I thought I’d be leaving the Van Beuren cartoons alone for at least a little while, but I guess that’s not to be, at least for now. The little Thunderbean office is humming with activity again as both Flip the Frog and Cubby Bear cartoons get fixed up, as well as putting finishing touches on another non-animated set (‘Abbott and Costello Rarities’).
The Cubby cartoons are generally simple and silly, and although lightweights in comparison to some other series, they deserve at least some respect for being fun little 1930s cartoons. I always like to point out that one animation writer referred to *all* of the studio’s output as “Ugly, badly produced cartoons”- and seemed to miss the point of enjoying them- or ANY film for that matter! Of course, the Cubbys were never trying to be more than the not-so-lofty goal of an entertaining short, and can be enjoyed as such. Cubby is easily my favorite Van Beuren character, and even though sometimes his personality is less than developed, he’s likable throughout the series. I find a lot of cartoon fans share some affection for the plucky little bear. Seeing them in HD now reminds me of seeing them for the first time, projected on 16mm film.
Cubby has many adventures throughout the series, and there seemed to be an attempt to have his adventures be grandiose and varied as much as the Van Beuren studio could. In Opening Night (1933), Cubby ends up conducting by accident on the opening night of the Roxy theatre- and the film actually showed there. In his two short years, Cubby won a horse race, has his own musical radio show, runs a talent agency in Tin Pan Ally, is a Gaucho, is Sherlock Holmes, is Captain John Smith, flies around the world, goes on a jungle safari and more.
Perhaps my own favorite Cubby is Barking Dogs (1933), featured here before, where Cubby’s girlfriend Honey is complicit in the murdering of her landlord by dog statues that escape her collapsed, foreclosed home. Most of the Cubbys have moments that are just plain bizarre, and that’s a good thing.
Getting all the ‘Cubbys’ in one place and sharing them was a motivating factor in starting the original ‘Snappy Video’ VHS cassettes in the late 80s, and one of the first DVDs Thunderbean released. Snappy Video’s last VHS release was actually a two cassette set of all the Cubby Bears, and those 1991 transfers made up a good portion of that first DVD release. I think I sold 16 copies of it back then!
The first Cubby I ever saw was Goode Knight, retitled ‘Robin Hood Rides Again’ by Official Films in the 40s. There are a lot of vintage Official Films prints with the ‘Brownie Bear’ titles on them, silent and sound, in 16mm and 8mm. These cartoons are from the later part of the series, with the early entries being licensed by ‘Modern Sound Pictures’ in the later 40s.
At the studio, we had already cleaned up a few of the Van Beuren Cubby Bear cartoons for the ‘Van Beuren Classics’ Blu-ray last year, and I had been transferring Cubbys along with many of the film transfer sessions in hopes of doing a set sometime in the future. Over the years since the first DVD, I’ve been lucky enough to find better prints of many of the cartoons. Many years back (in 1991) we were even attempting to put together a new short ‘Cubby Bear’ Cartoon (titled ‘Cubby’s Birthday’). It went as far as having some animation done for it before being abandoned as I got a ‘real’ animation job working on animated games. Maybe one of these days I’ll haul out all those drawings and shoot an animatic/ WIP reel…
Since we’re getting closer to finishing up Cubby, it’s a good time to offer a special ‘Pre-order’ of the Blu-ray, on the Thunderbean Website here.
The pre-order comes with a ‘special’ Blu-ray disc called ‘Cubby’s Contemporaries’ featuring more rare 1930s cartoons. The set will be finished and shipping the few months.
This week’s cartoon is – you guessed it – Cubby Bear! Croon Crazy seems to be the most ‘pre-code’ of the series, with many outlandish gags. So far I have never seen a print with original titles – has anyone here? This one isn’t cleaned up for the set yet….
Have a good week everyone!