to make this a cartoon-less TB Thursday. Here’s a short clip from a cartoon that I got in that first batch of films at that film show so many years ago. My guess is that’s it’s from a ‘Life‘ cartoon by John McCrory, but I could be wrong. Any guesses? It’s an odd clip to be sure…..

22 Comments

  • That last clip. Wow, KKK dog catchers! That certainly wouldn’t make it on airwaves today!

    • It was great to get it on tape at all!

  • It is a clip from “Alice’s Mysterious Mystery” (1926).

    • COOL! That was fast! I should have asked my friends Dave Gerstein, Ray Pointer or Mark Kausler first too- I didn’t think it was from an Alice!

  • when you use goodtimes prints, please synch them, because they add foley sound.

  • you have brought an incredible time of my life this morn. We had found this S8 projector at Sears that, God forbid, took single frames!! What a fun fun time to make animated cartoons (via paper cutouts)!! And to collect (9 billion) S8 (soundies!) Ohhhhhhh wow!!!

  • Public domain VHS’s introduced me to Betty Boop, the Cookie Carnival (!), and Van Beuren studios, so I’m grateful to Kid Pix too, I guess. (I still have a tape with that Happy Hamster clip that plays rather better, if you’re interested, and why would you be?) There was another version in which an enthusiastic 12ish-year-old boy waxed enthusiastic about the company’s awful products, which were often recorded on recycled tape, sometimes without erasing the original contents first. I recall several news stories about porn popping up at the end of some these tapes, but I never found one of those myself. Kid Pix was particularly reckless about which allegedly PD titles they used, with several tapes blatantly hawking Disney material.

    The poster the hamster is hawking gives away their game. Both it and the costume were left over from a Chipmunk-wannabees-sing-Michael-Jackson LP project, one of several such projects that got burped out in the wake of “Chipmunk Punk’s” unexpected success.

    Kid Pix, BTW, was one of the last gasps of Audio Fidelity Records, the independent audiophile label that introduced stereo records in 1957. (There’s a different label using the name now.) Audio Fidelity had fallen from one of the most respected names in the industry to releasing cheap, poorly-pressed Beatles albums of highly questionable legality, the lawsuits from which no doubt led to their eventual demise. They were also one of the first labels to press oldies compilation CDs – the Super Oldies series, mostly dubbed from scratchy 45s, again without any apparent input from the copyright holders. They seem to have chosen the track lineup based on which labels probably didn’t have sufficient resources to sue them.

    • “There was another version in which an enthusiastic 12ish-year-old boy waxed enthusiastic about the company’s awful products, which were often recorded on recycled tape, sometimes without erasing the original contents first. I recall several news stories about porn popping up at the end of some these tapes, but I never found one of those myself.”

      Never had those tapes either but have heard the stories too. That tape didn’t happen to be this didn’t it? These tapes weren’t PD-material, but was a lot of oscure foreign goodies none the less (though mostly badly-dubbed/edited Japanese anime classics).
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBSawletUGA

      “Kid Pix, BTW, was one of the last gasps of Audio Fidelity Records, the independent audiophile label that introduced stereo records in 1957. (There’s a different label using the name now.)”

      I still have this one!
      http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xd4ag1_audio-fidelity-records-stereo-spect_music
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnrQEZBuv0Y

      Audio Fidelity had fallen from one of the most respected names in the industry to releasing cheap, poorly-pressed Beatles albums of highly questionable legality, the lawsuits from which no doubt led to their eventual demise.

      It was probably this one…
      http://the-beatles-collectors.wikia.com/wiki/Alpha_Omega

      “They were also one of the first labels to press oldies compilation CDs – the Super Oldies series, mostly dubbed from scratchy 45s, again without any apparent input from the copyright holders. They seem to have chosen the track lineup based on which labels probably didn’t have sufficient resources to sue them.

      Probably, I think I had one of those tapes I found once at Big Lots, they kinda suck down to the level of those budget tape companies releaseing oldies material that was either scratchy 45′s, hissy re-recordings or whatever else they could pick up along the way (companies I think of in that vain include “Golden Circle”, “Post Records”, “Creative Sounds Ltd.” and so-on).

