April 13, 2020 posted by Tommy Stathes

The 16mm Cartoon Carnival Goes Online

Photo by Nelson Hughes

Cartoon Researchers, I’m reporting to you from the absolute epicenter of the current COVID-19 epicenter—Queens, New York City. It goes without saying that things are quite scary and stressful here on a day to day basis, and we are ever-more aware of the precariousness of life. There are plenty of news reports out there on what’s happening in this particular area, so I’ll spare you of the sordid details. Instead, I’ll share a more uplifting bit of news about one animation history-related method of coping and adapting to the situation.

Photo Credit: Julie Orlick

The last time I wrote for Cartoon Research was in May of last year, when I was gearing up for the big 10th anniversary program in my 16mm Cartoon Carnival series. It was an incredibly fun day of new and old friends gathering to enjoy cartoons from the 1910s through the 1950s that all centered on a party or celebration theme. We even had a big celebratory cake; so much so that there were lots of leftovers. If more of you could have flown in from afar, I wouldn’t have had to keep eating that good stuff for nearly a week later.

Now, our quarantining has changed life quite a bit and one significant change is the loss of live events in brick-and-mortar establishments. Once it became clear that my March Cartoon Carnival—two programs dedicated specifically to cartoons of the 1920s; a celebration of that decade a century later — would be cancelled, I had to think quickly about what I could possibly do to make lemonade out of the lemons. After all, not only are the monthly shows a lot of fun for me on a personal level — I also absolutely rely on their proceeds to help fund my very costly off-site storage fees for the Stathes film archive. I’m something of a luddite and don’t use current computer or internet technologies to their fullest abilities, but I was becoming more and more aware that folks around me were starting to use the internet more than ever to somehow adapt to the new situation. Streaming! Voila!

Tommy with Cartoon Carnival right hand man and cohost, Nelson Hughes. Photo credit: Joel Schlossberg

After hobbling together a few pieces of tech that I already had on hand and taking a little crash course in learning about streaming, I decided to go ahead with the regularly scheduled shows in a completely new online format. Somehow, and despite some slight issues with video quality with one of the cameras, it worked! And with only a few days in advance to promote the online shows, we were even able to drum up a crowd of nearly a hundred viewers. This was both a fun, new experience and a last-minute rescue effort for the Cartoon Carnival. Since those shows took place, I managed to acquire a better camera for capturing the 16mm films as they’re projected on the screen and feel confident about that aspect. All of this is something I would like to continue doing every month, even after regular local events start up, so folks everywhere can enjoy regardless of geographical location—that’s where you come in!

This month’s online Carnival will take place on Saturday, April 25th at 3pm eastern (EDT). I had been planning last month’s 1920s programs before quarantining began, so thankfully I had the necessary films at home. What’s different now is that we are avoiding all unnecessary trips outside, and so I must rely on whatever films are laying around here at home. There are several cluttered stacks of 16mm cartoons here; mostly recent acquisitions of the past several months that had not yet been screened, entered into my database, and hauled off to storage. Thankfully, these stacks also represent a good cross section of time periods, studios, and characters. Perfect fodder for A. putting together programming for ongoing online Carnivals during quarantine, and B. decluttering as I use them! Since this April program should be reaching and even wider audience than the last minute shows in March, what I wanted to do was put together a compilation featuring some big names: Felix the Cat, Koko the Clown, Farmer Alfalfa, Betty Boop, Popeye, and Bugs Bunny…to appeal to ‘general’ Golden Age animation loving audiences, and I’ll still throw in a few oddities for good measure. I don’t advertise individual titles, as usual, but trust it will be a fun lineup. If you’re interested in taking part in the event, both to enjoy a form of film viewing that’s fast becoming extinct, *and* to help support this series during a difficult time, check out the new dedicated Online Cartoon Carnival page which has additional information and instructions for purchasing tickets and viewing the stream. During the show, you’ll also note that I’m having people email comments and questions to be read at the end of the program. It’s the least I can do short of having a live audience in the room with me, and I’m really missing that aspect of these events. In any case, thanks in advance for partaking and sharing news this with friends…

Film stacks at Tommy’s home

Another fun tidbit, in the meantime, is another one of my poster creation time lapse video posts. I know some of you like the custom posters that have been created for these shows over the past couple of years, and it’s fun being able to share creative process as a behind-the-scenes work in progress. Be sure to swipe to see stills and videos of different stages. Visit Instagram here.

And — If anyone would like to be added to an event mailing list so you’ll receive more frequent updates on these shows, simply get in touch here.

Before I sign off, though, I wanted to share a more personal appeal regarding my close friend and Cartoon Carnival cohost, Nelson Hughes. Also a longtime friend of Jerry Beck and many in the Cartoon Research crew, Nelson is a fellow Queens resident and living out the same day-to-day stressors that we’re going through here with the pandemic; however, to a far more disadvantaged extent than some of us. Unfortunately, Nelson was both diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy *and* laid off from his job on the same day recently. Weeks later, and our local unemployment website and phone banks remain mostly inaccessible because of the surge of folks who have lost work and are trying to collect benefits. As a result of all this, the least I could do was set up a GoFundMe to assist Nelson with some very urgently needed funds so his basic living expenses could be covered in the coming weeks. To any friends and readers out there who may be inclined to assist, I invite you to read more at the fundraiser page and contribute, if at all possible. We’re both incredibly grateful for all the help.

Tommy with Nelson and friend, comedian Bob Greenberg

In any case, I look forward to having you all enjoy the upcoming Online Cartoon Carnival. Stay safe and healthy out there!


  • Glad to hear you’ve making the best of a terrible situation, Tommy. In my time zone the Cartoon Carnival kicks off at 5 AM on a Sunday morning, but I bought my ticket just the same and hope to drag my weary bones out of bed in time to watch at least part of it. Feel free to bill it as your first “worldwide” Cartoon Carnival. At least now those of us in other countries can check out your collection of film cartoons!

    • I really appreciate that, Paul. I wish it would be happening during a more amenable time for you, but hope you’re still able to catch it!

  • Stay healthy Tom, the world needs people like you.

    • Thanks Al, and likewise!

  • Hey Tommy, What’s the update on that new “You Know What” Blu-Ray? How Many Cartoons Will Be In There? Is it just 15 or all the shorts that are found in your collection? Any release window?

    • Hi Andres, the upcoming set will have 15 cartoons, like all of the previous sets. I hope to write more about it here on Cartoon Research when it’s actually available to buyers. Possibly later this spring or in the summer. Stay t00ned!

    • Ok. I really wish you’d put 20 titles on… But 15 will hold me.

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