March 9, 2017 posted by

Robert Osborne; Thoughts on Preservation; and Noveltoons Coming to Blu-ray

Library20of20Congress20logo1This week it’s spring break at The College for Creative Studies, where I teach. With a week off, we were able to travel to the Library of Congress this week, and I spent a little time seeing some amazing things. The Library of Congress is one of the most important hubs of film preservation in the world. It’s mission allows so many rare things to again find an audience- many things for the first time since their original showings. I’m privileged to be able to work with the library on many of the projects we have in one state or another, and always amazed at who many things are still out there, waiting to be discovered again.

The handling of rare materials of various formats is second nature for the researchers and archivists there, but what always makes me smile is the excitement and love for the materials present in everyone you talk with there. One of the sets in progress here involves a lot of short films made about Hollywood in the 30s through the 60s, and watching seasoned LOC folks enjoy footage they hadn’t seen is especially gratifying for me. It’s just a bunch of pictures in a reel until it’s watched again.

Now, that said, at this point, there’s a backlog of things to show here that I can’t just yet… but, soon enough, there will be a flood of these things ready to show here.

TCM-LogoThis week, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Robert Osborne, the wonderful film historian and host of Turner Classic Movies. In late 2014, I was lucky enough to appear on TCM with Mr. Osborne. It was a wonderful experience- and Mr. Osborne was as friendly in person as he appeared on TCM. Clearly, the crew working with him (and us) that day loved him , and he seemed to enjoy being there and guiding the conversation. For myself, the best part was the conversations we had *before* the broadcast, talking about his career a little and what his favorite animated films were (heavily Disney).

The business aspect of the job was only revealed as the shoot began. As a seasoned professional, he politely talked with the crew as the shoot took place, and asked for retakes on several things. He also asked that I point out any mistakes that he or I said as we were shooting so they could be edited- I think this was the most important aspect to him. I still made one mistake that I wish I would have caught.

GUEST PROGRAMMERIt was clear that he loved talking movies, and was curious and interested in chatting about things he didn’t know as much as what he did know. His friendly attitude on camera really was the same in person, never talking down to anyone there. His smile as we were casually chatting was infectious. He asked about several places in Michigan, and was especially interested to hear about the revitalization of Detroit.

Tommy Stathes and John Canemaker were shooting their segments that day as well for an “animation broadcast night”, so I was happy to be among familiar company. The shooting went very smoothly that day- but that same can’t be said for broadcast! The segment with Tom Stathes and John Canemaker were shown, but a mistake was made in their computer lineup that repeated the Canemaker program. The Van Beuren segment I hosted finally appeared on December 7th.

Here are the segments:

Here is a short segment from Tom Stathes’ appearance as well:

Our own Jerry Beck appeared in 2012 on TCM with Mr. Osborne as well – check these segments out.

novel-menu-300In Thunderbean news, there’s much activity on various titles here. A preorder for the Blu-ray version of Noveltoons is currently at the Thunderbean website. This is an update of the previous DVD version, with some new titles added- 22 films in all, almost all 35mm IB Technicolor prints. The pre-order (as usual) has a special extra disc of things that didn’t make it on the replicated set. Click here for details.

The newest scans on Flip the Frog are just stunning. As we’re coming closer to finally wrapping up the set, I’m excited to see the scans that are being finished as well as working on the digital cleanup. The camera negs are stunning beyond belief – like they were shot yesterday. I’m looking forward to presenting more material in the coming weeks, but mostly looking forward to the set being all finished!

Have a good week everyone….


  • Any chance you can tell us what’s new on the Blu-ray set? Or what’s on the bonus disc?

  • How sad to learn of the death of Robert Osborne. So many times, I’d felt that Osborne’s zeal for Hollywood’s “golden age” and earliest sound films was the glue that held the station, TCM, together. I can only hope that there were other folks connected with the station who would insist that even the rarest of films from those early days will continue to be unearthed and shown for all to see. It is still such a cherished station as it does still air the occasional live action comedy short subject, like the Pete Smith shorts and Joe McDoakes comedies from Warner Brothers, but I also had the dimming hope that animation would be included there after your appearance.

    My hope is always that animation will someday get that respect. Cartoon Network started out as such a place, but something happened along the way, whether it was because of my appearance thereon or something else, and it became just another kids’ network. We all know that animation and its history is *NOT* just for kids, especially these days when it comes to classic animation.

