October 23, 2014 posted by

Paul Terry’s “Popcorn” (1931)

Early Terrytoons are a lot of fun… and here’s a little ‘Popcorn’ to go with that statement!


I really wish we each had a little cinema down the street from us that showed 1920s and 30s animation… I know a FEW of you folks do, but there’s nothing like that out here any more. The closest we’ve come to that in my lifetime was when the local college campus movie co-ops used to rent 16mm prints, often from Em Gee film library or Kit Parker films, who both had pretty large collections of cartoons. It was big thrill for me to see the film cans labeled ‘Popeye Meets Sinbad’ and ‘The Spinach Roadster’ sitting at the back of the booth when I snuck up there after a showing around 1979 or 80.

One year they ran a night of halloween-themed cartoons that (If I remember right) was about half Disney shorts, with the rest being Skeleton Frolic (By Columbia/ Iwerks), the stop motion short The Mascot (by Sterewich) and some Fleischer shorts that included Betty Boop’s Halloween Party.

cartoon-showThe closest we have to any of this now are shows in bigger towns – with Anime clubs being the only type of film co-op groups that are common to most college campuses. While many, many more things are now available these days, I really loved (and miss!) the days of these college showings. These, along with the offerings of small UHF stations showing often whatever they got their hands on, made for great viewing in the 70s and into the early 80s.

I wish I had been just a little older and in Baltimore in the mid-70s to early 80s; I would surely have been to many of the ‘Bijou’ showings presented by Chris Buchman and Rex Schneider, at the John Hopkins campus. While historically these showings around the country are scarcely documented, Chris did a marvelous job talking about the shows they did, how they did them, and even presenting posters and animated trailers from them in one of the featurettes produced for the DVD A Conversation with Walter and Gracie Lantz.

Because these shows were programmed by people that really cared about films, the cartoon showings were especially fun, often featuring cartoons from Chris’s own collection of rare animation. In these later years, both Chris and Rex have contributed to nearly every collection Thunderbean has put together. The Aesop’s Fables and Little King collections have especially great bonus features, largely due to their terrific work. Their titles all have a theatrical show quality to them, from Back the Attack (a collection of rare WW2 films) though their great collection of odd and Macabre films called Grotesqueries.

Their work presenting films is a big inspiration in the direction of the Thunderbean sets (and I’ve had a hand in helping to make those collections, and I’ve enjoyed working on helping to make the sets happen).

This week’s cartoon is something I would have been thrilled to see many years ago, but am very glad that showed up, period. Since we don’t have a co-op to have a showing at, this blog will have to substitute.

popcorn-bike275Back in 2011, I won a couple of rare Terrytoons on Ebay. I was pretty pretty convinced that there would be no way in the world that I’d win them since I didn’t have very deep pockets, but somehow I won both of them. The prints belong now to Mark Kausler, who wrote a nice little post about them on his essential Cat Blog here.

It’s about three years later now, so it’s about time I think to present one of them. Here’s Popcorn (1931), one of the rarer of the somewhat rare early 30s Terrytoons, in a British print. Western Electric’s excellent sound system is on display in full quality on this 35mm print. It’s a real treat to see the original end title on a Terrytoon of this vintage. Even though there’s a Lion on the loose and a haunted house sequence, I can’t help but notice that these films are never as dark as those made by Fleischer and even Van Beuren. I really like the happy dance that opens the picture.


  • In my youth (late 50’s), the local movie theater still had a “kiddie matinee” on Saturday afternoons. While they always showed a cartoon or two before the feature, every once and awhile, the entire program was color cartoons – two hours worth. I loved those Saturdays the best!

    During my college years (early 70’s), I was one of those “co-ops” that showed movies on campus. We occasionally showed cartoons, but the truth was the cartoons simply added to the cost of the show without really increasing attendance. Sad. Then home video came along and really killed the campus movie business.

  • Man, what a great way to start off the day. That print of POPCORN looks terrific! As you’ve said many times Steve, seeing the films from so-called lesser studios in first class unedited presentation makes all the difference. Just loved it!

    As to those marathon screenings of cartoons and vintage shorts back in the late sixties and seventies, the ‘golden age’ of 16mm film societies on and off campus, I remember them well! I managed a college coffee house that had regular ‘cartoon nights’. The trick was to scramble rental reels and a few privately owned prints so you could a good diverse show (please, not three Road Runners in a row!) Always great when something like a Lantz (say WACKY WEED) would bring as big an audience reaction as a vintage WB.

  • Thanks for posting this–what fun!

    This may be the only Terrytoon I’ve seen that references an actual geographic location. The amusement park appears to be “Playland” in Rye, New York, which opened in 1929 and is still in operation. It would have been well-known to Terrytoons animators based in nearby New Rochelle.

    The tower in the background is a good likeness of the “Music Tower” there, and the buses are labeled “Rye Beach,” which would have also been accurate.

  • Wow !! That WAS a real treat. Thank you. I always loved that 90% of all the earrrrly Terrys have a one-word title!!

  • Great to see this, thanks Steve! The young Art Babbitt animated a whopping 11 scenes in this one himself, including the extended bit on the slide from 2 14 to 2 32 and the entire scene with the hippo and the hammer. Frank Moser animated 28 (!) scenes with quite a bit of assistant work by Charles Sarka, Jose Carreon, Larry Silverman, and Connie Rasinski. Terry himself animated only the “Ain’t We Got Fun” bit at the beginning. Does anyone know the name of the actress who did the boop-like voice of the girl mouse in this and “By the Sea”?

