December 1, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Paul Vester’s “Sunbeam” (1980)

First, in Thunderbean news:
I’m sitting here nursing myself through a pretty nasty cold tonight, and while I’m feeling pretty ‘bleh’ at the moment, but still happy to see the continued progress up at the office right now. We’ve had a bunch of orders for the older special discs as they stroll off into retirement; it’s a good sendoff to this period in Thunderbean history. The Stop Motion Marvels Blu-ray Discs are there getting assembled for the pre-orders along with a few other newly finished special sets. I’ve meant to highlight the set here for several weeks, but will once we’ve sent the pre-orders and its up on Amazon early next week.

The Little King Blu-ray gets closer and closer to completion as the last films are going into cleanup. There’s almost nothing I enjoy more than seeing the films all together in good prints. It will the next title off to replication after Flip the Frog Blu-ray finally goes, hopefully in the next few weeks. All of David’s Gerstein’s wonderful bonus features are finished for that set and included on both discs as we wait for the final star on top of the tree.

Just after Thanksgiving (here in the states) I picked up my recently acquired Super 8 projector from our somewhat local repair shop (an hour away- but I’m not complaining). I had won the projector from an Ebay auction, and it’s something I’ve wanted (again) since the early 80s. My parents bought this same machine 41 years back—a top-of-the-line (at the time) Eumig Mark S 804d projector.

That Super 8 sound projector was well-loved over the five or so years I had it (working) and ran lots of films I had made (nearly all animated) and the films I was collecting on Super 8 before switching to 16mm almost entirely. I managed to destroy mine after the sound stopped working (as teenagers will do as they try to fix something) and I’ve wanted that same machine ever since. The one I found on Ebay is in almost perfect shape, nearly brand new, and after a fuse and a resister fix runs just as it did when purchased in 1981 (it came with its original receipt!). Now, between this and the Popeye talking doll, I’ve managed to fix several things from the past this year that I’d always wanted to. Now I can get back to fixing up old cartoons.

One of the first things I’ve run on the super 8 projector was a print of “Sunbeam” (1980).

On Michael Sauvageau:
Film buff Micheal Sauvageau had licensed the film from animator Paul Vester sometime in the late 80s or early 90s and sold it through his ‘Po-Flake Productions’ company. Po-Flake did reproductions of old movie posters and had jumped into printing super 8 films just for this release. I met Micheal in the 80s and was always happy to see him each year at the Columbus Cinevent. In the late 80s and into the 90s during Cinevent, it was a yearly ritual to have a small picnic at longtime film collector Dave Harnack’s house along with other collector friends that always included Mickey Gold and Lenny Kohl. We had a wonderful time over those years seeing plenty of good (and honestly really bad) movies, all projected beautifully in 16mm at Dave’s basement theater.

Michael sadly died quite young, at 38 in 1996 after an extended battle with brain cancer. He was a lovely person. He sent me the super 8 print of Sunbeam, free, in one of his last years here. I’ll always keep it.

Now, back to Sunbeam:
British animator Paul Vester’s short is an affectionate tribute to golden age animation, nodding to the 30s as well as his utilizing his own brilliant animation techniques. I was enthralled the first time I saw the film (about 1981). The use of some stereotype ideas is part of that tribute, done affectionately to the design sensibilities of some of these ideas. Vester would later direct “Copycat”, an episode of the Twisted Tales for Felix the Cat in the mid-90s.

Vester has put Sunbeam up on Vimeo, so here it is, scanned from a 35mm print. It’s looking much sharper than my little Super 8 print, but I enjoy both versions. If you attended any of the ‘Animation Celebration’ showings in the later 80s into the early 90s that toured the county, you likely saw this short for the first time there.

Have a good week all!



  • Thanks for sharing your memories of Michael. I lost a cousin and a good friend to brain cancer in the ’90s, and while it’s an awful way to go, it was nice to think about them again.

    As for “Sunbeam”, I appreciate Vester’s animation and design, and I enjoyed the film quite a lot once I muted the uninspired and amateurish vocal track.

    • I thought the music charming and fit the animation perfectly way back when I got “Sunbeam” on a laserdisc back in 1993, and I still do.

      • I first saw “Sunbeam” in the mid 80’s as a filler short Showtime used to run between movies. They played it many times, I had it committed to memory until I found a tape with it on in the 90’s from a public library.

