December 28, 2017 posted by Steve Stanchfield

New Year’s Resolutions – and The Coming Year in Film Restoration

First, some Thunderbean news:

The few days off for Christmas was really nice (although I kind of worked through parts of it), and having help around me to get things cleaned up (film-wise) here has been amazing. I’m looking forward to having more friends helping in the early weeks of January, and I’m excited to be looking at the nitrate materials that are coming in for several of the sets. We’re attempting to get the last of the ‘special’ stuff out this week, so if you’ve ordered anything from Thunderbean that’s released now we hope to have it to you in the first days of the year. All told, 5 new titles went out the door in the last few weeks, mostly ‘special’ sets.

click to enlarge

We’ve also had a chance to put finishing touches on The Phantom Planet, a campy Sci-Fi film, and updating the master on ‘Fleischer Rarities’. We’re happy to report that the Christmas sales from other sets have helped us get pretty close to being able to replicate this title, finally.

On the Flip the Frog front, polishing continues on the films. Earlier today I watched (almost) final versions of seven of the films, all from either the master positives or negs of the cartoons. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout. I’ll be giving an update on the project early this next month.

In the coming week or so, I’m still hoping to get to LA to look at the last of the Iwerks Comi-Color material we’ve picked for scanning. More on these soon as well.

There are many titles in the pipeline that will be finished this year, with many already closing in on being done. My hope is that these will build momentum and revenue to help fuel more licensed materials for the coming year. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the readers and collectors that have helped continue this insanity. I hadn’t originally planned for the company to do what it has so far, and I’m enjoying the possibility of trying to get more of the rarest things.

Just to end the year on a high note, we’re announcing a new set! It’s called MORE Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares and features shorts from various studios, including work by Ted Eshbaugh, Jam Handy, John Sutherland productions, McCrory, and many other studios. The pre-order is available for a few weeks. See the information here on Thunderbean’s Facebook page.

From an Iwerks industrial cartoon featured on “MORE Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares”

It’s been another year of growing pains at Thunderbean, but happily so many pieces are falling into place; a series of important decisions have been helping as of late to get the next projects going in the right direction. This year will see more titles released than any other, opening space to attempt to produce and release things we’ve long been hoping for.

As I’m looking back on the year, of course I wish so many of these projects had been able to be finished quicker; in the bigger picture though, I couldn’t be happier with the direction things are going and the new contacts and agreements.

A owe a special and continuous thanks to everyone that collects these things and, by doing so, supports these projects. The collaborators, including the film collectors, digital restoration specialists, archives and companies licensing films continue to be the backbone that allows us to keep moving forward with these releases in what is, honestly, a small market. Expansion and change in several ways this next year is necessary for both efficiency and sanity. We’ve been lucky to be able to run Thunderbean as a sort of boutique video company up to this point; my hope is that this next year will allow the ability to spend less time packing things and more time working directly on projects for both Thunderbean and others, and still maintain the ability to produce the sets in the way we’ve been doing them.

The goal of Thunderbean continues to be accessibility of classic animated films, making good versions available widely. I’ve been able to tackle quite a few projects over these years that I had always wanted to see happen, and will continue to things that are on my holy grail list. The films are there and really just need someone crazy enough to attempt to make the right deals to get them released. So, in this way, my New Year’s resolution is to continue this stuff, but, hopefully, to try and do so as smart as possible. Let’s see what happens this year….

Otto Messmer (left) with Douglas Leigh

And, since there should be some entertainment with these posts, and since it’s almost New Year’s Eve – and since the ball dropping in Times Square is at least loosely related (!), here is a little animation done by Otto Mesmer for the Douglas Leigh Sign company – shown in Times Square, New York City. These likely date from the mid-50s. The first is a short of what the public saw lit up (with horns honking in the background!) and the second is a film clip of one of the actual films. The way the system worked is with photo electric cels. The film was projected in a loop onto the photoelectric cels, lighting the ones that had light projected on them. A clever trick and in use for years. Maybe someday someone will put out a bunch of these almost lost little films!

Thanks to everyone for reading these weekly ramblings, thanks for the support, and here’s wishing everyone a great New Year!


  • The digital billboard’s on the Allied Chemical building (formerly the Times Tower), which wasn’t redone until 1965. So the first bit of animation would have to date from the late 1960s at the earliest, and likely the other, too, if they were using the same digital sign. But Mesmer’s work does have a wonderful 1920s silent-era feel to it.

  • Are the Screen Songs and Noveltoons sets due to be out anytime soon?

  • Oh wow, it’s interesting to see a Messmer animation work from so late in the era.

    Kaj Pindal also made a similar animation for the same “photoelectric cel” system, made for the World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan. More info at

  • I wonder what the resolution (hardy har) of that sign is? It’s tempting to think of it recreated on a dot matrix display computer as a modern demoscene program.

  • The Accutron watch was first sold in 1960. I remember when it was introduced. So the animation on the sign would not be from the ’50s.

  • Did Douglas Leigh do an animated sign that produced smoke ? Saw a clip a long time ago. Not sure if it was in London or New York City.



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