THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
April 21, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Aesop Fables: “Land O’ Cotton” (1929)

Thunderbean News:
A pretty bad cold made things pretty slow going here, but as I’ve been feeling better I’ve been able to get the last pieces of quite a few projects done. So many things finished one after another is been a reminder of how many irons have been in the fire over these past few years, but the thing that excites me most in knowing I can now devote time to the other projects down the line.

Here’s what is nearly done now:

• The first volume of Van Beuren Aesop’s Fables, Volume 1 has a Blu-ray master now. I’ll be doing lots of little checking on the set over the next few days then its off to replication.

Flip the Frog has nearly all of the commentaries in place now, with menus and the final stages of the bonus features being prepared by our own David Gerstein. I can’t believe it’s finally there.

“The Other Betty Boops” Volume 1 Blu-ray, featuring cartoons not on the Olive Films Blu-ray sets, is now together. We’re keeping this one a ‘special’ set rather than an official one, hoping someday all the Boops will be available from the master materials. There are decent enough prints of 17 Boops on the set from both 16mm and 35mm material, including one really rare title that we’ll be talking more about this next week.

Stop Motion Marvels, the Blu-ray upgrade to our 2010 DVD set, has nearly all the material cleaned up now.

• We’ve just completed (along with Asifa-Hollywood) a many-years project restoring (in 4k) two films from a famous Disney background artist from their negatives and master materials. Over these next weeks we’ll be talking about this project as well and hopefully showing some images.

• Three other special sets are almost completed too, with all the material here.

All this flurry to get as many of the nearly ready projects done has a purpose. It’s helping to user in a new period in the little business as we continue to pursue additional ideas and licenses for things many of us would love to see in great quality (or, in some cases, just get a chance to see and hear!).

I feel that, in this period, we’re in a battle against time to scan certain things before it’s too late to save them. While most films that the big studios own are not in the same sort of danger, so many things only exist with smaller companies or only in the hands of private collectors. We’re in a critical period right now, with many more things disintegrating. “Vinegar Syndrome”, the fancy adopted term, is really just acetate deterioration. As good of care as so many people take, time has a way of reclaiming things, so understanding what to pursue becomes important.


And… onto today’s cartoon!

The newly completed Aesop’s Fables blu-ray includes silent and sound fables- but mostly sound entries. One of the silent shorts, 1929’s Land O’ Cotton was scanned from a reversal print made from film hero Mark Mayfield’s rare Kodascope 16mm print from the 30s just as it was becoming unprojectable. It was suffering from a bad case of ‘Vinegar Syndrome’ around 2010. We’ve done our best to steady the print without having it look distorted.

The cartoon is a sort of loose retelling / inspired by the ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ play. The racism that you’d expect to see in a cartoon version of the story is a little more tempered here (although present – the mice have kinky hair and are eating watermelons). As in the later sound shorts Van Beuren made along the same lines, I find watching our heroine sold at auction disturbing, even with an understanding that most audiences back then would be familiar with the play (though clearly inspired by the play, Uncle Tom is absent here). While far from a classic, I think it’s an especially interesting short historically and its been a little bit harder of one to see. It was made in the little gap period between Van Beuren’s first and second sound short.

We added a soundtrack and sound effects to this short when it appeared on the limited ‘Van Beuren Classics’ set and have kept that same track for the new set.

Have a good week all!

11 Comments

  • A post-1925 fable that is directed by Frank Moser… and hence you’ll see most of his animation here. The way Fables were handling to have each of their top animators as their own director sort of resembles a precursor to how Termite Terrace’s direction style operated. In early Terry-Toons of the 30’s, Frank Moser and Paul Terry had equal role in the film’s production.

  • Racism in the cartoon aside, it is nice seeing a silent Fable, and even if not the kodascope original, it looks rather nice for what its worth. With this in mind, I’m truly hoping for more releases of silent Fables, hopefully we are not too far from that!

    • From your mouth to Cartoons On Film’s ears! Accept no substitutes…

  • Excellent soundtrack. Music and effects perfect for the period. Good job.

  • There were a few surprises when I read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” some 25 years ago. Eliza’s crossing of the river on the ice, such a prominent set piece in film and stage adaptations of the story, is covered in one brief paragraph around page 35. The villain Simon Legree is not introduced until three-quarters of the way through the novel. But most shocking of all was the notion that freed and escaped slaves had no future in North America and would be better off resettling in Liberia!

    That’s a terrific soundtrack; it suits the cartoon perfectly. It just goes to show that silent cartoons can be entertaining if they’re presented with imagination and respect.

  • Excellent restoration! Looks great, and if I didn’t know the soundtrack was new, I’d never have guessed! Good job on stabilization and cleanup too. Thanks for all you do to keep the memory of these animated films alive.

  • Believe it or not, I have never read “UNCLE TOM’S CABIN” and only know of it as lampoons by all the major golden age studios, so I can only imagine how, in the sound era, the African American voice talent might have felt poking fun at this kind of stuff, but all in all, I look forward to checking out your first completed volume of VAN BUREN’S AESOP’S FABLES when it finally shipped; I’m 90% sure I pre-ordered this, although I’ve pre-ordered so much from you at this point that it is hard to remember. It’s exciting to know that you do have so much pre-prepared so that, when any kind of illness slows you down, you don’t have to stress too much. I really sincerely thank you and Jerry Beck and Greg Ford and anyone else involved for all you guys do to preserve the wildest and most unpredictable classic cartoons as cartoons seem to be windows into our world’s storied past, even in parody and joke. Stay well, and keep up the very good work. I also wish you much progress in obtaining licenses to some of our favorites or many of your own Holy Grails. None of it should go unrecognized, and I marvel at what you’re all able to find.

  • I couldn’t but think of it as a great-grandfather to Spiegelman’s Maus.

  • I assume that “really rare” Betty short is “Accordion Joe” (1930). (I know by that time Betty was used as a prototype, but Tommy Stathes has a print used for his 90th Betty Boop Anniversary Cartoon Carnival)

    • I think Steve mentioned previously that it’s Honest Love and True unless if he’s referring to there being another very rare Boop on the set.

      • It is indeed HONEST LOVE AND TRUE. Please buy the disc to directly support the folks who made it happen.

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