  • Fun post Steve! This brought up some fun memories. Though I never got into collecting actual film, 13 or 12 was around the age I began seeking photographs of local theaters in the town I grew up in, Collecting animate cartoons on VHS, and talking to seniors at my church about old movies, cartoons, and theaters.

    • I got into film collecting by accident really. It had to be at that age in high school when I saw discarded prints of educational films they had thrown out of their media library that I bother taking back to my house, and with the help of a friend of my brother’s, I got hooked into that film collecting world and even put in ads in The Big Reel through my portable typewriter! It was such a cool time to find out about this stuff and meet the people who helped me there before eBay came and spoiled the fun.

      I was also rather big into those PD tapes as well since my mom started buying me copies of the Cincinnati-based “Congress Video Group” mixes, as well as Goodtimes “Kids Klassics” and whoever else was out there in the sun. Didn’t have the Kid Pics tapes with the hamster though (I had a couple but the hamster was nowhere to be seen). Those tapes did more to help me see what my parents and grandparents had before, and appreciate that history I wasn’t seen currently.

  • Did anybody else want to put their hands through the display and strangle the hamster?

  • First, Steve, like everyone else I am a huge fan of Thunderbean’s archival work and your commitment to saving and restoring cartoons and even more importantly, sharing them with the rest of us. Many thanks.

    In the Korkis family, my dad bought films from Blackhawk for our Super 8mm projector (that I still have in storage unit although many of the films are long gone, mostly versions of Universal horror films).

    You mention BIG REEL but at the time I also remember Film Collector’s World (started by Alan Light in 1976 along with his The Buyer’s Guide to Comic and was a similar format of columns and ads). Light sold it in 1985 where it was rechristened Movie Collector’s World (which I believe is now part of Classic Images). And there were a lot of fanzines as well including one published by my good friend John Cawley that were devoted to 8mm and 16mm collecting.

    Amvest/KidPics was obviously a “sketchy” outfit. I still have in my personal collection all six volumes of its “Dazzling Disney” which were basically a collection of Disney movie trailers constantly being interrupted by the live action Happy Hamster. Sometimes there were other things like “Cartoon Craft” (showing the making of Snow White) and the Ken Murray homemade footage of backstage at the Disney Studio. Apparently, this was enough to get Disney Legal involved in threatening to sue…even though everyone believed that theatrical trailers were not copyrighted.

    Amvest also put out a Kids “Three Pack” set with supposedly public domain Disney cartoons (like Suzie Blue Coupe, Hooked Bear, Mad Doctor) along with Alice comedies and war propaganda/educational stuff like The Winged Scourge and The Thrifty Pig.

    The rights holders at the time of Alvin and the Chipmunks also filed a cease and desist order on the Happy Hamster.

    As you can see in this video link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY7sPncnXBU) you could join for $10 plus $3 shipping, the Happy Hamster Kid Pics Video Club and get a newsletter, a poster that read “The Happy Hamsters Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits”, a t-shirt (Sizes Small 6-8, Medium 10-12, Large 14-16), an hour long tape of Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, Casper and other assorted cartoons. And you could upgrade to special member and order the Happy Hamster singing Michael Jackson songs on a Vinyl Album, CD or Cassette tape. (I wonder if any of those things are still around? )

    They also requested that the child send in their photo, mini-bio, their likes and dislikes so they might appear in a future newsletter. In reality, those kids who did got flooded by correspondence and offers from other organizations like those who ran children’s pageants and had bought the names from KidPics.

    Amvest/KidPics was based at 937 E Hazelwood Ave, Rahway, NJ 07065, (732) 499-0585. I believe the address is a shipping company now. Oh, by the way, the Happy Hamster released a SECOND album where he and his friends parodied Ghostbusters.

    But, yes, thank heavens for all those companies who released cartoons although I wonder if parents and kids today who buy those type of tapes in Wal-Mart bins (500 cartoon for five bucks!) are enchanted or disappointed by these treasures.

