November 16, 2023 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Some thoughts on preservation and access to classic animation–and “No Mutton Fer Nuttin” (1943)

In Thunderbean news:
I’m really looking forward to the upcoming show at the Redford Theatre in Redford, Michigan this Saturday. We’ll be showing cartoons in 35mm and digital for this year’s event. There are two different shows, one at 2 and one at 8, so we’ll be showing more films than we have have in the 10+ years we’ve been doing the festival. Jane Fleischer Reid and Ray Pointer will be in attendance to introduce and a Q&A, as well as some of the folks that work on film preservation at Thunderbean as well as with Jane on the Fleischer restoration project. Being able to present films on the big screen to an audience makes all the effort worth it. On a little side note, I’ll be on WDET (NPR) tomorrow at 12:30 or so EST to promote the event today.

You can find more information on the show here. Come if you can!

In terms of the film work we’re doing these days, there are days I wonder how all of this stuff managed to get done at all, and other times I can’t even believe I’m working on all these different things. I’m glad you folks are all here to give a reason for all this madness.

VB Tom and Jerry will finally be off to replication within the week. As far as cleanup, the Fleischer films and the Rainbow Parade cartoons are taking up a good amount of the time when I’m not working at the school at this point. The next several months are exciting to me in that we’ll be scanning a large amount of the Comi-Color cartoon negatives that we haven’t scanned yet. In addition, the Bunin project is being worked on every week a little. Being surrounded by too many things right now seems inevitable- but luckily, at both the school at at Thunderbean there’s a good group of people I work with that are supportive of each other and help to get these things done well; there’s nothing better than a well-oiled machine of people that love what they do. I’m going to keep gravitating towards harmony.

Sometimes I feel like we’re up against the clock in trying to accomplish so many things between all the different projects. I understand that the most important thing is to really figure out how best to make Thunderbean work and support itself well enough to move things forward even faster with less of a bottleneck. This means change and growth in what we do, and change is always difficult!

When thinking about the preservation and cleanup side of things, the biggest struggle in accomplishing whatever goals one wants to in preserving animated films is that, no matter what, it’s time consuming and often really complicated— much more so than is often apparent. Finding the materials you want to use can take years at times if they show up at all. The archives and community of collectors really makes a huge difference in being able to find the rarest things. That doesn’t begin to mention the people aspect of all these things.

While there’s a lot of projects in the works, there are several that I haven’t talked about at all that are moving forward as well— so get ready for a surprise or two or three at some point. Those are the nearest and dearest to me currently.

There’s just a few ‘older’ projects at this point that we have great resolve to make happen. Dave Gerstein and I have started to talk a little bit more about the Felix project again, and this always seems to lead me to open up one of the hard drives and watch a few things. We started that project with Felix the Cat productions back in 2010, and since then have managed to continue to collect and scan films since, making it the largest collection of digitized Felix cartoons anywhere I think. Technology has improved since we’ve done the oldest of those scans— but sadly some of the elements we scanned back then don’t exist any more. There’s always more work to do.

Access to these classic (and otherwise!) animated films online, theatrically and home video keeps them alive for us to enjoy and introduce to new generations. I’ve always thought it was a shame that the best versions of so many productions have been preserved and are impossible to see, so we’ll keep working on changing that. The next several years will be exciting in new ways, and I can’t wait.

Now — enough of all of that nonsense and onto what we’re really here for: A Cartoon!!

A few month’s back I won a rare Kodachrome print on Ebay of No Mutton Fer Nuttin’ the first Noveltoon from Famous Studios, from a collector in England. Other than a jump splice near the end and no Paramount mountain at the beginning, it’s a pretty decent print of the cartoon in 16mm, so I scanned it and here it is for all of you Blackie the Sheep fans. We’ve been working a little while on a set called ‘Even More Noveltoons’. This will definitely be included on that set.

I love how immediately ‘Non-Fleischer’ the Noveltoons try to be in flavor, setting the stage for the Popeyes and other series to follow.

Now, let’s hope a 35mm In shows up on this one!

Have a good week everyone!!


  • Always something great to look forward to in these posts. Yes, I certainly hope that a great print, complete, shows up on this title. I look forward to the Blu-ray when it does come out. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the heck out of “flip the frog“. Such a great find, and a great collection! Good luck, in everything you do, as always.

  • I like the four Blackie Noveltoons, and “No Mutton Fer Nuttin’” was a strong start to the series. The gags are clever and imaginative, and they keep right on coming. Even so, it pales in comparison with the screwball cartoons that MGM and Warners were putting out at this time. It’s like a performance of a great piece of music where all the musicians are playing perfectly together, in tune and in balance, and yet it just doesn’t “pop”. That’s the problem: there’s no poppin’ fer nuttin’. But I think it comes as close to popping as Famous ever would.

    I look forward to when you can disclose some details about these top secret Thunderbean projects you keep mentioning. Meanwhile, all I can do is speculate….

  • Steve
    I always appreciate a post with the word Bunin in it! Thanks.

  • Looking forward to the VB Tom and Jerry set. Those characters have really grown on me over the years, so of the concepts and gags are top notch. The title of the one they turn into Swiss cheese escapes me, but it’s a brilliant little short.

  • I know the Felix project has had some roadblocks, but it’s great that you were able to scan some of the elements before they vanished! See you on Saturday at the Redford!

  • The color is wonderful on this. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for all that you painstakingly do, Steve (and all the others in the Thunderbean team). My copy of the FLIP Blu-ray set just arrived here in Australia, and I spent all last night watching Disc one and listening to the fine commentaries. The Flips have never simply looked better, and some of them, visually, are on par with the Disney Treasures releases of the black and white Mickeys. Congrats. Looking forward to the Comicolors when they can be completed. Take care.

  • The CC on this scan looks great. Gamma still maybe slightly high, but anyways, Kodachrome has some very good colors and here the print somehow looks close to Technicolor in my head. What’s the date code on this one?

    Hope to see your outcome on Rainbow Parades, black cats, and Comicolors! Cheers, Jackson

  • Clearly the Paramount brass was demanding that Famous come up with the kind of screwball animal characters that were in vogue at the time. A couple of the last black and white Popeyes have him in conflict with a goat and a woodpecker, even though we all know Popeye loves “aminals.” Blackie didn’t quite make the grade: as catchphrases go, “Are you kiddin’?” is no “What’s up, doc?”

  • I really hope my Flip the Frog preorder ships soon, I can’t wait to see it…

  • Nice Short Steve!!!! I really liked it Jack Mercer’s voice in this cartoon

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