Here at Thunderbean, there are more projects in some kind of progress than I can honestly keep daily track of, but it’s clear already it will be the busiest year here. Last year we released two blu-ray titles (Technicolor Dreams and Fleischer Classics) and helped to release a third (Tom Stathes’ Cartoon Roots). This year we’re hoping to release something over six Blu-rays, so since it’s February already, it’s time for the first to come out of the gates. Thunderbean has little office space now, and for the first time in 10 years, I’m not spending a good amount of my own time packing DVDs.
We’re happy to finally announce a project we’ve been working on for some time: Van Beuren Classics, a set of 17 cartoons in all new digital HD transfers from 16mm and 35mm prints. This set includes some of my favorites from the studio, including stunning 35mm restored prints of two of the Ted Eshbaugh Rainbow Parade cartoons, Pastry Town Wedding and The Sunshine Makers, courtesy of the wonderful folks over at the Library of Congress.
Here’s the cover, drawn by fellow Cartoon Research-blogger and cartoon-ologist Milton Knight:
It’s no mystery that I really like the studio’s cartoons. Many among my favorites, and even though some (perhaps even a lot) are a little rough around the edges, I still think they’re far from the ‘Ugly, badly produced films’ that one well-known historian called them. What ones are your favorites? Did I guess right for this set?
Many of the films on the set are upgrades to earlier versions on some of the Thunderbean DVDs. When better material showed up, we began to do HD transfers on them, even if we had an acceptable version in standard definition. This set was well in progress when TCM made the offer to put together a Van Beuren show, so we had a good excuse to put the digital cleanups into full swing.
The 17 cartoons span from 1926 through 1936. It’s a good primer on the studio, with films from all years of sound production, and featuring most of the major stars, and an example of each series.
A few of my favorites:
The Land of Cotton is a 1929 Aesop’s Fables silent entry with an Uncle Tom’s Cabin-esque chase on the ice at the end. It’s a bit stunning to see the portrayal of a slave auction in a cartoon. It was remade in sound a year later as ‘Dixie Days’.
’Wot a Night (1931) is the first of the Tom and Jerry series, and features both funny gags and often even funnier animation, and even though it doesn’t display the dark, bizarre lushness of the best of the Fleischer Cartoons.
Silvery Moon (1933) is one of my all-time favorites, with two cats going to the moon to eat copious amounts of candy while dancing.
The Wild Goose Chase (1932) has some of the same sorts of ideas, but is bizarre in many other ways.
Sultan Pepper (1934) Starring Otto Soglow’s The Little King, features the king attempting to have a late-night trist with a Sultan’s Harem, not the usual subject matter for a cartoon.
Barking Dogs (1933) with Cubby Bear is a strange lesson in social justice.
The Office Boy (1930) has perhaps the closest to Mickey and Minnie imposters of any studio (the film was named in Disney’s legal complaint against the studio).
Pastrytown Wedding (1934) is a lush and clever production directed by Ted Eshbaugh. We’ve included both the original version edit as well as the Cushman’s Flour 1940 reissue version.
And of course…
The Sunshine Makers (1935) is always a classic.
It’s still very hard to find many of the Van Beuren cartoons in 35mm, but we’ve been pretty lucky in locating quite a few, as well as finding excellent older 16mm print downs from 35mm negatives. Under the excellent Telecine work by Pat Mathews, these cartoons look great in their new transfers.
The set is for sale (pre-release) starting today on Amazon. It’s off to replication next week and will be sent somewhere around the 15th of March. All pre-release orders before March 15th will receive an extra disc (!) featuring cartoons that didn’t make it on the set.
Here is the Amazon link.
And here’s a little sneak-preview of the set:
Have a great week eveyone!