THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
June 20, 2019 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Rainbow’s End: “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg”

Summer here is always the most productive time for Thunderbean, and this year it’s really on full speed. I’m tired but happy.

I was able to travel to the National Audio/Visual conservation center of the Library of Congress last week at this time and had a rare opportunity to meet with some great people well as collaborators. I was amazed that so many people there knew what Thunderbean was; I figured the familiarity probably was mostly with the die-hard animation collectors and fans more than the film preservation and silent film experts. It was ‘sort-of’ my first time going to ‘Mostly Lost’, a series of presentations about preservation as well as showings trying to identify mostly silent donated materials to figure out what films they are.

Library of Congress Packard Campus

LOC’s film collections are astonishing; I’m always left with a sense of awe in both what exists there are the new materials that are donated. They are often missing pieces to the various projects we’ve produced and continue to produce. Nearly all of my own personal nitrate films are now part of the holdings (except for the ones that have gone to friends).

Since the trip to LOC, things have been a whirlwind with Thunderbean — from attempting to get files to freelances to teaching software. The biggest challenge has been to get ‘Grotesqueries’ finally out the door this week, a mission that seems to have been accomplished, or at least *almost* accomplished. I’ll be taking another trip to the co-producers on Friday, master in hand, one eye squinted closed and the other a little squeezed, hoping that all aspects pass muster. I’m hoping to do the same with another disc that I’ve barely talked about here.

While the growing pains of getting a new space and trying to move things to finish are sometimes a little overwhelming, I look at the end of each day and see all the progress on each project, and am thrilled. It’s a good but exhausting summer so far. The unofficial ‘special’ sets had. Big scan session this morning, getting four more of these sets

Work is progressing really nicely on the ‘Puppetoons’ we’ve been working on for Arnold Leibovit. We’re hoping to present the first pass of finished, color corrected versions last this week or early next. It’s been a six month journey on that project that has finally been coming together really well in the last handful of weeks.

The best news of last week was getting all but one of the shorts for the first disc of Rainbow Parades here. Two here need to be scanned, including a newly acquired mint 16mm Cinecolor print of Parrotville Old Folks. I beyond happy for this excellent turn of events. The Rag Dog is the very last film that needs some improvement, and I’m hoping to not have to go to Florida to pick it up personally.

The first half of the series has been an arduous task to reassemble to this point, especially in trying to find the best material for many of the films. This will be the last time I chronicle the making of this particular disc- the next time you’ll hear about it we’ll be done! There’s still plenty to do, although it’s in daily progress.

A recent nitrate vault extraction included the discovery of 35mm nitrate material on many of the ‘Official Films’ shorts. There’s no inventory yet of what exists there, but I’ll be taking a trip soon to explore and catalog these. I’m really hoping there’s 35mm tracks for a lot of the Rainbow Parades we have in 16mm only, and that maybe there’s 35mm on the Toddle Tales. We’ll see, soon.

One of the fun things about the set is a still-in progress animated menu. We’re collaborating with different animators to complete the sequence, with each person animating a different character from one of the Rainbow Parade cartoons. I’m hoping to wrap this sequence just as the last films are going into final versions for the set.

Thanks again to all the folks who have contributed so far in making these sets (and right now especially this one) happen. Perhaps the most difficult part of Thunderbean has been to figure out how to make all these move forward stuff with the somewhat limited finances of this small company. The sales vary all the time on Amazon, but when they do well it’s a huge boost to being able to get more things done. Right now we’re trying hard to get the Rainbow Parade, disc 1 all finished, so most of our resources will be jumping off the Puppetoons on onto the very earnest effort of typing down all lose ends on this project. To help boost funds just a little, we’re doing a small fundraiser to help. The folks that contribute will get an original animation drawing from the title sequence along with a short piece of film from one of the Rainbow Parades, and a disc of the original scans done for the set before cleanup. Info for this is here.

We’ve already started to have the second half of the series pulled for review and some scanning. I can’t wait to get through all the Technicolor materials. In the process, negs have shown up on a few, and we need to look at them to determine if the best versions can be made from the negs or the handful of surviving Technicolor prints of each film. The process on the second half, however, in much, much easier in that all of the material is in 35mm, and all the films have prints with original titles. The same in true for the Comi-Color series.

Here is one of my favorites of the Technicolor series, Felix the Cat and the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg. Van Beuren’s improvements on all aspects of production are evident here, especially in the beautiful background layout. I’ve also loved the soundtrack on this. I can’t wait to get the 4k scan done! This version is from one of the 35mm prints at UCLA, scanned in standard definition originally for one of the ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot’ set.

Have a good week everyone!

8 Comments

  • I always liked that Van Bueren Felix short! What confused me though is how they got the rights to Felix!

  • I like the social message implied in Felix and the Goose in that Felix shares the newly minted gold coins with the poor so freely, by direct hand outs at the start and by cannon shot at the end. Of course, what such abundant gold coins would do to the actual value of gold in the financial markets is never brought up, gold would eventually be worth very little if it was that easily acquired!

    Felix really suffered at the hands of Van Beuren, his pacing back and forth, lighting a fuse with his tail, turning in to a cannon ball, all seem so matter of fact in the Goose picture. Sometimes they start an idea, such as Felix’s hands turning red as he slides down a hawser, only to drop the idea before he hits the deck! That sure isn’t the voice I hear in my head when I think of Felix, just a clone of the Mouse. I like the little “cat talk” soto voce in the Copley pictures sound tracks they added to the silent Felix cartoons. He mews, chirps and only occasionally speaks a word or two. I wonder why Felix’s fantasy works so well in the Messmer directed cartoons, and seems so completely dead in the fuller animation of the Van Beurens?

    • Based on what I read in John Canemaker’s FELIX book, it seemed Amadee van Beuren DID contact Messmer for their Felix cartoons. However, Messmer backed out and passed it on to Burt Gillett, who worked with him in the 1920s at Pat Sullivan’s studio. Then, Messmer changed his mind about contributing to the VB Felixes but Gillett shot down his ideas, thinking they were too old-fashioned.

    • I think it’s partly visual. Messmer presents a very graphic world where everything is malleable – it’s all ink. In the Van Beurens, they’re tied to a more concrete “reality.

    • for anyone who grew up with full-color pd tapes, this is a guilty pleasure cartoon

    • Actually, something very like what you’re describing *has* happened. The Spanish Empire brought vast quantities of gold and silver from the New World to the Old as a result of their many conquests, with far-reaching effects that were ultimately to Spain’s detriment. A good discussion at a high level is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_revolution

    • I think the blame for this decision falls to Tom Palmer. Glad he didn’t work at Disney.

  • As I’ve probably said in other posts on FELIX THE CAT cartoons, my first exposure to FELIX was the series of TV cartoons with Jack Mercer as sole voice contributor. I don’t mean to dismiss the silent cartoons, but I often with I had more exposure to them. After discovering the Trans-Lux FELIX cartoons each afternoon on local TV, I caught the Van Buren FELIX cartoons and I wondered who did the voice for Felix. I gather that a lot of the real magic of Felix, to morph into other shapes using his tail and all that, was abandoned when sound came into the picture and he could actually talk. When the TV cartoons were created, Felix was given a Magic Bag and, like so many TV characters, went on “adventures” with enemies and other-worldly characters. What makes those cartoons work is the unstoppable energy of Jack Mercer, who can come up with a voice for just about any kind of character. I hope the RAINBOW PARADE disk comes together real soon. I’ll have to check but I believe I pre-ordered this thing already when an original kick-starter was in effect, but I’ll also check its pre-order availability on Amazon. Good luck, and I can’t wait to hear of further news.

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