December 20, 2018 posted by Steve Stanchfield

“Japanese Lanterns” (1935)

In Thunderbean News:

It’s was nice to see our very own Jerry Beck on Stu’s Show last night; if you missed it, the show will be available as a podcast here. It was nice to have a Thunderbean shout out; at this point I can’t wait to get so many of these things finished!

After the better part of the week spent packing things and trying to get caught up, I’m happy to be getting back to doing what I like best about this projects: working on each individual film and trying to make each look the best it can. The little team we have working on these has been doing a great job, and I’m happy to be sending more things their way as the last pieces of the first half of Flip the Frog and the Rainbow Parades are being finished. The Rainbow Parade films have been especially challenging in that the material not he first half of the series is so varied in condition and problems. The Flips are a ton of work in cleanup, but so worth it. Quite honestly, I’ll be very happy to be finished with both of these series; they’ve both been going on for a while now while smaller, less challanging projects have been finished. I’ll be smiling a lot more thinking about them when they’re on shelves I’ll never see, neatly packaged in their final sets rather than just on a bunch of hard drives here.

The Stop Motion Marvels sets are coming along really nicely, and I’m happy to be working on helping several other non-Thunderbean projects as well. There are lots of new projects are not announced yet; some have been in progress internally for a while. I’m especially excited about the year to come and finally getting to officially talk about so many things.

Perhaps the hardest thing about most of the sets we do is that each requires finding material that has been missing from the ‘master’ material for many years; often that requires an extensive hunt for the missing pieces. It’s one of those things I’ve enjoyed most about the sets, and since it often requires waiting, we have various sets bouncing around like juggling balls, working on one, then another, then another. It is somewhat frantic, but it allows progress on other sets while waiting for this or that element or clean-up to finish. Getting the machine of this tiny company humming and making enough to get a little bigger in a continuous challange.

The Thunderbean Odds and Ends set is now finished; after the pre-orders are all sent we’ll have that title on Amazon for at least a little while. The scans looks quite beautiful and its a really fun collection.

We’ve finally started work on the Lou Bunin set again, featuring his Alice in Wonderland feature. I’ll be talking more about the project as it progresses. We’ve had almost all the other material *but* the feature finished *for years*. Bunin is a fascinating artist; having really nice versions of his work available has been a long-term goal.

When Official Films released JAPANESE LANTERNS for home movie use we were at war with Japan and the film was retitled.

Since it’s a gift giving time of year, it seems like a good time to *show* a little gift, although far from the final version. Japanese Lanterns (1935) is a wonderful little short from near the beginning of the Rainbow Parade series. I think it’s one of the best of the series (along with Eshbaugh’s Sunshine Makers) and I was thrilled to scan the film from the only known 35mm print. The 35mm prints that exist, as mentioned above, often have issues. The print of Japanese Lanterns was first scanned without any work down to the physical print first, and not wet gated. It’s now the last film from the first half of the series to scan again. For now, here’s the ‘test’ scan, sent to me with some attempt from the lab to digitally clean (not as successfully as is needed for our sets). As of now, I don’t have the track scanned for this cartoon (will do when we rescan of course).

Eshbaugh was clearly interested in the novelty aspects of animation, experimenting especially with camera work throughout. I especially love a lot of the business involving the crane, one of my favorite characters appearing in any of the Rainbow Parade series. Animator Bill Littlejohn talked a little about working on the scene where the crane flies in perspective. I’d love to hear if anyone can identify other animators on some of the shots in the film.

The sound kicks in at the 31-second mark. If you really want a laugh, compare my transfer (below) to the Fred Ladd colorized version here.

I’m working on finishing up the cleanup on Merry Kittens tomorrow.. one more down. Bob Koester’s rare color print looks just lovely, with stunning color in the new scan.

I hope everyone is having or will have a great Holiday!


  • Such a beautiful print of a beautiful cartoon Steve! Bill Littlejohn’s animation of the stork stringing the lanterns on the fly is so much more rhythmic and advanced than the rest of the animation in Japanese Lanterns. I love the graceful anticipation of the stork as he smoothly starts to string the lanterns, and the very difficult perspective animation as he goes back for a small lantern he missed and the camera is glued to his back for a few seconds as he flies through the handles of two more lanterns. Also, Bill didn’t forget the PERSONALITY of the stork as he looks back toward the viewer in a confident manner. Fred Ladd’s version is very poor for the most part, although some of the cycles he got OK. The music he used…ARRRRGGGGGH! Like nails on a chalkboard compared with Winston Sharples.

    • Winston Sharples was a fantastic composer both at Van Beuren and for Fleischer/Famous. The Ladd version’s music doesn’t even come CLOSE to matching Sharples’ talent.

  • Very impressive!

  • The father sumo-wrestling with the stork was animated by the great Carlo Vinci.

    Other animators on this might have included Jack Zander, George Rufle, Reuben Timmins and Larry Silverman, though I’m unable to ID their footage.

  • I always suspected this would be a very attractive film in it’s original color form. Was not dismayed when Steve provided me with a sneak peak of this transfer a few months ago. One of the best cartoons in the series, if only Gillett and Eshbaugh could have got along better, we’d have a lot more of Eshbaugh’s animated paintings to enjoy now…

    • Why did they fail to get along? I’ve been trying to find more information about Eshbaugh online but haven’t had much luck.

  • Pretty cartoon. Merry Christmas to you, and I’m looking forward to finally seeing some of these projects coming to fruition. All in good time. Thank you.

  • Stop me if it’s still too soon to ask such a question, but will you be releasing all of the Flips and Rainbow Parades at once, or in separate volumes?

  • The characters are drawn realistically–and respectfully, considering brewing current world events of the 1930s.

  • The Christmas Disc arrived this week. Great Stuff!

    Merry Dixon and Snappy New Year!

  • Curious: some of the backgrounds in that colorized version are different.

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