This week, some news on Cubby, and an open forum for debating what to work on! But first, a few pictures and an update on the Cubby Bear Blu-ray:
Here’s Sandy Fry (below, right) and Scott Christy (left) working on the Cubby Bear set at the Thunderbean office. The Cubby clean up is coming along great. Over the weekend I was able to finish off a couple that were well in progress as well.
Many of the Cubbys we we were relying on for the set had been stored in the same case on two large reels. These were collector Chris Buchman’s nearly-mint prints, kept carefully over many decades. Chris is one-half of the Blue Mouse Studio, along with Rex Schneider. I helped co-produce three DVDs with them so far: Back the Attack (a collection of World War Ii films), Grotesqueries (spooky shorts from the 20s & 30s) and An Interview with Walter Lantz. Chris is a virtual encyclopedia of film knowledge, and a joy to work with. One of my favorite memories was bringing over a Technicolor print of ‘Let’s Go’ a 1937 Columbia Rhapsody, and watching the joy and disbelief on his face as the film colorfully lit up the room. In his own collection, stored neatly on shelves, I had been eyeing those reels of Cubby cartoons for a good ten years, knowing I’d be borrowing them sometime in the future.
They were mostly 1948 print-downs from Modern Sound Pictures made using a 35mm negative, reduced optically as each print was being made. These are easily the best quality prints available on these films. Sadly, when we opened the 35mm can storing all the films on two reels, we discovered an almost worst-case scenario. After many years of storage, it was clear that one of the films on one of the reels had started the first stages of the dreaded ‘Vinegar Syndrome’. This chemical breakdown (and the acidity it produced in the closed can) affected all the prints to varying degrees on the two reels, leading to varying degrees of curving, from mild to severe. Chris was heartbroken as we projected several of these, watching them fly in and out of focus rapidly.
We were able to do very nice transfers from many of those prints by soaking them in film cleaner, winding them on reels backwards, and then placed in a can with Camphor for 3 weeks. All of this relaxed the base enough on these vintage prints to get a clean scan. I’ve heard of all sorts of ways to deal with curved films over the years. Many collectors swore by ‘Vitiafilm’ a highly caustic film cleaner that I used to get all over my hands as a teenager in the 80s. It cleaned off everything, and I mean everything- like the spoons coming out of a caustic liquid in old cartoons! It was a great cleaner but deathly toxic. These days I don’t really touch the stuff, though I do have a small container. After much effort, a few were still focused challenged and unusable, so other prints had be tracked down.
Here’s a couple pictures of one of the curved prints, as well as a picture of a film with some of the Camphor pieces on top of it. Placed into the cans to sit, they soften the base of the film, making them much more pliable. That said, it’s hard to say if they’ll be further affected by their exposure to the Vinegar Syndrome prints in the coming years, but for now they project beautifully again.
Cleanup has been a challenge on the set. Some of the films are really clean, while others had their share of wear. A few are composited from several prints from a similar vintage. The negatives sometimes had dust that required extensive cleaning. I was able to upgrade several prints we had already started cleaning, and original title versions have shown up in more recent days as well of more. I watched the final version of ‘Opening Night’ yesterday in the auditorium at the school, and it’s wonderful to see a Van Beuren Cartoon look that good.
We attempted to transfer a long-destroyed print of ‘Bubbles and Troubles’ with Pat Matthews at Motion Picture transfer. Unresponsive to cleaners or camphor, I tried a last ditch experimental effort on the print, ironing it slowly with a clothes iron at a semi-low heat. It sort of worked, and much of that print is now projectable, but not good enough to get a decent transfer out of it.
As Cubby Bear and the Abbott and Costello set wraps up here and ‘Flip’ and the Bunin project take a larger seat, I’ve been musing about the possibilities and thinking about how the summer is looking for production at Thunderbean.
It’s a time of changes here at the company; things have been really hectic at my full time job, teaching at the College for Creative studies. We’ve been reviewing student work all week, and next week is the student graduation and show- then, some down time that really isn’t- I’ll be cranking on getting Thunderbean stuff done!
The company is on the verge of expanding into some retail stores. This is a big step that we’ve been wanting to do for some time. There’s also an animated project related to one of the sets that we’ll be doing a Kickstarter for (more on this soon!). There are many projects that I’m really interested in pursuing, and have been in some cases with great luck. Others aret stuck back in development hell. Funny how these things stack up! I know I’ve asked this before here, but I thought I’d do a ‘state of the state’ to see what projects *you* folks area most interested in seeing reaching the light of day.
Projects get held up for various reasons of course. I’m starting to have enough odd circumstances from these that could fill a small book, but then again, we’re going after unusual materials that are often less-than priorities for the licensors. I’m still very much enjoying doing the sets, so I’ll continue the pursuit, although sometimes it feels like going down a dirt road by yourself. I so badly want to talk about the evolving plans of a bunch of things, but just can’t yet.
What keeps my morale high on these things is seeing the results, and hearing how everyone is enjoying them. Once a project is done, I often don’t see it for a while. It’s nice to let the dust settle a little; I’m sure many of you feel that way about projects.
I’d love to hear what you folks think should be things to pursue, and what I’ve also haven’t thought of. There’s quite a few things that have a great possibility of moving forward, so if I don’t respond here a mention of them, it may be because we’re already working on an agreement. I can tell you we’ve been knocking around a set of Noveltoons in HD, Commercials, A Stop Motion Set and some others. What are the things you would you like to see released?
Have a good week everyone!