June 7, 2018 posted by Steve Stanchfield

“A is for Atom” (1952) … and the Frustrations of Dealing With Deteriorating Physical Media

Another whirlwind week here. I’m attempting to be caught up with current thing again this week, but it’s a challenge! The good news is nearly everything is moving along wonderfully, if not quite as fast as I’d like it to.

In Thunderbean News:

We’ve been pretty heavy on the Thunderbean news as of late. There continues to be a lot of projects in the mix, and I’m very much enjoying so many of them getting finished. Here is status of some of these:

This next week I’ll be reviewing the current state of the Flip the Frog materials we’ve cleaned up here, and move them along to ‘final’ status. There’s a few that need to be sent around to the Thunderbean ‘brain trust’ to make sure we didn’t miss anything, from titles to sound to footage to contrast.

Rainbow Parade issues tend to dominate my ‘issues’ these days. This last week I was able to borrow some wonderful prints of the cartoons that I can’t get in 35mm from Mr. Mark Kausler. The scans resulting from them are generally pretty great, with more being done this coming week on a Lasergraphics scanner.

Sadly, one film, Parrotville Old Folks (1935) has an odd problem that consists of some kind of old coating coming off the print! The great hope is that some additional cleaning can remove this stuff and we can end up with a cleaner version, but here’s where it stands currently. As we talked about the condition, Mark’s summation was “They’ll ALL be gone someday”. And, of course, he’s right. None of these old rental prints was intended to last anywhere near this long as it is, and even through I sound like a broken record on this one point, so I’m grateful for the collectors like Mark that save this stuff for all of us.

Lots of stuff getting finished right now:

• The Award Winning Cartoons special set is just about wrapped.

Vintage Education is finished as of tonight. Pre-orders will go out this next week, and It will be available on Amazon soon.

• The Snappy Video Party disc featuring ‘Reefer Madness’ is nearly done (mostly not animated but featuring one infamous animated short).

Missile to the Moon is all finished, with the pre-orders finally complete and out the door. Here it is on Amazon, at least for a little while!

..and, two new pre-orders:

In other news, there are two new Blu-ray titles in pre-release, both upgrades from older Thunderbean titles: Grotesqueries and Aesop’s Fables, Volume 1. Both are in association with The Blue Mouse Studio (Chris Buchman and Rex Schneider) and are coming right along (and the HD scans are really looking terrific on both). They are available by themselves or together for a better deal- until June 15th. Each has a bonus disc in pre-order.

And, onto this week’s cartoon: A is for Atom (1952):

This 15 minute short, produced for General Electric, does a pretty good job explaining some fairly complex ideas, presenting them to a (presumedly) High School Audience. It is produced by John Sutherland productions. I think this one is a little bit lesser seen that some of the other educational shorts made by Sutherland.

The film, made just seven years after the first (test) Atomic Bomb and the bombs that were dropped on Japan, covers this fact very simply, ignoring the *actual* use in wartime, proudly announcing the birth of the ‘Atomic Age’ and, being General Electric, the use of Atomic energy and how it works.

Early on, with a graphic of the United Nations in display, the issue of military use is addressed, with “There is no denying that since that moment, the shadow of the Atom bomb has been across all our lives; all men of good will earnestly hope that a realistic control of atomic weapons can and will be achieved”.

The film is simple in its overall design and moves right along through what is pretty dry subject matter for most people (and fascinating if you are an emerging young scientist). The animation use is kept (for the most part) to simple cycles, and this works pretty well in this particular type of film.

Carl Urbano directs, with Arnold Gillespie and Emery Hawkins listed as the animation team. Gerald Nevius and Lew Keller get credit for Art Direction, with Tony Rivera as production designer.

The source print here is a 1953 16mm Kodachrome print. It appears on the ‘Mid Century Modern, Volume 2” DVD and the new Blu-ray (not yet released).

Have a good week everyone!