    • I seem to recall Bonnie Poe as having done a similar voice in a van Beuren Tom & Jerry, “Piano Tooners,” playing a saucy maid to Mlle. Phlop.

  • Not a kernal of
    popcorn in sight. It really made a difference when Terry used actual pop music in his films, and an orchestra with more tha three instruments in them. That rat-cheap saxophone noise pumping out musical nonsense in the background must have saved Terry enough money to have made it worthwhile to him, but it just seemed to double the cheap blandness that marked his product. I think the last one with actual, under-copyright tunes heard is a 1932 Farmer-Alfalfa-goes-hunting sausage, CANADIAN BACON. Terrytoon I most want to see: SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC (1943).

    • Well, at least no musicians was holding on to their rubber duckies while playing the sax (this is a Muppet reference, and NOT a dirty joke, folks).

  • Reseda’s Em Gee Film Library was the only place in 1978 that one could rent, for about twelve bucks, a 16mm sound print of the pencil test of the soup eating sequence from Disney’s “Snow White.” It had been televised on the ‘Disneyland’ show in the 1950s and would later end up as a supplemental feature on home video releases. But in 1978 it was a rarity to behold. We will not likely see the days of 16mm film the way we did.

    • That is sad indeed Tom, that made it all the more special, I was glad to have known a friend of my brother’s when I did before his untimely demise. If only I had been born much earlier to enjoy it.

  • that is the most beautiful B&W Terrytoon print I’ve ever seen.


  • “The closest we have to any of this now are shows in bigger towns – with Anime clubs being the only type of film co-op groups that are common to most college campuses.”

    I’ve been told that’s dying out as well, replaced by whatever new hotness is replacing that (probably Game of Thrones).

    “I really loved (and miss!) the days of these college showings. These, along with the offerings of small UHF stations showing often whatever they got their hands on, made for great viewing in the 70s and into the early 80s.”

    I know I pretty much missed out on that.

  • Steve:
    You got a great collectible there!The haunted house segment had a Fleischeresque quality to it,and the audio was superb!

  • So glad you folks appreciate the quality of an old nitrate Terrytoon print. Now, would you contribute your money to corporate welfare (Viacom) and help to copy this rare print onto Mylar SAFETY stock?

    Steve would be the first to admit that digital copying of a print is NOT preservation. Only FILM is archival; a Mylar negative on this title will last at least a hundred years. Please write to Viacom and offer to contribute money to help preserve this cartoon, “Popcorn”. While you’re at it, suggest that Viacom start a Kickstarter or other fund to help copy the Terrytoons nitrate prints and negatives that are on deposit with UCLA film archive. Thank You.

    • I would advise that you DON’T send a check to Viacom. You’ll never see it again and no Terrytoons will be preserved. However, if you donate to either The UCLA Film And Television Archives or Asifa-Hollywood and “earmark” your donation to go to preserving a 1930-era Terrytoon (or “Popcorn” in particular) the money will actually go into a fund to protect these films.

    • I gathered Mark’s comment was (beyond what he said about actual film preservation, which is correct) mostly facetious. Or tongue-in-cheek-. Heheh. God bless you, Kaus.

    • Well, I was being somewhat ironic about corporate welfare, Thad. HOWEVER, UCLA Archives has done little or nothing for YEARS now about the Viacom Terrytoons collection. They don’t seem to start much of anything by themselves without major funding, so I thought the logical source of money for preserving these cartoons should come from the COPYRIGHT HOLDERS, which is VIACOM. If you donate money to UCLA Archive, even if you want the funds earmarked, they may or may not spend them on a specific cartoon. I’m afraid they are rather untrustworthy stewards of short subjects, or any film that is not high priority for preservation.

    • One last note. I cannot speak for the UCLA Archive, but on behalf of Asifa Hollywood – at present, we preserve one film a year, usually (but not exclusively) with UCLA. We are hoping to do more than one per year as we go along. This year we are preserving and restoring Fleischer’s BEDTIME (1923). I’m not recruiting for funds right now – but if someone contributed money to Asifa-Hollywood that was specifically designated to restore a Terrytoon (or a specific title), that money would indeed go toward getting that film preserved.

  • Ah, Ann Arbor in the 1970s. Four or five co-ops showing over a dozen different films a week, in every type of genre, from every era. Picture TCM, with some foreign and nearly current titles. And lots and lots of cartoons and shorts, sometimes shown with features and sometimes in special shows. Then and now, there were not too many places where you could see an all-silent cartoon show. Or where you could experience how a crowd reacts when the Warner Brothers Cartoon Night turned out of be all black and white Merrie Melodies. Them was the days.

    • I feel i missed out terribly there. Toledo just never got to see that much at all.

    • So how did the crowd react to a marathon of B & W Merrie Melodies?

  • In March 1996 the Tampa Theatre showed a marathon of vintage cartoons (including some silent ones) to commemorate the release of the “100 Years of Comic Strips” postage stamps. The silent cartoons had live musical accompaniment from the Tampa Theatre’s original Mighty Wurlitzer. They showed:

    “Little Nemo” (not the color version )
    Felix in “One Good Turn”
    Krazy Kat in “The Great Cheese Robbery” (ending incomplete)
    Krazy Kat in “The Merry Cafe”
    “Boob McNutt” (with live action footage of Rube Goldberg)
    “The Toonerville Trolley” (with live action footage of Fontaine Fox)
    “Trolley Ahoy” (B & W home movie print retitled “Beach Picnic”)
    “Petunia National Park”
    “Mickey’s Grand Opera”
    “The Bulleteers”
    “Rabbit of Seville”
    “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery”
    “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor”

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