THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
August 29, 2019 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Kinex Studios “The Early Bird and the Worm” (1928)

In brief Thunderbean news, most of the team is working on nitty gritty detail stuff at this point; improving some cleanup, deflickering and editing together the best shots from different prints of films, approving and finishing completed cleanups. I hope to gather folks at the office late this week to review where we’re at with various aspects on the projects most on deck at the moment. Packing finished things continues. In other news, The Noveltoons Blu-ray may be back from replication this week, so we’ll chat about it a little next week! We’re excited to get the set finally released.


Over the weekend I started going through the prints of many of the scans I have here for the two Stop Motion Marvels sets. A lot of things are already through clean up, while some other things have yet to be scanned. Since the DVD version of the set (finished in 2010), we’ve been lucky enough to find more of the Kinex shorts, nearly completing the series. Now, if only the last few would show up…

The Early Bird and the Worm (1928) was one of the hardest to find of the Kinex films. Happily, a print was located in time for the first release. The film stars a very rotund bird (who is seen in several of the other shorts in the series) and an especially creative worm.

It seems like the Kinex studios’ small staff managed to see some of the work of master stop-motion animator Ladislas Sterewicz, who often utilized the innovative technique of motion blur in his shorts, using several different techniques. In this film, both the landing and spinning of the bird have been photographed with the puppet in motion while shooting, creating a motion blur in the frame that better matches the blur of a moving live action object being filmed.

They also combined drawn animation with the stop motion for several effects in the film, making this particular short even more unusual.

Another interesting thing is the use of supports around the bird character during its walk. There’s been an attempt to scratch these out, frame by frame, from the film, with some success at times. There’s an attempt to do the same on the later sound short Pepper the Pup (1931) as well.

My guess is that we’re looking at the animation work on John Burton, at least in part, through the film. There is a real attempt to raise the bar a bit here in this otherwise low budget series. While still somewhat primitive next to Sterevich’s advanced techniques, it’s still a lot of fun and an interesting step in the right direction. I especially love the ‘tank’ gag near the end, bringing this film closest to emulating its drawn counterparts gag-driven stories.

Have a good week everyone!

7 Comments

  • This is a wonderful little film!
    I loved the tank at the end.

  • Another great discovery. I marvel at the work in these gems, especially with the limited audience they must have had. Looking forward to the DVD…. Thanks for sharing this one, Sir Steven!

  • The kinex films certainly have their own charm & atmosphere.
    Talking of Starewitch; the restored colour ‘Fern Flower’ finally made it to DVD at the beginning of this year
    (DVD is called ‘Carousel’; it also includes 4 other films including an excellent print of ‘Nose To The Wind’, plus extras).
    The restored ‘Fern Flower’, although there are some intrinsic problems with the film elements, is amazing & breathtaking & far, far better than the previous DVD version.

    • Typo :
      Carousel should be ‘Carrousel’

  • In other news, it’s our anniversary. It’s one solid year–in my own case, tomorrow is the actual day–since a number of us (well, fewer than 100, since that’s how many copies were going to be available) trustingly put down $19.95 for POPEYE IN TECHNICOLOR, which seems like it ain’t gonna happen, if only because Warner Bros. has stolen Thunderbean’s thunder and started releasing the color Famous Studios shorts. Of course, P. IN T. was to be the definitive prints of the three Fleischer two-reelers and some other goodies. First we were told to expect the DVDs in October, then November, then January, then nothing. Now it’s been a whole year. By this point it would have to include a viewable 3D print, complete with glasses, of “Popeye: The Ace of Space” to begin to justify the prolonged delay. Of course things happen–or don’t happen, as the case may be–but shouldn’t the purchaser of evidently nonexistent merchandise be given a refund?

    If there has been any updates on this elusive project, please catch me up. hanschristianbrando@outlook.com

  • What a delightful little film. I have to admit I know nothing about this studio or its output. Who made these films? What did they do after the studio closed? Is it pronounced “KIN-ex” or “KINE-ex”?

  • Kinex was formed in 1927 and run by Frank Young and his brother, Elmer. Frank worked at Roach throughout the ’20s as a cameraman, and worked briefly at Universal—one article implies that he shot the miniature work for KING OF JAZZ. He went back to Roach and was in charge of opticals there. One of his last credits is miniature work in Roach’s ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1940)

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