THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
September 4, 2014 posted by

“Japanese Lanterns” (1935) and “The Three Bears” (1939)

A short one this week, but a few fun cartoons to tide us over!

Japanese Lanterns (1935) is maybe the hardest to see of the Van Beuren ‘Rainbow Parade‘ cartoons. Ted Eshbaugh directs, as in Pastry Town Wedding & The Sunshine Makers, but this cartoon in some ways is odder, especially the somewhat bizarre ending with the children riding a lantern in the air. It features simple but appealing characters, especially the mischievous Siberian Crane, who steals the show throughout, and may very well be the most interesting and entertaining character to appear in any of the series. This little film shows similar direction and style to Eshbaugh’s other efforts, even bearing some resemblance to Goofy Goat’s accordion sequence.

Interestingly, Japanese Lanterns was released the same year Max Fleischer’s A Language All My Own, a Betty Boop cartoon that similarly glorifies Japanese culture. You’ll notice the title on this print is “Chinese Lanterns” as it was sold to the public as an “Official Films” home movie during the World War II years, when we were at war with the Japanese.

I’ve been looking for a good color copy of the original for many years, and truly hope I’m able to find one at some point. There are a few floating around, but so far actually being able to use them has been elusive. One of them in more recent years has even been restored from a 35mm Technicolor Nitrate print! The other is a 16mm Cinecolor print owned by a private collector.

The ‘essential‘ Mark Kausler told me that animator Bill Littlejohn remembered working on this short early in this career…Mark, can you elaborate?

Perhaps some day I’ll be able borrow one of these and but it on a Blu-ray of the Rainbow Parade cartoons. For now, we have this Black and White version (from the Thunderbean DVD) and a several generations-down copy in color available on a DVD of early color films from Alpha Video.


Our second cartoon this week is The Three Bears (1939), a rare to see Terrytoon in color. I never knew that the Three Bears were actually first generation Italian Americans residing in New York. I guess you learn something every day. It seems to me that this cartoon is particularly disjointed and bizarre, but I hope you enjoy it. It’s from my somewhat battered 16mm print.

Back in 2010, Ted Watts did a nice little article on this cartoons for his fun and informative Cartoons of 1939 blog, showing the original title card:

three-bears-title

Here is an original background that Howard Lowery auctioned back in June:

three-bears-bg

Back to some news next week!

12 Comments

  • And the baby bear found that the little girl had eaten all of his spaghetti. But then he found that when she was scared away, she had left behind a bag of bagels with smoked salmon. So instead, he ate Goldie’s lox. (Good night, everybody; drive carefully…)

  • Must be frustrating to know that rare prints are out there, but in the hands of people who won’t let you borrow them long enough to make a transfer. I do undrrstand. I own prints I wouldn’t loan to just anybody, and two or three things I wouldn’t let out of my sight . Still must be frustrating for you, though.

  • Baby Bear looks quite a bit like the redesigned Mickey Mouse from the same time period.

  • JAPANESE LANTERNS, one of my faves, would love to see the thing in full color some day.

    Goldilocks’ odd pencil-neck character design in Terry’s THE THREE BEARS is a bit of a head scratcher. One can only guess that some literalist on the staff thought she needed a few extra inches between head and shoulders to make that weird disembodied head gag ‘believable’.

  • It seems to me that this cartoon is particularly disjointed and bizarre, but I hope you enjoy it.

    Any cartoon where characters have to strip at gunpoint is fine in my book! XD

    It’s from my somewhat battered 16mm print.

    Looks fine to me, the first time I saw this one goes back to the 1980’s when the cartoon was included in a compilation of other Terrytoons (mainly the Aesop’s Fables types) that was released by a subsidiary of Vestron Video called “Children’s Video Library”. Not much differences here (still uses the TV print title) though quite a dark transfer I recall (and yes, someone uploaded that).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siYoYyKSVJ0

    Back in 2010, Ted Watts did a nice little article on this cartoons for his fun and informative Cartoons of 1939 blog, showing the original title card:

    And if you follow the link at the bottom, you’ll get to see his copy complete with the original opening credits and a “Viacom” logo at the end! Nice to know original versions do exist!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9a7Qwnpqbk

  • Bill Littlejohn animated the POV sequence in “Japanese Lanterns” of the stork flying through the air and spearing the runaway lanterns with his long bill and grouping them on his long neck. Bill was an aviator and liked to invent and tinker with airplanes. He told me that he got the idea for the staging of the stork’s lantern-spearing sequence when he was behind the stick in the cockpit of a private plane. The camera appears to be right on the stork’s back as he flies along. The animation is remarkably smooth and the poses are very expressive as the stork does graceful anticipation poses before spearing the lanterns through the handles.
    I believe UCLA has the nitrate elements on “Japanese Lanterns”. They are going through a dark age, and refuse to share their preservation elements with the public. It’s an interesting attitude, considering a lot of their funding comes from tax dollars.

    • I believe UCLA has the nitrate elements on “Japanese Lanterns”. They are going through a dark age, and refuse to share their preservation elements with the public. It’s an interesting attitude, considering a lot of their funding comes from tax dollars.

      Shame they feel that way about it right now. I hope they can snap out of it someday before it’s too late.

  • i wonder why Goldilocks is not in the title. Rights?

    • I’m sure it wouldn’t be a rights issue there (they call her by name in the cartoon as well). I’m sure they felt having a “Goldilocks and” would’ve made the title too wordy as it stands. Simplifying it to “The Three Bears” works more effectively especially the way the title card has the title placed under the bears.

  • Also released in 1935 is one of my all-time favorite MGM Harman-Ising Happy Harmonies, “The Chinese Nightingale”, beautifully presented in early 2-strip Technicolor (reds and greens).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xq-xvrW_MWc

    – William Carroll
    Denham Springs, Louisiana

  • While I don’t like necroing older posts, I just like to point out a line in “The Three Bears” has recently given rise to yet another meme out there, I’m not saying where it is but I’m sure you’ll spot it if you look at a specific part!

    • Will the wonders of the Internet ever cease?

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