  • Seems that Mark’s print made the rounds in the public-domain video world. I distinctly remember the opening music starting too late from a VHS source…

  • Have pre-ordered both;
    especially looking forward to Aesop’s, as enjoyed the earlier DVD.

    Also – don’t feel pressured or downhearted by anyone complaining about timeframes/unexpected delays for the release of the pre-orders;
    you are doing everything that is right & reasonable;
    ie regular updates for most things & have offered money back to anyone tired of waiting, & have explained the process clearly –
    ie the ins & outs of running a specialist label with much restoration & related work, while also doing academic work.

    Quality items are produced with great picture, sound, cover art & often extras too.
    All of which otherwise wouldn’t happen – & would leave only generally inferior copies available, or in some cases no available copies of films.

    And thanks Steve for your kind words in response to my post here at TT a couple of weeks or so ago:
    I think my 1st Thunderbean purchase was probably the proto dvd-r version of ‘Cartoons For Victory’, though possibly there may have been some before that.

    Amongst the other Thunderbean greats I very much liked the ‘Sam Bassett :
    Hound For Hire’ release – & it’s probably not feasible, but more & restored Sam would be nice if it were ever possible !

    Also – it seems almost criminal that no-one has ever officially released ( & indeed restored ) the original Mighty Mouse cartoons!
    Personally ( & probably I’m in a small minority here ) I much prefer them to things like most of the colour Warner Brothers cartoons – ie Bugs, Daffy & so on.
    The un-official MM dvds available are ok but a restored version with proper detail & optimum original colour would be a marvellous thing indeed!

  • Just watched the bonus disc for Fleischer Rarities. Sigh. Great stuff.

  • Glad to know so many projects are progressing nicely. Being a teacher by trade, I can wait to get the education set, I’m sure it will be good for some laughs!

    One quick question, is anything happening with the Little King Blu-Ray set? I just randomly thought about it the other day. I assume other projects have taken precedence, but I was curious.

  • You don’t suppose they treated that print with egg yolks..?

    • Well, it IS molting like a parrot…

  • Purloined bits of “A is for Atom” can be seen in this 80s music vid.’

    • I believe MTV even used footage in one of their early promos as well. Rick Prelinger had his copy up on for over a decade as well.

    • IIRC, Devo also took bits of that film for one of their music videos. I just can’t remember for which song it was.

    • Also, and I may be mistaken about this, but I think I may have caught a bit of the dancing atom scene during the drive-in scene in the movie “Grease” when John Travolta was singing “Sandy”.

    • I wouldn’t doubt that ‘A is for Atom” was constant fodder for anyone needed to include footage of atoms, nuclear energy or other Cold War-era visuals into their productions. That is the nature of a lot of this footage, outside their intended use, to often find their way into secondary use as stock footage, often for comedic effect.

  • So what’s the latest info on Cartoon Commercials Vol. 2 ???

  • Is the “infamous animated short” on the Snappy Party Video some sort of treasure?

    • Yes- A Buried one.

  • This version of “Atom” has a different soundtrack. The Prelinger version that’s made the rounds for a while has Bud Hiestand narrating. This has someone else that I’ve never heard on a Sutherland cartoon.
    I’d have to go through Business Screen magazine to see if the short was reissued or recut.

    • That is interesting there’s different narration here. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was re-issued later on.

  • I didn’t think the yellow stuff looked that bad, actually. It’s just slightly flickery. This is an old print, so if you can’t use it, please return. It’s as clean as I could get it, using Film Guard.

  • What are you going to do about the missing Rainbow Parade original titles? All you can find is the Gunthlon titles. Are your “recreations” going to be more natural than the 2009 DVD?

    • Hi ParamountCartoons,
      the content of your questions are reasonable, but the blunt way in which they are phrased – & the dismissive sounding sentence about the ‘Gunthlon titles’ – comes across as unfriendly
      ( & without cause to be so ); which presumably is not your intention.

      A more clearly friendly approach will obviously not just be nicer to Steve but for everyone who enjoys reading Thunderbean Thursday also.

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