  • Wotta brilliant little cartoon! Thanx, Steve.

    Vester was clearly inspired by classic 60s comix and Fillmore poster artist Victor Moscoso.


  • I love “Sunbeam”. It’s really fits with my sensibilites – then and now. In 1980 I saw it as a ray of “hope” that declared hand drawn animation wasn’t dead (and believe me, it was pretty dead then) – this was years before the animation renaissance to come, before Roger Rabbit, or The Secret of Nimh or anything else that gave the same hope of possibly restoring the craft to popular entertainment.

    I can’t imagine how this film plays to a modern audience, or people born and raised since 1980, but back then it was startling. I was able to snag a 16mm print then (I think I still have it), I was able to meet and befriend Paul Vester (who is a colleague, still teaching at Cal Arts). I never tire of watching it. It captures that 30s feel, with Vester’s modern art graffiti animation that is simultaneously both retro and progressive. Oh – and I love the song, an uplifting homage to those depression-era tunes designed to cheer us during down times. And in 1980, animation was down – way down.

  • Get well soon Steve! Seems everybody is getting the colds and coughs this season

    Sunbeam is a fun cartoon, I’m glad to see this, and it brings a nice change of things for the cartoons usually posted here. A fun tribute to the depression era songs meant to bring up the population

  • Steve: I sure do remember seeing SUNBEAM. I don’t know if I got a Super 8mm print of it or not, but I think you showed it to me, if I am remembering correctly.

    My Eumig Super 8mm sound projector is in need of fixing. A former engineer at Ford in Detroit – I think you know who I mean – fixed the “short” in the wiring – which caused the bulb light to go on and off, but when he did this, the mylar gears became separated! Do you think your repair guy could fix it? It looks like the same model, except mine is white – not black!

    Also, I was told years ago to put “Protect A Print” leader on my films. Well, my Eumig didn’t like that and started chewing them up – ditto for the old plastic leaders that used to come with your Super 8mm home movies! Should I cut all those “Protect A Print” leaders off my films – or is this a possible defect with my Eumig projector?

    While my wife would like me to “de-clutter” my discombobulated Eumig projector and my Super 8mm collection of features (HIGH NOON, SONS OF THE DESERT, etc.) and cartoons (I-SKI LOVE-SKI YOU-SKI, THE BAND CONCERT, MOUSE IN MANHATTAN, etc.) – but there’s something magical about projecting good quality films this way. I think some of you know what I mean! Let me know if we can work something out, because I’d like to get my old Eumig running again!

    • You could thread the film at a point past the leader, if the Eumig will allow manual threading (I realize it’s an auto-threader machine)…

  • I distinctly remember HBO using this as entr’acte filler during their daytime programming after they went to full-time programming in the early 1980’s.

  • Not for the “woke” crowd (can’t Black characters appear in a cartoon as talented singers, dancers, or musicians without being accused of being stereotypes?), but utterly charming, and typical of the experimental animation of the ’70s, both starkly modern and nostalgic, that the late great Z Channel used to show between films. (Did HBO do it, too? I didn’t remember, even though I remember when HBO was Channel 100.)

    • Another one who’ve only heard that word used to insult people ( and new films ) without knowing what it really means.

      Look, the issue is the designs are just like minstrel shows use of “blackface” wich was mostly a mockery of black people in the Jim Crow era.

      In the 1960s people realized these depictions were in poor taste ( hence the “Censored 11” got pulled for example )

      Don’t begin to “lecture” me on some made up “political correctness” and how your free will is some how taken away because someone objected to offensive stereotyping.

      If you don’t get how it’s “insulting”, imagine if it instead was a Jewish person with a large nose being greedy…..

      Sorry for my “rant”, but I except better from this forum, including not miss using words because of “current issues”.

  • This short looks great, it feels a bit like an animated version of Victor Moscoso or Bob Zoell illustrations. Thank you for sharing

  • any news on the Alice in Wonderland blu-ray?

    • Not yet— but sometime soon!

  • That Sunbeam thing was fantastic. Both this and It’s the Cat! are the best throwbacks to a bygone era.

    Thanks to all the CR peeps for sharing it!

  • Glorious, lovely, transcendent. Just … delighted by this.

    Where can I get a recording of the song? I’m just charmed by it.

  • This was cool to see; thank you, Mr. Stanchfield! It is rather cute and energetic!

