January 23, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Jumping Back into ‘Stop Motion Marvels’

This past week has been interesting here at Thunderbean. Shipping various things has taken over the little office, and I’ve been working at home on gathering and grading the films for Stop Motion Marvels, volume 2. This set is almost done in terms of film clean up, and I’m excited about finishing the color correction and grading in the coming few weeks. There’s some surprises on the set that I think people will be thrilled with— I’m thrilled and excited to share them soon.

I’ve also been (obsessively) gathering the rest of the films for the HD re-issue of the first volume of Stop Motion Marvels – there’s still things that need to be scanned for that project, but everything that *is* scanned is all cleaned up at this point. It’s looking like quite a few of the official sets will be finished within the next few months, along with even more of the ’special’ sets. It’s easiest the busiest year already for Thunderbean, ever.

As we’ve been putting together the various sets, we’ve also been scanning a lot of other things. We now have enough films for Mid Century Modern, Volume 3 to add to the series, featuring films from UPA, John Sutherland Productions and others. The pre-order is available here.

Here’s a few shorts from the original Stop Motion Marvels set that have found some fame on youtube:

I first saw The Automatic Moving Company when I was about 12. It must have been on a Canadian show about animation. I wonder if the other version (by Emile Cohl) will ever show up:

Mark Kaulser lent this wonderfully strange work print of a stop motion Camel cigarettes ad, and suggested I sync the Camel radio call out song to the beginning of it since he noticed that it had a similar syncopation. I did just that, and here it is, from a post a while back. It looks a bit like the work of Lou Bunin, but I don’t think it’s quite to the level he would make it. Doesn’t anyone know what ‘Mortera Productions’ was?

Horse Laffs was one of my favorite things on the set, but as of this writing, the collector who owns it can’t find the print to re-lend for an HD scan! I’m sure hoping it shows up soon since it’s such a remarkable oddity- and it may very well be the only print around on this film:

The Internet can give a remarkable life to a short piece of film or video. One of the shorts on the Stop Motion Marvels set was Len Lye’s Experimental Animation 1933 — or, the Peanut Vendor. This was the oldest telecine transfer on the whole set, done around 1990 with my Eiki 5-blade shutter projector. The film was part of a whole reel of stop motion shorts that were rented for a campus showing. This old transfer, from my 3/4” tape, seems to still be the only version of this short available anywhere on the internet. The new set will be a big upgrade, coming from a new HD scan.

I did a post about this short a while back, but since then, it seems, it’s found a wider and maybe even stranger audience.

My good friend Ken Priebe posted the short way back in 2006 below. It’s now had nearly half a million views, creeping everyone out for a full 13 years. What I’d really like to do is get that many people to see Len’s *great* films as well! There are 1,696 comments, and they are kind of a fun read (although I have to admit I didn’t make it *too* far down the list!)

This upload’s comments seem to think that the Monkey is adorable. I agree!

It’s especially funny to me that this film has developed a life of its own over the years, appropriated in various ways. Here’s someone that stuck outtakes of the Beatles singing the Peanut Vendor Song to Len’s film:

Here’s some of the usual sort of you-tube review from ‘Telsa Reviews’. I usually don’t like these sort of things since they tend to be basically contentless- but it’s sort of fun to see how it’s developed a life of its own.

Here’s someone’s take on the short in negative with some very strange things done to the sound:

And, finally, here’s Len Lye’s absolutely brilliant A Colour Box from 1935, taking cues from Fishinger’s experiments and creating many of the techniques that would later be made much more famous by Norman McLaren.

Have a great week everyone!


  • Glad you’re re-releasing the Stop-Motion Marvels. “Horse Laffs” made me utter a few horse laughs of my own!

    There’s a Len Lye museum in New Zealand, but it doesn’t have much in the way of his films. You’re right, “A Colour Box” is absolutely brilliant, like early McLaren without all the chickens. The coloured dots at the beginning remind me of those old posters that contain hidden messages for people with red-green colourblindness.

    I love the music in the Camel ad, especially the way the violin solo seems to come right out of the camel’s mouth. Does the blonde have a name? I’m calling her “Ava Overall”.

    No peanuts for me before I go to sleep tonight, I’m afraid!

    • Just watching “Horse Laffs”, and “Horse-Laffing” in my own right,too..Paul..

  • I just pre-ordered Mid Century Modern, Volume 3 – looking forward to it!

    Quick question…I pre ordered Cartoon Commercials Vol 2 back in August 2017. It’s been a while with this one. Any idea when that will be completed? ship? Thanks.

  • The soundtrack works well with that Camel cigarettes film. Seems almost as if it’s a Puppetoon.

