November 23, 2023 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Cartoon Pilgrims – and Gratefulness in Thunderbeanland

Photo courtesy of Darren Nemeth

Last week’s show at the Redford theatre in Redford, Michigan was really fun. John Monaghan and I have put on this show for at least 10 years now, and we rarely have repeated a cartoon in that time. The first show was a mix of various studios, while the second show concentrated on the Fleischer Studios, and featured some of the restorations being done from Paramount’s materials. Both shows drew great crowds, and it was nice to see so many folks I knew. Thanks to everyone for coming out. It was nice to do a Q&A with Jane (Fleischer) Reid, Ray Pointer and Ciara Waggoner.

Photo courtesy of Ted Watts

Since it’s the annual Thanksgiving post, I like to list at least a few of the things I’m thankful for— related to cartoony stuff. This year, as we finish many of the long-in-progress projects, I’m especially thankful for all the help we’ve had producing the Thunderbean sets over these years. I’m also incredibly thankful for the ability to participate in helping on so many projects both for Thunderbean and other producers. The films are worth all the efforts to present them as best as they can be presented.

On the night before Thanksgiving, I’ll be looking over some of the Van Beuren Tom and Jerry cartoons again for the set we’ve just completed —looking over and doing small tweaks on. Just looking at this *one* set, I’m reminded the whole time of what a group effort it was to get all these films together and clean them up. It’s just one set, but there’s a whole community that helps make all of these happen, with often the key players stepping in again and again. So, thank you all so much for helping make these things come together, for all of us to have and enjoy. Even more importantly, thanks so much to the creators of these films in the first place that have brought so much enjoyment to all of us. I hope all these efforts help to preserve their work and make it more assessable in good quality to current and future audiences.

And, onto the Thanksgiving animated selections for the year!!

Since we usually have some animated suggestions each year as well, I thought it might be fun to consider some things that may not usually be in the mix. Call this year’s list the Strange, good, bad and downright ugly!

In more recent years, there’s been a *lot* of CG Turkey Animated features. I have no idea how many children were actually parked in front of a screen and forced to watch these all the way through, but fortunately there’s trailers for the rest of us to comment on.

The Thanksgiving Movie (2020)
It’s maybe best to start with the worst one. Even without seeing this all the way through, it’s obviously pretty terrible, but remember, fellow cartoon researchers, someday soon this will be forty years old. They say every film is someone’s favorite film, but I bet this one isn’t. Terrible lighting, shot composition and animation makes this less-than a classic for sure. I’d love to hear if anyone made it through it:

Turkey Day (2020)
A completely different Thanksgiving Movie made the same year by the same producers!! They seem pretty equal in this poor production values, so at least something is consistent!

Free Birds (2013)
Now, this one actually had a better budget and at least has people who knew how to animate (I actually know a few of them). This film was made by Reel FX and didn’t do terribly in theaters. It even got an Annie Award with music. Personally, I couldn’t make it through the whole film when attempting to watch it many years back, but some of the animation is nicely done. Here’s the trailer!

Big City Greens “Thanksgiving Episode” (2018)
Disney TV’s ‘Big City Greens’ show did a pretty fun take on the craziness of after Thanksgiving Black Friday sales. Chris Houghton, the show’s co-creator (with his brother) was one of my students at CCS (College for Creative Studies). He’s also the voice of Cricket, the show’s main character. If you haven’t seen any episodes of the show, this is a good one to start with.

Gumby – Pilgrims on the Rocks (1966)
Gumby finds a wet Pilgrim laying in the middle of the road. They jump back into the “Mayflower Voyage” book, and end up in a pretty dry history lesson that feels a little more like a Davy and Goliath episode. I wish it was better, but it’s probably best viewed on this particular holiday more than any other.

The best line in the show is right at the end:

Gumby: What are you thankful for during Thanksgiving?”
Pokey: I’m thankful I’m not a Pilgrim!
Gumby: Oh No!!

Bugs Bunny’s Thanksgiving Diet (1979)
When I was a kid, I thought this was one of the oddest specials I had ever seen. Consisting mostly of classic cartoons, the wraparound animation (directed by David Detiege) doesn’t always look great- but I’m sure it didn’t have a very big budget. The list of animators includes quite a few decent animators too. Hearing Bugs saying that a deep emotional problem can cause overeating and that food can be a substitute for something we all need isn’t the sort of dialogue one would expect in a holiday special. Usually Bugs isn’t a doctor, either.

