December 31, 2015 posted by

Happy Thunderbean New Year!


Of course, the thing to do at the end of each year is to muse about what the year was, think about the what the events of the coming year will bring, and thew feeling of letting go the not as good things from the past year. I wish everyone the best for the coming year, and from an animation-standpoint, let’s hope 2016 uncovers and illuminates wonderful things.

SNAFU-Blu-ray-coverWe live in interesting times in terms of the preservation of films. Technology is really a major factor in the current bigger picture, and will continue to be. The people who create the technology, the people who have the imagination to find ways to use it, and the ability for people to provide solutions and cost effective ways to preserve and represent films will all be the ones to save the rarest of the films. Still, we are met with the limitations of both professionals that know the ways things have been done as well as companies that often don’t have the foresight to make preservation the highest priority. It’s important to note what worked very well in old methods, but not to let the fear of changing technology limit the use of it to create better materials. This especially includes film purists, who I love and consider myself to be in many ways. Still, I can’t help but see how technology has now provided much better solutions for preservation and restoring, allowing the ability to send a film *back* to film at a much better resolution than the older methods. If you can get a better result scanning it and imaging back to film, why not?

I look at the beginning of the year as being a renewal of sorts and a regrouping. I think we’re in for a whole series of major events in the world of film preservation in the coming years as companies figure out ways to provide their older content to increasingly niche audiences. Since the collective all encompassing audience watching one network TV show is a thing of the past, it’s clear that this as a business model is gone. Instead, we all watch when we want to. The big change in physical media (ushered in by Netflix especially) meant that there’s simply less of a need to have physical products. The newer generations are already accustomed to having their copies available on line or on a hard drive rather than an actual disc or physical object, and this change has turned the whole model of distribution on it’s head. The shakeout has been interesting to watch, and disturbing to many, but the bigger picture is that these changes may actually be the best possible solution to larger selections of older films being made available. I think as the larger companies see increasing numbers of people drawn to their older libraries (when a much wider selection in available) that they will continue to increase the size of the libraries with older product.

Willie_cover600As a really small DVD/Blu-ray company, I know at some point we’ll need to explore more than just the physical products. Earlier this week I spent a considerable amount of time working on cataloging the library we’ve already built- and the many, many hard drives full of all the things we’ve produced so far. I tend to keep everything, but, honestly, everything should have at least one backup, and that doesn’t exist on many things at this point.

I hope that the larger companies will continue to allow smaller ones to license films from their libraries, and I hope that a few other companies have the interest and ability to produce sets of things we’d all love to see, Here’s to evolving technology and evolving marketing minds in the coming year related to availability and preservation of animation history!

Lately (or maybe most of the time?) I’ve used this space to muse about all of these things, but I’m really craving some more solid research in the coming year, so my New Year’s resolution is to spend more time doing research and presenting it here, especially on the titles we’re working on.

One of the things I’m especially looking forward to this next year is to exploring the original materials on the Ub Iwerk’s Comi-Color shorts, as well as other materials I can’t talk about just yet. I really love the idea of all of these films being preserved digitally in 4k, and having the best possible copies of the films available for viewing. What I’m even more interested in is having films that are *not* available coming to light – to me, the only reason to save ANY of this stuff is so people can enjoy them, otherwise it’s just a reel in a vault or basement.

I’d also like to find more original titles, as well as save original titles that are sitting in cans in little rolls of many cartoons, deteriorating at a much higher rate than the big roll of cartoon sitting next to them.

Here’s an original title for the Van Beuren Little King Cartoon Pals, retitled Christmas Night by Official Films. This is from a silent 8mm print struck in the late 30s in Australia. As far as I know, this hasn’t shown up in any other surviving print so far. I was happy to win this one on eBay years back…


I think a really great project would be to catalog and have a great archive of all the shorts made for drive-in theatres over the years, especially the countdowns and snack bar ads that are often contained in them. As far as I know, there’s very little that has been done to preserve very many of these, save ‘Let’s All Go to the Lobby’.

What would be your ‘pet projects’ if you had the ability to preserve a specific film or genre?

Here is Holidayland (1934) the first Columbia Color Rhapsody!

I know this is a re-run cartoon, but here is a cartoon that I always think of at this time of year, and I’ve always been especially fond of Father Time falling into the box on his way up to see Scrappy, and of the oddness of Father time freezing in a robotic repeat, uttering Scrappy’s mother’s voice.

Speaking of the Little King, here’s something we transferred recently – a better print of Marching Along (1934). This is my favorite of the Little King shorts. This particular short features the National Recovery Administration (NRA) logo at the front, and has a pro-FDR ‘NRA’ message throughout. This one seems to have had very little afterlife compared to most of the other Little King shorts. Clearly, at least in this short, the Little King lives in the US, but somehow his Kingdom isn’t running things, but is still blamed for the depression. The mere uttering of the words ‘NRA’ seems to bring prosperity. I think there are a lot of really good layout ideas in this short that often look a little rushed (I’m sure as a result of time and budget constraints), especially the ‘forgotten man’ sequence near the end of the film. The best we could find on this film before was a silent dupe and a sound dupe with fair picture and sound. This nice old Dupont 16mm print down is courtesy of Dennis Atkinson, who has been kind enough to lend quite a few rarities for transfer.