  • I wonder if someone who’s good at reading lips could give us an idea of what the camel is saying in that Camel cigarettes film?

    • To me it appears that he’s saying: “Having a rough day, Toots? Then why don’t you come over here and wrap those sweet lips around one of these? A Camel is just the thing for you to puff on, and it’ll go easy on your throat, too!” But then my imagination may be running away with me.

  • Cannot wait for more. Just returned to Marvels DVD after a few years, and loved it all again. Thank you for keeping this good work going. What you are doing is a credit to the entire artform, Steve.

  • I switched to Camels about a year or two before I quit smoking (after may years as a devoted Marlboro man). I took a keen interest in the controversy over the Joe Camel mascot in the nineties, which was based on the contention that the ads were marketing cigarettes to children, and that they portrayed smoking as part of a glamorous lifestyle, in which Joe was often shown surrounded by beautiful women. It was this claim about the women that piqued my curiosity, as I could not recall seeing any in the Camel ads. My question was, were they beautiful human women, or camel-headed women with sexy bodies?

    So I embarked on an investigation. I thumbed through the magazines at the drug store in search of Camel ads, and I spent one weekend looking through the magazines in a hospital’s waiting rooms and tearing out all the Camel ads when no one was looking. Eventually I amassed a fair portfolio, and there was not one female, camel-headed or otherwise, to be found anywhere. Joe and his exclusively male friends, far from leading lives of glamour and romance, lived in a big city where their main activities were smoking cigarettes, drinking in bars, gambling in casinos, and playing jazz music.

    Then it occurred to me that Joe Camel, with his tiny cranium, flat nose, thick lips and ears that stick out, bore a more than passing resemblance to an old-fashioned African-American caricature — specifically the flashy urban “Zip Coon” stereotype epitomised by Prince Chawmin’ in “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs”. Certainly what I saw of the ad campaign suggested that its target was not children, but African American men. This comparison was never mentioned in the public debate, and probably for the best; for if any anti-smoking activist ever accused Joe Camel of being a racist caricature, R. J. Reynolds could have responded, with some justice: “WE’RE the racists? Hey, you’re the one saying that black people look like camels!” But maybe I’m the only one to whom this ever occurred, and only then because I had seen so many racist depictions of African Americans in old cartoons.

    I suppose it was inevitable that during the course of my Joe Camel investigation I would actually try the cigarettes; I did, and I found them more to my liking than my regular brand. That’s how Joe Camel made a Camel smoker out of me.

    So after all these years I’m tickled to find an ad in which the Camel mascot really is teamed with a beautiful woman — and it’s in an unfinished stop-motion film from the forties. A relic of a way of life now gone with the wind — or should I say, “up in smoke”.

    • I didn’t think Camel ads were aimed at children just because he was a cartoon character, but there were many ad’s that were filled with phallic symbolism. And I can’t believe you couldn’t find ads with women. Here’s the one I remember because it was so overt:

    • Thank you, Robert, you made my day. That ad dates from 1989; I quit smoking in September 1997, so I would have done my Joe Camel research sometime in ‘95 or ‘96. I assure you that none of the dozens of ads that I found at that time had any women in them! The style of the ads was also different, as was Joe’s design; the Joe of the mid-nineties invariably wore sunglasses. Clearly Reynolds must have decided on a different advertising approach for the new decade.

      I, too, never bought the line that the Joe Camel ads were designed to appeal to kids.

    • I remember one double-page spread of Joe Camel’s nightclub where the guests were all anther camels, male and female. The females had much shorter muzzles — you might not recognize them as camels out of context.
      Okay, found it. Part of a promotion called “Joe’s Place.”

    • Oh boy, this day keeps getting better! Thank you, Brad, that’s precisely the sort of image I had hoped to find 25 years ago. You’re right about the muzzles; some of those ladies look positively feline, and their hairstyles would tend to put the kibosh on my theory that the campaign was targeting African-Americans. I’m actually glad of it.

      Why is there a piano bar on the mezzanine when there’s a rock band playing downstairs? No self-respecting pianist would put up with that! And what’s with the angry camel in camouflage peering through the fronds of a potted palm? He looks like he’s about to shoot up the place!

  • Yeah, I don’t like those “review” shows either. They try too hard to be funny. The irony about those obnoxious videos is that, on their owe merits, they are as good or worst then the thing they are reviewing!

    • I have my favorites, ones who add to the experience (in my view): Bobsheaux, Phelous, I Hate Everything.

    • Yeah, that last one pretty takes the cake on that cliché. I feel like that guy has tons of personal issues.

  • It would be nice if you can hunt down a stop motion cartoon i remember from VHS, It has a magic macguffin that turned the dragon into literally chocolate

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