On the first day of the year, the reels are just sitting there, somewhere….
No cartoons today, but there will be some soon.. I promise.
Since I’m lucky enough to have the first post of the year here, I’d like to say thanks to everyone for a great year. I’m proud to be among the other bloggers here, talking about cartoons, getting great feedback and ideas as well from the community- you’ve really helped make the Thunderbean releases a success, and that major push has helped make them successful to wider audiences. Even though I’ve said this sort of thing before, it really is the base- YOU- that has made any of these things happen. Thunderbean continues to be a part-time venture that has become sort of full time after-hours, but I have no regrets! I’m well aware of being a little guy in the sea of bigger companies, but the ability to release rare materials is a place I’m very comfortable being in, and each new thing brings the possibilities of other things. Maybe someday this little company will be a bigger little company…
We all owe huge thanks to the past generations of artists who have made these films in the first place, both good and bad. Their efforts have made so many really fun films over the past hundred years- I just wish I was able to thank all of them of creating a direction, for building the road. I owe special thanks to the efforts of Ted Eshbaugh, and I am so happy to be able to highlight some of this accomplishments this year.
I also want to thank the Library of Congress for their continued dedication to the preservation of film history. The small, dedicated group that works there really are at the forefront of preserving film history. Individuals really do make the difference.
The landscape for home video is changing; there’s less physical product being sold by the larger companies, while at the same time the more niche titles are finding their niche audiences- and can sell enough to allow those little niche companies to continue to produce. There remain amazing opportunities in this period to work with various licensees in producing sets of animated materials – there’s some many things we’d all like to see released. It really is the time for so many of these kinds of projects to come to fruition.. I think we are in for some great years in seeing old animated films unearthed.
I like to think about this hobby that we all have (and a career to some) as being auxiliary to our regular lives, and enjoyable, somewhat unusual way to be entertained, and a sometimes fascinating look into the past. Our Blu-ray and DVD players and youtube are really the modern day super 8mm and 16mm projectors, and watching and collecting films in any format continues. I’ve been particularly happy to see some of the younger generations pick up the 16mm collecting habit, and really still enjoy the handling of old films- and funny enough, I really enjoy watching the new folks holding film on a reel above their head, examining
These past ten years have been a really great time for accessibility to old animation. Even though the venues for collecting old films have changed, the availability to see so many rare things has grown, and continues to. I really never thought we’d see such beautiful copies of the Fleischer Popeyes and Betty Boops, the UPA cartoons, the Tom and Jerry Cartoons, the Warner Brothers Cartoons….but now they’re available, and more.
I remember reading an interview with George Lucas talking about Star Wars not long after it was released, and he said that he wanted to make a really good Sci-Fi space movie so he could sit back and watch all the movies by others that follow. In some ways, that’s what I *hope* happens with old animation blu-ray and dvd releases…. so, whoever is out there reading this that has some interest in producing some titles, pick up the ball! The more the merrier with good releases of rare materials- an dif you need a little help, email me!
For Thunderbean, it’s been both the best year and the hardest. Successes include releasing our first two new Blu-rays, helping with Tom Stathes’ Cartoon Roots Blu-ray, a visit to TCM, and putting more titles in production in one year than in the past ten years.
The hardest lessons have been understanding that not all things are in your control. We had been working on a major project for three years, investing a lot of time and money (and, if I’m honest, a lot of love). Ultimately it has been put on hold due to other business negotiations that were out of our control.
Interestingly, in those three years we managed to get more amazing materials on a particular series than have ever been collected in one place, largely due to the near genius research by a good friend working on the project with me, and great cooperation from archives around the world. We do hope at some point the project will continue, and that these films will be rediscovered. For now, they sit on a hard drive (backed up several times!), waiting for whatever machinations happen to move the project forward. These professional as well as a major personal loss have been a great challenge, but that’s part of life, and we all have them…..
Some of the projects we’re working on aren’t cartoony at all. A Blu-ray of Abbott and Costello rarities is the furthest along of these titles, and I’m enjoying seeing so many things I had never seen before. All told, there are fourteen projects on the burners right now in some form, with many more surly to be added this year- some of those already in some stage of negotiation.
Early this year, Thunderbean will finally be moving into it’s own space, away from the house – and the world headquarters can finally move out of my basement!
We’ve started work on a ‘Flip the Frog’ set, and will be working on a ‘Willie Whopper’ one as well. I’ll be devoting following weeks to the projects for sure. Being able to work with original materials like these has been a lifelong dream, and I have to say, you get really spoiled looking at original negatives (and master positives from the 30s in mint condition especially) .You end up really wishing EVERYTHING looked this great. I do know that these sets will look absolutely amazing, and we owe that to the preservation efforts of David Shepard, UCLA and AMPAS, and some others too. True heroes. This stuff looks like it was shot yesterday.
Work has been progressing on the ‘Private Snafu’ Blu-ray release. The cleanup has been going very well- we had beautiful elements to work from on most of the titles, and still working to improve others. ‘Going Home’ was finished yesterday, and it’s just stunning.