My favorite gag in this short is the bum putting an ‘X’ on the wealthy man he’s already begged from. I hope you enjoy this little musical short, and make sure to watch in HD..

Have a Happy New Year everyone!


  • A very Happy New Year to you, Steve, and Jerry. May 2016 be a great one for you.

  • Happy New Year to you Steve and all those who help you at Thunderbean. You all do a great service for all us cartoon fans.

  • Happy New Year, Steve, Jerry, Devon, Greg, Jim, and everyone else at Cartoon Research. I hope 2016 is a great year for you guys.

  • Oh, as far as the future of streaming is concerned, I can now only wish that there were an easy alternative to Netflix, because they seem to almost go out of their way to ignore classic anything except the most popular. I would love to stream *ALL* the classic toons in the same way we search positively on You Tube so often, but I remain a staunch fan of physical media because it is nice to lay my hand on a disk set and enjoy it that way. This morning, I was watching a collection of early WB cartoons that I’d gotten from various sources, including Nickelodeon airings–yes, there was a short time when Nick used to run those early black and whites with opening and closings intact, and most of these came from the BUDDY era, the least exposed of any of the years of LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES; their rarety at this point is what makes them special, and some of them, in their simplicity, aren’t really all that bad. Steve, Jerry, Greg, Mark and all of those who spend their time preserving the classic art of animated film, I wish you all a happy 2016, and especially a prosperous New Year at that! This year in some ways has been a breakthrough, and I’m just secretly hoping that it isn’t an end full of obstacles. Ring in the new year loud and long, because there are possibilities!!

  • Happy New Year, Steve! I can’t wait to see what you do with Flip the Frog and the Comi-Color cartoons.

  • I’ve heard you did a great job in the W’ere On Our Way To Rio Popeye cartoon. Here’s to hoping you can find a beautiful Technicolor print of The Friendly Ghost this new year!

  • I think you are amazing Steve. Maybe eventually sooner than later, you could launch a Thunderbean streaming site for roku etc in the same way Vinegar Syndrome did for their B movie catalog. It could contain unrestored raw transfers of PD stuff and whatnot. However, I too am on the same page when it comes to physical media, I WANT MY CASES and BOOKLETS! lol. Looking forward to the Comicolor and Flip releases. I would like to see a licensed Popeye blu ray set with all the early stuff in 1080 along with all the color two reelers and extras etc. Also, more PD WB toons in HD that they did not release yet. And one more thing, more audio commentary tracks on future releases from Stephen Worth and Thad and you etc.

  • Happy New Year to all! Thanks, Steve, once again for all that you do for us. It’s a great time to be a classic film fan. I’ll just echo what others have said (much more eloquently). I love my physical media. I want a disc and a case and a booklet. I love being able to share these rarities with friends and family.

    Here’s to a prosperous 2016 for all!

  • Happy New Year, Steve! Lots of great “Jimmy Jam” animation in MARCHING ALONG…

  • I can guess why “Marching Along” didn’t get much of an afterlife. The guy carrying a toilet into the pawnshop, right?

    • People didn’t want “toilet humor” in their Cold War-era lives!

  • Just wanted to let you know that I got the Willie Whopper BD/DVD set for Christmas and I LOVE IT!!! You guys did some great work on it. As for the Drive In Animation set, I would totally go for something like that. Also, I am a big fan of physical media. I would rather have my stuff on a physical disc set than some streaming service. Here’s to a great 2016 for you and everybody.

    • A second on a disc of Drive-In stuff — and the similar indoor theater bits.

      The Thunderbean Walter Lantz disc has some nice examples of theatrical ads. My favorite is a Coca Cola short featuring Red Riding Hood and a wolf who’s trying to dance his way through it.

  • Happy New Year, Steve!

  • I guess I could get around the idea of streaming. It’s just that streaming hasn’t taken things like bonus features into account yet. And most importantly for me is restoration. I was so bummed at the haphazard way Olive Films put the Betty Boops on DVD. I’m not sure they cleaned them up at all, and it was simply the luck of the draw on what print we got. Animation, and the few music concerts being released on DVD is almost exclusively what I buy in physical product now. I like physical product. I like the packaging and the booklets. I also like hard back books. Myself I’ve published four novels on Kindle under my pen name Robert Nicolas. I just figure you can’t fight where the audience is going. But I’m sure as new technologies emerge we’ll see more and more digital only platforms. In the end it is the product that matters, and presenting it in the best possible way for the consumer. Happy New Year, and best of health in the coming year.

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