In Thunderbean world:
Vikki, an artist/ animator that has been working at Thunderbean, spent the better part of Wednesday working on more cleanup on the Flip the Frog cartoon The New Car. It’s actually one of the ones that was done, but it just needed a *little* more care to get it where it needed to be for the set. Most of the set is in that stage, with 3 films getting major work here at home.
All the Rainbow Parades blu-ray discs have been going out the door, so if you ordered it a while back or recently thanks much again. Most are on their way, with the last of the pre-orders will be going in the next day or so. More special sets are getting finished and dubbed as well. I got a chance to see a bunch of cleanup on Aesop’s Fables a little earlier today, and was happy to see a few more prints show up too.
I’ll be traveling this week to scan more things, wrapping up a few projects and filling in gaps in others. As the list of older projects gets smaller, the more we’ve been looking to the next challenges. Even though most everything always takes longer than I planned, there’s now more than just me planning now.
Since we’ve got Rainbow out the door and other things about to be, we decided to do another ‘special’ Halloween set. It’s called, Spook-O-Rama. The pre-order is at the Thunderbean shop. We’ll be sending it by the beginning of October in time for Halloween.
I spent part of the afternoon today working on lining up elements from various Iwerks Comi-Color cartoons. In may ways, this wasn’t a final effort – just a sort of first effort to determine further why several films we’ve scanned don’t align and keep going off count. They’re all 4k files, and really really pretty dog slow sometimes even on my faster computer as I’m working on combining layers. It’s one of those kinds of tasks that gives you some time to think about other things as you’re working.
What I thought I’d talk a little about is how, now, in this age of digital information and communication, we’re really all participating in this effort to save things that otherwise may not be, and how easy it becomes for some things to be scattered to the wind.
A quick thought of ‘saving’ in general: In animation, there’s a *lot* of things that are saved that we don’t know about. These things are all over the place. Some are stored in a big archive’s collection, some are mixed into little collections and libraries all over the world. Some are in people’s basements or with a substantial collection. Some are in the one box that wasn’t opened when Jerry was moving. Some are in a giant stack of stuff that may never be anything but a giant stack until its too late to save. Many of these things will still be in those collections the rest of our lives, longer, and never, ever shared, never sought, and therefore, in a very real sense, basically the same as lost. They are all in need of a champion— someone to actually go through whatever they need to do to make them viewable and accessible.
The way we all participate in actually making this happen is by wanting it to happen, and being vocal about wanting it to happen by studying these things, absorbing and collecting information, and sharing. The most important aspect to motivate the champions for any one thing is knowing that there’s a crowd of people behind them, standing by the gates, willing things to happen and helping to make them known when they now exist in the public view. With the smallest of these things, the least sought of these things, it’s a smaller crowd, but still, people wanting it to happen— and often that is enough. In a very real way, they are as much of a champion as the champion that is doing the legwork, because they help show that there’s a good reason to do it beyond just personal curiosity.
The whole journey of the things we’ve been doing with Thunderbean keeps opening a series of additional doors. I’d *want* to go through a lot of them no matter what- in fact, going through many of them has been a dream of mine for most of my life. I know that there’s a lot of people who wanted these things to happen too, so at least, collectively, we’ve been able to do just that. In other words, none of the things we’ve done would have happened if it was just me.
Doing these projects has led to others wanting to do things like this. I’m in my early 50s right now, and I feel like I really didn’t start to figure out what I was really doing until about ten years ago or so— or, maybe I didn’t start getting *better* at it until then. As I’m seeing younger folks interested in doing projects like these or using footage we put up to put together different things, I’m actually pretty heartened- and am hopeful that some of them *will* follow in the same footsteps, learn a little from the stumbling and successes that we’ve had, and maybe, just maybe, crack some of the eggs that had a little too tough of a shell for us to. I like that the community is trying to help them find their ways to do it. They won’t have to figure out some of the things I got stuck on.
In some ways, no matter what, we’ll never have a complete picture of the golden age at our fingertips. We have to be grateful to those who have collected the films and written about them in books, articles in magazines and zines, and on line. They’ve given us the ability to both learn more and enjoy the films as they were meant to be enjoyed, often with additional insights we may not have thought of or seen. I feel like filling in some of those missing pieces is a little easier now though since there is a way to share information instantly and get nearly immediate feedback.
I’m happy to know a lot of people personally that love these same things I do- with a bunch of them even in this same line of work. It’s honestly a tiny group, so when others show interest in trying to move projects forward, I think it’s important to, at the very least, show them how we thought about it, what tools we figured out to use, and what issues we encountered along the way. Really the basics of documentation. Discouraging them is the easiest reaction when met with levels of naïveté— but we have to fight our urges to dismiss them. My reaction is to try and help them find the places we did and give them information since they may end up carrying on the things we didn’t.
Beyond just the films, I think we also have a responsibility as a community to make sure the on-line history is as accurate as possible. I had a recent private exchange over Facebook with a former DVD producer who has, in recent times, borrowed things on-line (including things from Thunderbean and Warner Brothers) and claimed they were things his company scanned and restored, along with other things about the films and history in general that were not accurate. At one point he said “much of my history comes from word of mouth of those who personally participated in that history, not generally accepted fact, because there is no such thing as absolute facts”. When is comes to events that actually happened, there are actual facts. Dave Fleischer, for example, didn’t work at Famous Studios and supervise the Popeye cartoons through the 50s as he explained in one video. Still, it’s pretty hard to argue with someone that doesn’t believe in actual facts. Still, I think trying to keep the record as factual as possible is important despite these sorts of claims.
I love that technology has gotten to the point where we can make scan and make a digital version of a film that is the same quality as the film itself. This level, now reached, allows an ability to insure that many things will be around in the quality they are right now much longer than they otherwise may be, especially since in more recent times this technology is much more accessible in cost.
There’s a lot of things that I really hope to be lucky enough to do, with most of them really not having the kind of return that a large company would want to even consider them. I think that’s where our niché is and for many other little companies like Thunderbean and Tommy’s Cartoons On Film.
Thunderbean won’t be forever, but it’s getting to a more solid place right now. It’s a milestone year. Hopefully it expands even further this coming year. When it’s all done, I hope to look back and at least know we were able to do some good service to the films and to a way of making sure these things got to the next generation in decent quality.
So, collectively, we’re all helping save animation history for the next generation, and enjoying it as we do. Thanks to all of you for helping, in each of your own ways, to keep these films alive. It moves forward with all its small pieces since we all want it to, making a continuum of things becoming available and being viewed.