    Good luck, Steve, on these forthcoming releases, and I look forward to hearing more about these upcoming projects far beyond the occasional reissuing of those great titles on blu-ray…and, by the way, how about a hefty ATTACK OF THE 1930’S CHARACTERS collection? The volumes under that title on standard DVD were amazing and, while some will eventually be included in the upcoming FLIP THE FROG complete set and COMICOLOR complete sets of Ub Iwerks cartoons, there are others from the major studios that have fallen into the public domain or that are just floating around out there, like the SCRAPPY titles, that deserve to be seen even for the first time. In the meantime, I will of course pre-order the NOVELTOONS ON BLU-RAY set, eager to know of what wiill be as extra, bringing the numbr up to 22 cartoons! Sure wish that you could take over the restorations of all things Paramount/Famous, from the Fleischers on up through the years when Harvey took over the rights, but we have this collection forthcoming as examples of some of the finest or most unusual titles out there.

    • I have to agree with you. I’ve always been interested in TCM and preservation in general. As someone who wants to work in hand-drawn animation someday, I agree that animation was never intended to be just for kids. I hope someday studios will take animation seriously and give it respect.

  • So what’s the goss on Leonard being his replacement. WAS that just “goss”….or just us having wishful thinking???

    • It has certainly been “wishful thinking” on my behalf – I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone state that Leonard had any lock on the position. I think TCM would prefer to court younger viewers with younger hosts – but Leonard certainly has a “supporting” role with the network, serving as host on their Disney nights (the next one is on 3/16, next Thursday), and as a host and moderator at the TCM Festival in Hollywood.

      Perhaps now they’ll see Leonard as appropriate for a more permanent role in light of Robert Osborne’s passing.

    • If we are referring to Maltin, his presence can help in the increase of theatrical short subjects airing on TCM in general, since he wrote two of the leading books on the subject SELECTED SHORT SUBJECTS and OF MICE AND MAGIC before they became fashionable topics of discussion. Again, as I have mentioned before here, the live action shorts from the 1910s-60s and the 16mm instructional product that continued to be made through the ’80s is in the most danger of being lost since it is further out of the public’s “radar” than even ’30s-40s animated cartoons. We are all fortunate that TCM even bothered to air SOME of the vintage shorts of the MGM and Warner libraries at least. (At least now, most movie buffs can see, thanks to the FitzPatrick Traveltalks, that the world wasn’t entirely in black and white back then.) Too bad Paramount, Universal and Fox are just letting stuff rot away in vaults (if much is still there), while Sony only focuses on their comedy shorts featuring the Stooges, Keaton and Chase. The RKO and Pathé material is sadly scattered all over the place (and I keep hoping that all of the continued attention given to Van Beuren cartoons may some day result in some interest in his other live-action produced series like the Vagabond Adventures travelogues).

  • A lovely post. Thank you.

  • I never got to meet Robert Osborne, but I appreciate all he did for classic film. He will be missed.

    I’m very curious to see how the program content of the Blu-Ray diverges from the DVD. I for one would love to see any of the early Casper or Audrey shorts on Blu.

    • A Blu-Ray of Casper and Audrey films would in it’s self be a most worth while project. The addition of the three “Land of the Lost” entries would compliment them nicely too.

    • I’d kill to see a Technicolor print of “The Freindly Ghost,” the very first Casper cartoon

  • Robert Osborne will be missed. He was one of a kind. Leonard Maltin would be cool. Just hope we don’t get someone trying to be hip. Gladly just now ordered the NOVELTOONS BLU-RAY. Always happy to support Thunderbean.

  • Robert Osborne: RIP.

  • Yeah, Robert Osborne was “one of the good ones.”

    I wonder what Nick Clooney is up to these days..?

  • Count me in as someone who just pre-ordered the NOVELTOONS blu-ray collection; hey, after hearing that the number of titles on the collection was upped to 22, I just *HAD* to know what is added and, as I said in my last posting here, Steve should be in full control, someday, of all things Paramount/Famous…or any of the other studios for that matter, because of his knowledge or connection to those with knowledge in general of all things animation (yes, yes, we know who they are, and we continue to thank them). I am drooling as we speak, sloppily, for these pre-ordered titles, and I know that I’ll receive high quality products from Thunderbean Animation because it is the home of knowledge and quality, as well as animation product.

  • Slightly off-topic: I would love to see, somewhere on the THUNDERBEAN website, an updated complete listing of DVDs and BluRays released by Thunderbean with content listings. The present partial list is a good start 🙂

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