B.C. The First Thanksgiving (1973)
This well animated special (Directed by Abe Levitow and produced by Levitow/Hanson productions) is really well produced. It’s animated by a team of industry vets: George Nicholas, Hal Ambro, Phil Roman, Bob Bachman Manny Gould and Bob Bell. While not the funniest special by any means, it’s still amusing and an unusual watch for Thanksgiving.

Wishing everyone a good Thanksgiving!


  • I guess I would have to agree with you about the “Gumby“ episode, and I’m somebody who likes Gumby almost to a fault! I even like some episodes of “Davian Goliath“ as well, but mostly as a childhood thing. I liked looking at the weight cloak. He was doing the animation back then. Very interesting stuff. At the time, I just felt I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Anyway, “Gumby“ is still the best to me! I’m only sorry I can’t add anything more to the mix here. At any rate, I do thank you all at Thunderbean for everything you do. This has been a monumental year, and I know it will continue to be such with the things you have near completed.

  • I… wasn’t expecting a Thunderbean Thursday to call attention to films distributed/made(?) by WOWNOW Entertainnent. I’m usually nice to animated projects that others see fit to thrash. There’s a stark lack of empathy in the animation communities. That said, films by WOWNOW *clearly* have no purpose than to make a quick buck. People will say that about movies and shows that look like they have way too much time, money, effort and creative touch for that to apply – even if they do end up poor. With shit like Planes with Brains, it’s the truth. I’ve subjected friends to some of their trailers. Nothing more. We know the actual films are too shallow to justify trudging through.

    Regardless; Steve, I hope you have a great holiday.

  • I have no idea where you dug up “The Thanksgiving Movie” and “Turkey Day”, but wow, those are definitely on the same level as “Animal Soccer World”. I’m genuinely curious as to whether the people behind these creations actually thought they were making something good, or if they realized it was actually pretty bad but thought their message was worth the effort, or if they just have that low an opinion of children.

  • I’m certainly grateful for Thunderbean and other entities dedicated to keeping last century’s animation alive, liberating classic cartoons from the purgatory of smeary public domain and 1950s TV distributor prints.

  • Hey, the people that made those Thanksgiving Movie and Turkey Day thing made some really bad film I saw last year caled Love Birds (the circumstances are convoluted). That’s last one was a lot better than what I saw. I hate how their mouths just move like thety’re chattering, and the camera is constantly circling slowly like the climax of Once Upon A Time in the West gone mad.

    • That’s an annoying mannerism, but something of a necessary evil in CGI. As long as the camera keeps moving, the background looks three-dimensional. As soon as it stops, the background goes flat. When taken to excess it can induce vertigo and motion sickness in sensitive people.

  • I remember the B.C. special, but I had never even heard of any of the others. At least I had a good laugh at the “Dow Jones” and “Dow Freleng” charts in Bugs Bunny’s office.

    There was a Davey and Goliath Thanksgiving episode, in which Davey and Sally imagine themselves in the Plymouth colony and learn how God provides for people who have faith in Him. Goliath doesn’t join them, so we don’t get to see the pilgrims reacting to the frightening spectre of a talking dog.

    Happy Thunderbean Thanksgiving, everyone!

  • Amongst many other blessings in my life, I’m thankful for the team at Thunderbean that makes all of these great releases possible. Specifically, thankful for Flip the Frog on Blu-Ray. Never would I think that I would see these cartoons in such breathtaking quality before!

  • I’d never thought I’d see the day where you’d talk about stuff from possibly the WORST 3D animation studio ever: WowNow Entertainment. Other collecting 16mm film prints, I have a collection/horde of garbage tier animated movies on DVD (from studios such as Video Brinquedo, Dingo Pictures, and yes… even WowNow), and seeing you cover about these films was surprising (for me at least).

    Happy Thanksgiving to the Thunderbean crew!

  • I didn’t know the Hougton brothers attend one of Steve’s classes. I’ve been enjoying their show ( espically as there humor is partly inspired by The Muppets) but I’m curious on why none of the human characters have a visible nose.

  • Even though The Thanksgiving Movie will be forty years old some day (I know that was a joke) there’s of course a world of difference between banal commerce and, say, John Foster with The Fly’s Bride in 1929 – where wit and cleverness get through *despite* the lack of budget.

    Also, sorry to sound like a sycophant, but easily the thing I’m most thankful for cartoon-wise is that I discovered Thunderbean a couple years ago!

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