March 11, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Columbia’s “The Untrained Seal” (1936)

As I write this, I’m finishing up the very last things I need to before taking the long-awaited scanning road trip. I’m heading east with more films under each arm (and with the truck loaded) than I’ve ever carried at the same time. It’s almost all 35mm. Things have been gathering for over a year at this point, and I’m glad I have the time to do them. I’ll be properly social distancing, waiting for them to be done.

Once back, I’m hoping to devote the better part of the handful of days to catching up many promised things to the folks that have lent films and materials for the Thunderbean sets. There are films that are getting scanned that are part of those things, so it will be a good week of promises kept.

Watching Thunderbean grow and having the additional team members taking a larger role these past months is a sign of things to come; the company started very much as a side business and has grown steadily over these past 16 years, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. I’m starting to see a bigger picture much clearer of how to get to the next places in terms of licensing and expanding the market for our little products. We’ll be starting to work to expand a lot more into both retail and streaming. There will be lots of new things in the coming period. I can now clearly see a time where we’ll be unable to do the little ‘special’ discs we’ve been doing, but for now we’ll keep doing them as well catch up with the longest-in-process projects. It’s looking like this scan trip will complete scans for an additional 12 projects; mostly special discs, but many other things as well. Many projects also take a big step forward with these scans. Additionally I’ll also have some really cool things to share here on Thunderbean Thursday.

We have a few additional special sets that we’ve put up for pre-orders; A set of ‘Funny Bunny’ cartoons from Thunderbean, and a second volume of the ‘Party’ disc from the Snappy Video side of things. They’re available at the Thunderbean shop.

Next week, I’ll be on Stu’s Show next Wednesday, March 17th, as a guest of Stu’s and our own Jerry Beck. Stu wants to talk a little about what we’ve been doing as well as future projects.

And now — this week’s cartoon The Untrained Seal (1936)

Every year (except for last year!) I usually go to ‘Cinevent’ — in Columbus, Ohio- a great film show with collectors of film, posters, video and movie related paper and other things. Last year was to be the very last one- and the start of a new convention The Columbus Moving Picture Show carrying on many of the traditions. They are holding an event this year, in October. Information is here (click the logo below):

Over the years, I was lucky enough to acquire lots and lots of animated gems as well as other films.

Somehow in 2019 (the last time the show was held) I managed to leave a few cartoons in with the setup shelves and stuff I only use for shows. A handful of weeks back I opened that box. Among the films was this beautiful print of The Untrained Seal (1936) from Columbia.

I this particular short is a little story-challenged and uneven, but I found it really enjoyable as a short piece of entertainment. I think they must have loved animating fish, since they may be the most fun part of this particular cartoon.

It’s a nice old 16mm Kodachrome print in beautiful shape. We scanned it for one of the upcoming special sets, but I’m sharing it here as well, in 2k.

It’s on the road for me. Have a great week everyone- and I’ll share stills of some of the scans when I’m back!


  • I recall this being shown in a past “Cinevent” and I agree that this short had story problems. I could never understand why Screen Gems had a unorganized story department through most of the studio’s life. You hardly had this trouble with the Stooges.

    • Amusing irony. Columbia had one of the best comedy short subject department in Hollywood and yet it had one of the weakest animation department.

  • A charming cartoon. Musically it has much in common with Disney’s “Funny Little Bunnies”, with the main theme sung by a female vocal trio at the beginning and end, and developed instrumentally over the course of the film.

    Multiple births are rare in seals and unknown in the walrus. However, since most pinniped species are polygynous, it’s possible that Papa’s five pups were whelped by five different females in the igloo hospital. I don’t think he learned much from his fathering book, but I love the guy’s fractured German syntax!

  • Does it say something about me that I get excited whenever Steve posts about a Columbia cartoon I’ve never seen before, given their infamous reputation (and for good reason; most of their non-Scrappy or Fox & Crow stuff seems to be hitching a ride on whatever bandwagon is hip at the time, but without the know-how that made the hip shorts funny to begin with)?

    Nice print, though! I like to look on the bright side, so I’ll say I was amused by a lot of the gags in this cartoon, even if it felt unfocused story-wise.

  • Another cartoon with a “How-To” book in it. I have amassed a good collection of screenshots from various productions. Typical are Katnip’s guides to quitting smoking/ growing hair/ curing a cold or the hiccups. (Hint: they all involve crow meat.)

  • WOW! This is very rare to get a better print of this short! I wonder where you got the film?

  • Thanks Steve; always nice to get another Columbia cartoon in a better transfer than what’s otherwise available.

    Art Davis received the “story” (i.e., director) credit on this one. Those mid-’30s Color Rhapsodies are a generally lackluster bunch (with Holiday Land and probably the still-inaccessible Neighbors—both with Sid Marcus at the helm—being standouts) but this one isn’t too bad. Things get more interesting with the Color Rhapsodies soon after this, when Marcus was put back on the series after the Barney Google series ended—because Marcus wasn’t going to let the unenviable assignment of making “cute” color cartoons obstruct his freak flag—and Ub Iwerks was contracted to serve as an additional “unit” of sorts on the series. (Meanwhile, Davis was assigned to make Scrappy cartoons in alternation with the new Allen Rose unit, with his own style as a director and artist becoming more distinctly manifest.)

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