    • “They also requested that the child send in their photo, mini-bio, their likes and dislikes so they might appear in a future newsletter. In reality, those kids who did got flooded by correspondence and offers from other organizations like those who ran children’s pageants and had bought the names from KidPics.”

      Oh thank goodness I never started that!

      “But, yes, thank heavens for all those companies who released cartoons although I wonder if parents and kids today who buy those type of tapes in Wal-Mart bins (500 cartoon for five bucks!) are enchanted or disappointed by these treasures.”

      I think it’s funny when they’re literally scrapping the bottom of the barrel on those and you get things like “Mr. Rossi On The Beach” or Rene Laloux’s “The Snails”. You can tell they’re desperate or merely plucking stuff they cleaned out of a public library sale of their 16mm collection!

    • “The Snails”? That’s a dandy way to traumatize kids for life.

    • Again, it’s weird the things that get sold at Wal-Mart for the sake of a buck these days.
      http://thekarpuk.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/ch006/

  • There’s a retrospect of the company
    have a look

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIeVrNq9pCE

    • Yeah, I seen those tapes. I watch one at a distant relateve’s house in 1992. It was fist time I saw Walt’s Laugh-O-Gram films. I kinda found the end scene where they listed the characters on the “exclusive” video amusing but that’s about it. Personally, I found the hamster scenes wierd. The tape did hold my attention enough to see it a second time. The next time I went to the relatives, it was a year later and they had a new house. I tried to explain that I wanted to see the Disney tape again, but due to my limited vocabulary at the time, they didn’t understand what I ment and we watch a mid- to late 80′s video recording of Disney Channel stuff, which I found better. However, that PD tape was still in my head and six years later ,I almost wrote a letter to Dave Smith about the info of this tape (sans the hamster) before I decided not to write it. Years later, I did get one of the Grampa”s cartoon tapes only because it had one of the last Fleischer shorts, “The Raven” which I don’t think is even PD.

      As for the video linked above, while the info was okay, the rest of it was pretty bad and I’m getting pretty tired of these Nostagic Critic rip-offs. And was the bleeping of the Disney name really necessary? I know the studio/ company has its’ ups and down, but considering they were the reason why I got into animation, I found it alittle offending.

    • “As for the video linked above, while the info was okay, the rest of it was pretty bad and I’m getting pretty tired of these Nostagic Critic rip-offs. And was the bleeping of the Disney name really necessary? I know the studio/ company has its’ ups and down, but considering they were the reason why I got into animation, I found it alittle offending.”

      The whole thing is getting old. for sure.

  • In the early days of cable we had a “Classic Movie Channel” that seemed to consist entirely of sad PD material, with a half hour “Cartoon Carnival”. That was a strange blend of the usual VHS suspects, ancient relics I’d never heard of, non-really-kid-friendly foreign shorts, and the occasional forgotten student film. In the last category was a vulgar suburban family despoiling their campsite until Smokey Bear goes Rambo on them. It was the kind of channel you watched if you were awake in the middle of the night and feeling sick.

    What I miss about the early days of obscure VHS was the very rare bit of treasure midst the trash. The original Popeye two-reelers and the Superman toons, long vanished from TV. The anime Sherlock Hound. All those animation festival tapes, mostly from International Rocketship — any chance those will ever be reissued?

    • “In the early days of cable we had a “Classic Movie Channel” that seemed to consist entirely of sad PD material, with a half hour “Cartoon Carnival”. That was a strange blend of the usual VHS suspects, ancient relics I’d never heard of, non-really-kid-friendly foreign shorts, and the occasional forgotten student film. In the last category was a vulgar suburban family despoiling their campsite until Smokey Bear goes Rambo on them. It was the kind of channel you watched if you were awake in the middle of the night and feeling sick.

      I would love that channel (best I had was a local UHF station play Fantastic Planet late nights). I miss what cable TV in the 80′s was like. I wasn’t sure what channel you had, but I had one called “The Nostalgia Channel” I enjoyed watching. I see today it’s morphed into “Youtoo TV” or whatever nonsense, but nothing like what it was before.

