THIS WEEK: Still looking for the unfindable: Adventures in cartoon searching!
I think the more you look for the odd and forgotten animation produced in the 20s,30s and 40s, the more you want to find.
It isn’t as if it’s a completely futile journey, but I think its one of those things were you know that, sooner or later, you’ll at least get to see at least some of the films on the ‘most wanted’ list, but surely not *all*.
There’s lots of different ways that the oddities show up or become available. The most common way for Thunderbean to gain access to them has been through film collectors. A lot of the collectors have already done the digging, through collecting for many, many years. I have as well, but I’ll forever remain more of a piker, having only officially collected films since 1980 or so. I’ve opined here before about going to the collector’s shows in this region of the country; the biggest thing I miss is the all the stories from various collectors about various films.
Another way things show up is through the archives. Many collectors have donated materials throughout the years, and many archives have purchased collections as well. On both the Flip the Frog and Rainbow Parade sets, many of the small finishing touches for the sets are owed to collectors and archives around the world to fill in small missing pieces. The ‘nitty gritty’ stage I’m in on those projects drives me crazy, especially if there’s material I know about that requires more than a fair share of little loops to jump through to access. There are currently three projects that require significant hoops to move forward, and those ones are even harder!
To me, finding or borrowing a film is just the first step. Having them scanned and available to the people that want to see them is the bigger goal of course. It works well to have many projects going at the same time in that the little missing pieces tend to come in without a specific time line.
The favorite series I’ve been lucky enough to keep adding titles to include The Kinex Stop Motion shorts, whole series of commercials from various studios, John Sutherland Industrial films that are less common, and various cartoons starring various black cats. Finding original titles on many films never gets old. Ted Eshbaugh’s cartoons are also always high on the list. Smellot Bones, Dog Detective (1930) and those odd copyright listings for the two Dr. Suess shorts (1931) still puzzle me, and all remain unfound.However, there *are* three Technicolor shorts that have all been unearthed in recent years, and although I can’t talk about them year, I’ve seen one of them. It won’t be forever before some of these are available.
My favorite find has to be the 35mm print of Cy Young’s Mendelsohn’s Spring Song. I literally was running to Cleveland to beat another collector to it, and got lucky to be there an hour before him. Luckily, we call get to see it, and its now at the Library of Congress.
The current hard things to get include:
• Two prints that I’ve been trying to get from one collector for about a year and a half. Getting them involves going to a storage unit and unearthing them from behind lots of other stuff.
• One short that I managed to trade a collector when I was in my early 20s. The collector now has all his stuff stored in Texas, but he lives in the Philippines working at the laundrymat he owns!
• One film that belongs to a collector who in famous for vanishing for long periods of time. It’s the only print I’ve seen show up of this title, from 1947. This Kodachrome print got sniped as I was bidding on it, and I thought I was all good to borrow it, but now the collector is too worried something with happen to it in shipping, so it will, for now, remain unseen. It’s hard to say if that print will ever see the light of day, but if it does I’ll be there with bells on and scanning facility in hand. It’s just part of a still incomplete list of productions from this small studio, but we have managed to find quite a few things from that particular place over the years.
• One feature that it looked like I had a deal on, but has since become less than available. While its not a favorite of mine, it’s a favorite of other people, and the master materials are still extant. I wish Thunderbean was just a little bigger; maybe some day…..
• Another feature that has super complicated rights. It looked like there was some traction of that project, but bickering among the license holders and the lack of any substantial guarantee pretty much assured that the film would remain one of those great mysterious problems.
There’s many more of these stories, but I can’t talk about most of those since there’s always some possibility of things moving forward.
Now, for you collectors, what was your favorite find, cartoon, antique or otherwise?
Have a good week everyone!