As I sit in the Thunderbean writing chair and look around I sort of wish I had a more formal environment. Perhaps it’s just nostalgia and I’m thinking about a time where formality was part of any presentation of film. Maybe a royal red smoker’s jacket and a big velvety chair would do, with a bookshelf full of books I’d never read or awards or something. I wonder if that would change what I write about here?
It’s been more around the clock at Thunderbean this week since we’re soaking in summer (and rain this week), giving me every excuse to work on as many projects as possible while attempting to wrap as many as possible. We’re working on all sorts of things, but the last few days have been on getting Flip out the door in a final master. We spent some time the last few days in a sound studio to do final sound adjustments on both discs- and that’s the last thing.
The Van Beuren Tom and Jerry set rounded another final corner over the last few days; Four of us are working on cleanup for the set- I’m working on Hook and Ladder Hokum, along with Becca, with Dave and Becky Grauman handling revisions on two others.
I’ll be out east this next week to do some scanning and hopefully visiting some old friends. We’ll be wrapping the last scans for Mid Century Modern Cartoons, Volume 3, scanning a bunch of things for special sets, and some Bunin material. Later tonight I’m going to dust off some cans and run some things- an aspect of the projects I really enjoy — the checking over, cleaning and repairing materials before scanning. There’s something nice about working with a physical print and comparing materials. While the next several weeks are pretty busy, it’s a huge relief to have three major projects done and close in a short period of time.
The most important part though is that I’m honestly having a great time working on these things and collaborating with a great group of people helping to get them done. I hope everyone has as good of a time enjoying the films when the sets are done.
And — today’s cartoon!
The Lantz Oswalds are easily as free-wheeling as the Van Beuren shorts, and sometimes better drawn, sometimes not. Their lack of organization and economy in budget shows up on screen, happily. I especially love watching a Fleischer cartoon and then an Oswald from the same period next to each other for their vastly different qualities. I feel like Fleischer cartoons from 1931 are like stealing candy from a store and covertly eating it, while Lantz Oswalds from this period are like homemade cookies. I feel like the characters on-screen are as surprised at the things happening in the film as we are watching it.
Wonderland (1931) is one of those Oswalds that just makes you smile. There’s fun music throughout and a series of unexpected gags as funny as any from the Fleischer’s or other studios, but done in such a disarming way that you’re left scratching your head as much as laughing.
Oswald and Kitty’s cuteness is a great contrast to the giant, largely animated by Vet Anderson to great effect. My favorite shot in the film is Oswald proclaiming ‘Gold!’as he heads off camera. The shot feels like an odd pan over and is somehow right at home with the quirkiness of the cartoon. The morbid ending of this particular short is actually a little shocking when viewed in modern times, but it’s a cartoon, so….
All of this, I’m sure, is more analysis than was ever intended. The 30s is such a great period because it allowed innovations as well as pretty ordinary cartoons that served as training grounds for things to come. So, in this way, even the primitive films are important- and mostly still enjoyable 90 years later.
This scan is from my 16mm Guild TV print.
Have a great week everyone!