      “What I miss about the early days of obscure VHS was the very rare bit of treasure midst the trash. The original Popeye two-reelers and the Superman toons, long vanished from TV. The anime Sherlock Hound.”

      That’s true (nowadays YouTube kinda trumps that since those episodes can be viewed easily).

      “All those animation festival tapes, mostly from International Rocketship”

      The things that public libraries were good for, that’s how I saw Osamu Tezuka’s “Jumping”.

      “— any chance those will ever be reissued?”

      Marv Newland has made available a DVD of his work you could send away $20 for!
      http://www.cartoonbrew.com/dvd/the-best-of-international-rocketship-76720.html

  • When I was a kid, our family had an 8 milimeter projector, and we’d sometimes press our parents to get some of those silent Castle Films reels that amounted to one cartoon with an added trailer from another cartoon series. Thus, I had a silent print of “THE LEGEND OF ROCK-A-BYE POINT” and a WOODY WOODPECKER cartoon in which he was a door-to-door salesman, knocking on a bear’s cabin; the short is now as restored as possible on the second WOODY WOODPECKER AND FRIENDS collection on DVD–thank you, Jerry Beck and Sony! My days with the projector were back in the mid-1960′s and, even then, stores that I was able to get to had a very limited number of these reels, and I never had the chance to collect sound or color reels. Sadly, I’ve since lost all that equipment, but, when I first collected VHS, there were a few PD tapes that, although sloppily put together, included oddly enough a large amount of Warner Brothers cartoon titles like “CORNY CONCERTO”, “ALI BABA BOUND” and “DAFFY DUCK AND THE DINOSAUR” among others, but thanks to tapes like that, I was reintroduced to the joys of LITTLE LULU since a lot of those Famous Studios cartoons ended up in that askewed pile. the GIANT 600 CARTOON PACK collection, which I think was released by Mill Creek, reminds me of such VHS collections. It even reminds me of my old VHS tapes with its unfortunate false starts on some cartoons and its odd mixture–lots of things I never heard of from the local TV fairy tale kids’ world. Also reminds me of early mornings, turning on local TV and seeing some of these oddities being broadcast just before the more popular network cartoons that were featured before the morning newscast and shortly after the start of the broadcast day! So I don’t frown on PD collections at all. Sadly, in our world today, it might end up being the only place where we get to see uncut theatrical cartoons with their original titles.

    Steve, it is fantastic that you’re uncovering nitrate prints of anything, and I hope you can preserve these quickly before you find that they vanish mysteriously, as I hear nitrate burns up, whether you strive hard to keep it in neutral temperatures or not!! I know I’d sure like to see such a dated print of cartoons like “YANKEE DOODLE MOUSE” before MGM decided to remove the wartime reference that they never imagined would become a Holy Grail to modern cartoon collectors.

    Oh, and I wish I had taken better care of my projector and the little silent reels that I had, because some of those reels were very, very interesting. I ran my copy of “LEGEND OF ROCK-A-BYE POINT” until holes were accidentally burnt into too many frames; I just loved having my own little collection of cartoons, and I couldn’t be happier that home video was started so that we could own actual cartoon libraries that challenge TV stations even today!

    Back when I had the projector, I had vision enough to study frames of the cartoons I mentioned here, and that, unfortunately, is how my films got damaged because I used the projector like folks today would use a movie-ola. As you know, you cannot do that on a projector because it sets the films burning!! But I did actually marvel at how an Avery take actually looks in progress, the almost formless eyes and teeth and tongue, bouncing and bobbing about. I can only imagine how the MGM takes once looked when scrutinized in this way.

    All I can say is that I hope you still mine those vaults and neatly restore, as best you can, some of those films that have never been reissued by the major studios, just so we can see how good such material can look if the Big Boys would give the stuff half a chance. I now have stuff that would have put even my deepest desires back in the age of Castle Films silent reels to shame!

  • STEVE! I hoped you’d start writing for this site! Yay!

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