THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
June 16, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

A Kinex Studio’s missing link: “Down in Mexico” (1929)

It’s beating hot here in Michigan on this nice summer day, and I’ve spent a little time catching up with friends and colleagues. It’s back to the list tomorrow- a small one for once and more specific. I’m looking forward to finishing the things that are almost done here and the horizon ahead.

The little staff at Thunderbean is doing a pretty good job getting the titles we’ve just finished out, and I’m going to be working on getting several more special sets over there this week to start dubbing and sending. On these really hot days its nice to be able to have a small schedule and goals to reach. I’m attempting to catch up with any dropped balls over this summer, and I’m getting closer.

Early in the week, Scott Christy, longtime Thunderbean supporter, came out for his usual yearly help. He helped get some shelves up and arranged a bunch of old toys I’ve been wanting to get displayed forever. He’s also joining the small cleanup team for the summer, working on some of the new titles.

The Stop Motion Marvels, volume 1 Blu-ray set is in full process right now, approaching a finished disc on the film side of things. I’ve been having all the freelances working on aspects of the set as it gets closer to wrapping up. The project is in the stage where I start to have to look at all the pieces closely, and it’s enjoyable to visit this particular set again since it has such a variety of stop motion shorts. I think of the set as a really good primer on some pioneering work as well as some interesting missing links.

The Stop Motion set is divided into programs. The section concentrating on the Kinex studio films has been centerpiece to the set as the project has moved forward, just as they had the last time. Being able to concentrate on a studio so minor for a set like this is where a producer like Thunderbean can actually do things most bigger ’small’ Blu-ray producers would never explore.Being able to revise this set for Blu-ray and add as many as we’ve been able to find is pretty gratifying too. I feel like we’re able to present a little missing piece of history, even better now than the first time.

As I’ve been looking through the Kinex shorts and finalizing the digital cleanup files of each film it’s been really interesting to see the evolution of this short series. It’s pretty clear from any viewing that the simple Kinex films were not attempting to break dramatic new ground in stop motion animation work, but they’re *still* learning and getting better as they go, attempting new techniques and improving the character action and acting throughout.

Chip The Wooden Man in “Down In Mexico”

The Kinex shorts were made from 1928 through 1930. Principals in the company including Frank Young and lead animator John Burton. Young would go on to work in special effects and stop motion into the 40s and beyond, including working with Wah Chang. Orville Goldner, who’s notes about Kinex were studied by artist & professor Stewart McKissick for the original Stop Motion Marvels set and booklet, found the studio a mystery himself even though he had worked there! He attempted to rediscover, with little luck, the history of Kinex in the later years of his life. He tried to find some of the shorts as well, eventually finding what appears to be one of the most common of them. Goldner would work on King Kong several years later after his time at Kinex, leaving memories of those early experiences out of mind.

We’re revising that booklet for the new set, including updating the section on the Kinex shorts since we now have more films. We’re still missing several, but hope springs eternal. It would be great to have *every* one of them, completionist as I attempt to be, but we’ll likely need to settle with what we have.

So many people have lent their copies of the Kinex shorts over these years, including Chris Buchman, Mark Mayfield, Collin Kellogg and several archives.Tommy Stathes was kind enough to lend quite a few of his prints of the Kinex shorts for the set’s HD upgrade and also provided some great scans from the Library of Congress of two of the rarest of the series, Candyland (29) and Down in Mexico (29). In the later, the animation qualities start to take a pretty big leap forward, providing a small window into how the animation would improve further had the studio survived. It’s easily the best animated of the Kinex shorts I’ve seen (and I’ve seen all but two at this point). About two years later, lead animator Burton would produce Pepper the Pup (1931), animated to a soundtrack, then later at least two other full cartoon length (1 reel) shorts were produced, Horse Laffs (1934) and Hector the Pup (1935). Others may still be missing. Down in Mexico provided an interesting missing link in how they’re animating and techniques being used. In cleaning them up, I’ve noticed a lot more animation on 1’s for the fast action (most of the Kinex shorts are almost exclusively shot ‘on 2s’) and the flexibility of the action is starting to be greatly improved.

I’m crossing my fingers that we can wrap up in a week or a little more at this point in the project. For today, here’s Down in Mexico, a Kinex I know you haven’t seen, freshly cleaned up (I finished Tuesday afternoon with others jumping in the queue right behind it). I’ve put some music in so it has some sound for your listening pleasure.

Have a good week everyone!

5 Comments

  • So Steve, Thunderbean Thursday will be cut back to posting only every other week –

    because it’s going to take you a week to dust those shelves

  • That’s a great toy display. Ira Gallen (“Attention, baby boomers!”) will probably tell you he already has all of them, in better condition, and I’m sure it’s true. I see you have a couple of those weirdly coloured Flintstones figures, including the green-haired Barney with matching toenails!

    I hope you have some security apparatus in place — cameras, alarms, bulletproof glass, moat full of crocodiles — to prevent pilfering. Years ago I kept some cool toys on my desk at work and was heartbroken when someone made off with my Brain (as in Pinky and the). If I ever catch the guy who stole my Brain, I’ll give him a piece of my mind.

    “Down in Mexico” is fantastico! The bandits’ faces are amazingly expressive, and I’m in awe at the fluidity of the scene where they tie Chip up. That couldn’t have been easy to do. Hard to believe that such a technically sophisticated stop-motion film was made nearly a century ago, and still looks so good today. Bravo, Thunderbean!

  • I’m so glad to be on the team and being able to be a small part in getting these great cartoons restored and released.

    There is something really charming and pure about the Kinex shorts. I’m still hoping the remaining ones come to light for a complete set.

  • Very fun cartoon! Pre-ordered V1 and More Stop Motion Marvels earlier this week and await both heavily! So glad Tommy and LOC got this one to you! Quite ambitious for the low budget shorts these are

  • That was a very brutal stop motion short, and the violence was not offset by any humor at all. Pretty dark.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.