    If I may, “Sunbeam” makes me think also of Osamu Tezuka’s wonderful and funny “Broken Down Film” (1985), also “an affectionate tribute to golden age animation, nodding to the 30s.”

    And as for (Mr. Beck?) fearing hand-drawn animation being “pretty dead” in 1980, I don’t know…..was it that Disney seemed on a downward trend toward its alleged low point with “Black Cauldron”? To me, and I realize this is partly hindsight, the circumstances of this time seemed to make room for other works for theatrical release, like those of Ralph Bakshi, and films like “The Last Unicorn” in 1982. And certainly there seemed to always be independent animated works being made; they were sometimes hard to find then, for sure.

    But then the early 1980s also saw the yearly “International Tournée of Animation” (which first started in 1970). And believe me, if these could be booked in my home town of Cleveland, Ohio, they could be seen by anyone in a major city!!
    (BTW, I graduated with a B.A. in Cinema in 1987 and still enjoy studying and talking about animation and its history.)

    • Mike – this thread isn’t the place for me to debate the animation scene in the 1980s – but if it were you’d be a good person to debate it with. There is a period between approximately 1970 and, perhaps, 1986 where – in the history of the medium – things looked pretty bleak for the art form. Disney was gone. But independent animators emerged. The “industry” was in the doldrums. But new talents and techniques came into their own.

      I was part of the distribution of the Tournee of animation during the mid/late 1980s. Thank you for coming to our shows. Exposing folks to what was happening in animation was our goal, a note in a bottle that provided hope. Many, including Matt Groening and Mike Judge, were inspired by the Tournee to do their own animation thing and change the future from the dark times it was in then.

      • Thanks for your reply, Jerry and Tim!
        (Yes, I, um, “discovered,” Jerry, that you had become involved in the Tournée in the mid-1980s from a Wikipedia article only after I posted my comment…..
        I thought: “Oops!” 😉

        And yes, you are right, especially in 1980 and in the theatrical realm, animation seemed to have become a rather comatose art form! (And the Disney company seemed to take the lead in reviving it in the late 1980s, thanks in part to the inspiring team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken having come on board!)

        And Tim: (Oh, thank you for mentioning this): last year I learned of and saw “Son of the White Mare!” What an exquisite and original work! But obviously, and unfortunately, we couldn’t have been reassured and excited by it in 1981 if it wasn’t distributed in the USA back then!

        (Thanks again to all! Such a pleasure and privilege to share with you about this!)

    • I guess Jerry’s mainly thinking of animation from the USA.
      2D animation for cinema was possibly subsiding elsewhere too – though I can think of a few genuine European feature classics from the period he mentions in his reply to you (circa 1970 – 1986):

      Zeman’s Sinbad shorts from the early 70s assembled as a feature in 1974 (“Tales Of The 1001 Nights”) & then his “Krabat” (1977) & “The Tale Of John And Mary” (1980) – the master filmmaker’s last work.
      OK these mainly use cut-out animation (but the cut outs are hand drawn).

      Then there’s Jankovic’s “Son Of The White Mare ” (1981) which is done in the traditional hand drawn way, frame by frame, as is his “Johnny Corncob” (1973) – both extraordinary works as shown in their fully restored recent release together on blu ray.

      Probably lots of other examples from Eastern Europe & elsewhere, from the period, especially if you include shorts.

      • Yes, I am essentially talking about the US… but no matter how you slice it – the 1970s was an awful period for the art (and industry). I stand by my comments.

        There WERE indeed plenty of good features and shorts – even killer commercials – during that decade. I’d be happy to name them for you – but this isn’t the thread for this debate (and I will post no more discussion of it here). On the whole of the 20th Century, the 70s-early 80s, compared top other decades – were the worst.

  • I’ve been revisiting the page nearly every day just to hear that catchy tune….

  • (As I’ve been trying to find out more about the film’s song…..
    ….and so far, it seems to have been published perhaps by the Irwin Dash Music Co. Ltd…..)

    Mr. Stanchfield, (I must say, I find film music very important, as I hope to demonstrate someday, and) with your post you have also given me a veritable earworm!
    The song “What’s At the Top of a Sunbeam” has been going though my head with lifted spirits quite often!

    In case there is interest, I have found 2 instrumental recordings of this piece uploaded to YouTube
    (on 78 rpm records; apparently from around the time of the original composition) –

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