It’s been a few really good weeks with Thunderbean projects. I had hoped to announce the Popeye set is done – but not quite. It’s in authoring right now and will likely be in the can tomorrow. Chances are I’ll be writing all about it next week. Rainbow Parade Volume 1 will be wrapping up this month as well, with others following closely on their heels. In addition, I’m on the cusp of being done with nearly all the projects I’m helping others with too—and am excited to move into projects that haven’t had as much attention for a while. Some new films showed up for ‘Mid Century Modern 3’, and a green light for scanning on more of the Bunin set happened too this week. We’ve finished work on all but one of the film for ‘Stop Motion Marvels 2’ and my friend Stewart McKissick has agreed to do the cover (he did the Illustration and design for Volume 1 years back). If I’m confident enough in the progress we’re making in getting things out the door, I’ll start the journey to get the biggest and most expensive of the projects back on the plate. We started work on that project in 2011, and it’s been like a black cat crossing my path almost the whole time. A few road trips are in order in the coming weeks to get this or that or to hand off this or that. All good news.
A few years back, one of my students taking the animation history class said that films that get lost were mostly in that category ‘for good reason’ and suggested that Les Elton’s Monkey Doodle probably deserved to be. Later that same semester, for her final paper, the same student wrote the exact opposite opinion, noting that there’s a much greater understanding of the history of all film and media by following the trail of films that individuals and studios produced that lead to various innovations. I think that’s a pretty valid idea from a research standpoint. To me, though, its more of forest of trees of various widths and heights, and that walking through that forest from any given angle gives you both a view of large and smaller trees that make up that particular journey, complimenting each other.I think what is attractive to a lot of us old cartoon fanatics is that it’s a different forest for each person, and you can surround yourself with different trees frequently. I myself especially love seeing the trees that were out of view most of the time— hidden by the much bigger trees or really off the path.
This website, in so many ways, is a continuous and fun dive into some of the more esoteric aspects of classic animation. While I do enjoy studying and learning about so much of this material, sometimes I just want to enjoy it instead. The best part of this period of time is that there’s a lot of things starting to be available that look much, much better than we’ve been able to see them for decades- including things that haven’t or have barely been seen at all. I’m hoping it continues further, and that there’s enough demand for material, convincing some of the larger companies to dust off lesser-seen properties, or allow others to access them to do it.
Animated commercials are really an area that will never be very organized or complete, but that’s also part of the fun in seeing them. I wonder how well archived the materials from the current period of time will be. Probably not much better.- but that’s the nature of the beast. Seeing so many spots these last few weeks that I’ve never seen has been a really cool experience- and there’s always more!
I’m hoping (as I’m sure you are!) that the economy around the world improves sooner than is being predicted. I can only imagine what it felt like to be on the lower end of the economy in the early 30s in New York. This week, there was a print of a great 1932 Betty Boop on eBay that, sadly, I didn’t win, but watching it again on youtube reminded me of why the Fleischer cartoons are so great: so many of them are timeless regardless of the topical moment the were created in. The characters that populate them are never ashamed of their social standing at the moment, and remain (generally) optimistic in the face of impossible or difficult circumstance. Most examples (except perhaps Swing You Sinners) allow our heroes to escape the worst outcomes in the end, but there’s generally a lot of comic pain on the path to that momentary happy redemption. I think Any Rags (1932) is a great example of this. Bimbo goes on a musical salvaging journey and ends up happy with a little money, a house (albeit made of trash) and a new girlfriend in Betty Boop. It’s one of my favorites personally for its non-stop musical happiness and continuous gags. Poor Betty has momentary trouble keeping her dress on in one scene. I can picture the mostly young animation staff finding this sophomoric gag hilarious… and I wonder what audiences thought of these kinds of moments in these cartoons. Being one of the best of 1932, I have no understanding of my it was left off any of the Blu-rays.
I think it’s noteworthy that the cartoon features a gag that’s easy to miss the (at the time) a cultural reference. Koko makes a bid on some of Bimbo’s wears in a very effeminate manor, wearing a bow-tie. Bimbo responds by saying “Sold to the man in the Red Tie” with the usual “whoops!” afterwords as he’s ‘goosed’ by a goose. It’s a fast gag, but making a reference that doesn’t show up in any other cartoon of the period. In New York (and presumedly other places), gay men would wear a red bow tie to be able to identify each other, making it easier to solicit another gay man in a much less open time. They’re in and out of the gag super fast, so whether you understood the reference or not, it was over before it could be given a second thought. This gag was pointed out to me by my friend Chis Buchman many years back- and it’s something I had missed before that.
Here’s a youtube copy from the older VHS and Laser disc set. It neat in that it has the original titles, but also includes the pretty heavy DVNR from the time that erases lines on the characters! If you haven’t seen this cartoon, I hope you enjoy it, and let’s hope a better copy becomes more available sooner than later!
Have a great week everyone!