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.
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. 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.
Back 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.