This week every year, at some point, I think about the scene in “The Cat in the Hat” where the cat (does he have a name?) goes around the house on his unicycle cleaning up all the messes from the chaotic experiences of the afternoon before mom steps back in the door.
Over the summer, my storage unit got transferred to a room down the hall from the Thunderbean office. A lot of the toys have now made in onto shelves in the office, books out of boxes and in bookcases and lots of other things accessible for the first time in many years. Many of the longer term Thunderbean projects are almost done and ones I’ve wanted to work on are in progress now. School starts next week, and I’m happy to leave the office in the capable hands of Dave and Becky along with all the other folks that work for Thunderbean right now, as I head back to my full-time job. Lots of things are falling into place. Now I have to try and get all the digital archives from this past years sorted and figured out. That’s a major challenge in these next weeks….
Over this next weekend, Cinecon is showing a work-in-progress scan on Puss in Boots, the 1934 Iwerks Comi-Color Cartoon. One the past week or so, I spent some time putting the particularly difficult material back together from the original camera negatives. What I’m discovering as we work on the Comi-Colors is that you can have the b/w separations on these, but you *really* don’t know what you have until you start working on them. There’s an astonishing series of issues ranging from shrinkage to damage to editing mistakes. Back then, more work *must* have been done on the actual matrices or a dupe neg or master positive since the work stopped on this material before it was usable. The quality is really nice – so we’ll get there, and I’ve learned a lot about how to adjust many of the more challenging alignment issues. Each one is different as we’re approaching them. I have a much, much better understanding of why no one has gone back to the negatives on many of these films until now. If you’re able to attend Cinecon let me know how it looked on the big screen!
There are several projects we’re working on all the time that we really don’t talk about much. One of those is the Van Beuren Little King cartoons. We put out a special set on Blu-ray a little while back, but over the past six months or so the series has been getting a pretty good makeover from the best prints we’ve been able to find.
In the last scan session a handful of weeks back, we scanned one of my favorites of the Little Kings: Jolly Good Felons. This lovely print, courtesy of Mark Kausler, is easily the best I’ve seen on this short – complete with its original titles. A really good 16mm print can look as nice as 35mm, and this print could easily be mistaken for 35. Many years back I scanned a 35mm print with no titles, and I’ll use the very nice soundtrack from that print when we get closer to finishing the set.
Of all the Little King cartoons, I think this one and ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ best capture the feel of the original gag cartoons and comic strip. Even though the King is, in theory, in charge as he tours the prison, he’ still acting as a kid touring, well, anything, and can’t help but create a disaster from the simplest situation.
Many of the Little King cartoons have more dynamic layouts than previous Van Beuren efforts. Jolly Good Felons is especially fun in shot design and animation. I love a lot of the little personality moments with the King near the beginning of the cartoon. There’s lots of cartoony animation that has lively poses and funny action. The scene with the prisoners announcing the King’s arrival is especially fun, wonderfully designed.
Have a good week everyone!