(First, Thunderbean news):
Lots going on in Thunderbeanland right now!
This next week I’ll be finally doing a big scanning session with all sorts of things in toe. Films in this batch that will finish quite a few special sets and several official ones as well. It’s really fun to see nearly all the tasks scratched off on so many of the asset and project lists. I’ve also just finished my contributions to a special project film historian/ collector Eric Greyson is doing. It features lots of rare shorts (many animated). While a majority of his time is devoted to finish his “King of the Congo” serial project, this one has been under wraps for the better part of a year, so I’ve been pretty quiet about it–but you’ll be hearing more about it soon!
In terms of the day to day here, I’ve had my head pretty buried in getting the “Stop Motion Marvels” Blu-ray revision looking as good as possible before saying goodbye to it- maybe next week if all goes well. It’s really close. Then, it’s on to the long list of other stuff I’ve been trying to get back to forever. I’m sure everyone has a list like that!
Essential animation historian, artist and author David Gerstein is doing a lovely job of all things graphic on the Flip the Frog Blu-ray. I’m not quite ready to share since they’re not all in the final version as of yet, but they are to the high quality you’d expect from him, and I’m thrilled to be closer and closer to Flip heading to replication. It’s looking like Flip will done this month and shipping in early August. July and August are shaping up to be the busiest we’ve ever had at the tiny Thunderbean company, but happily so.
Now— onto our cartoon!
The Stone Age cartoon series could never be considered top- Fleischer in any way. This particular cartoon, The Foul Ball Player (1940) is one I had never seen before until I bought a print of it last year. The print is a little splicy at times but generally complete I think, so of course we scanned it for everyone to see.
This cartoon was directed by Bill Nolan. Nolan should be considered an animation pioneer, and he never really has gotten the accolades he deserves. His work in the silent era – especially his round redesign of Felix the Cat, his work on the early Lantz sound cartoons and ideas on arcs and timing had a bigger influence on the industry than can ever really be calculated. I really love so many of the qualities of his work. Maybe someday the nearly-lost “Skippy” cartoon will see more of the light of day too.
To steal term from Mark Kausler, Nolan was an animation primitive in many ways, discovering a lot of the principals that would be taken much further by many others into the mid-30s. By the late 30s, Nolan was at the Fleischer Studio in Florida, animating on Gulliver’s Travels as well as various shorts.
I’m not going to say this is a great cartoon by ANY means, but if you’re watching it JUST for the animation and timing it starts to be really fun- not because the animation is great, but it’s really interesting once you start to look closely. It looks like Nolan is doing both layout and sometimes keying out a scene. There’s only a few places where I could identify a shot being entirely animated by Nolan, but you can see other animators attempting to follow his layouts and timing ideas. It’s one of the oddest Fleischer cartoons I’ve seen from a direction standpoint. While some of the timing works really well in this picture, quite a bit of it is a somewhat swimmy, a hallmark of Nolan’s work in the silent and early sound era. His cartoony posing is also apparent at times, other times less so. I especially like the character’s actions that have that signature Nolan rubber hose arm movement with hands following behind, or action causing the character to completely turn around following the largest arc of the action, arms following through in their own loopy arcs to smoothly follow-through. I very much enjoy his thinking- it’s wonderfully unusual at this later point in theatrical cartoons.
from a whole film standpoint, this cartoon seems like you’re watching Lilliputians from Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels playing a game of baseball dressed in Stone Age costumes! There are really no gags *at all* requiring a stone-age theme, and the character designs are so similar to the Lilliputians that there’s almost no difference. To complete that picture, there’s a short piece of ‘It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day” that seems completely appropriate. There’s even a character who seems sort of like Gabby. That’s a hard note to end on!
Have a good week everyone!