First, some brief Thunderbean news:
Flip the Frog and The Little King set are taking all the time here. We’ll be sending Flip off to replication this month, finally. The Little King should be off to replication by the end of the month. Looking forward to talking about them begin finished!
..and now, onto the ‘Cultoons’ sets!
35 years back now, I took the minimum wage money I was making working at a movie theatre and Cottage Inn Pizza in Ann Arbor, Michigan and started scanning a bunch of cartoons for the line of ‘Snappy Video’ VHS cassettes. There was a set of Cubby Bear and Comi-Color Cartoons, Early Warner Brothers and Van Beuren ‘Toddle Tales’, a set of Felix the Cat and other Rarities, and Cultoons, volume 1 and 2, two one hour sets of things that didn’t fit into any particular category other than they were oddities in the history of animated films.
So, fast forward all these years, and we’re finally getting around to revisiting a set of the most obscure things we’ve managed to come across- some are upgrades from the version we had back then, while others are newer discoveries. Quite honestly, the best thing about all these sets is that the films are accessible in decent quality in a digital age that has favored the most remembered films and seemingly barred some from ever being seen from the best material that exists.
Some of the films that first appeared on the ‘Cultoons’ sets were black and white versions of color films. An unofficial hunt for them was started way back when, and as some of them turned up in color I didn’t want to wait to release them, so the Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares set was a good choice for them.
As additional films would show up in better versions, I’ve been scanning them and keeping track of what archives or collectors had other ones. We’ve been doing Blu-rays for some time now, it seemed fitting to start putting together this set that has been in some sort of progress since 2014.
The name ‘Cultoons’ is the creation of longtime cartoon film collector and artist Collin Kellogg. He thought it would be funny to call a set that name, and considered the small group of cartoon collectors and fans in Brooklyn as the ‘Cult’ of Cultoons. This group including Milton Knight, Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald. Collin started telling me about some of the oddities he had found over the years, as did Cartoonologist Jeff Missinne and a few other collectors. I had been fascinated by the most obscure stuff since reading an article by Jerry Beck back in 1981 – so, all these collections are really his fault for inspiring this then 13 year old to attempt to find more and more weird stuff in 16mm and 35mm.
One of the favorite results of this obsession has been new crops of cartoon fans finding these films, both on the discs and various YouTube uploads, sharing them with even more people- keeping them oddly obscure still, but findable if you looked hard enough.
Here’s some of my own personal favorites that showed up on those sets.
Les Elton’s bizarre little cartoon is still one of my favorite things ever. Odder still is that outtake footage showed up in several pieces as silent 16mm home movie prints. The extra footage was added for the DVD release back in 2005, but Macinac Media, the company that released our sets for a little while back then, insisted on authoring the set. When they did, they oddly made an edit mistake on Monkeydoodle that included the same shot twice. 35mm on this short exists, and we’ll be scanning it for this new set.
Here’s the standard def version, from Collin Kellogg’s nice old 16mm print-uploaded by Fortdomain:
The Hobo Hero (1935)
Elton’s other known effort is easily as bizarre in some ways, but technically much more advanced than his earlier independent film. I’ve heard 35mm exists on this as well, but Collin’s 16mm print is pretty nice. Uploaded by Nostalgic Memories:
Winky the Watchman (1945)
I’ve always hoped this beautifully animated short from Hugh Harman productions would show up in 35mm Ib Technicolor, but so far we haven’t been that lucky.
PM Picnic (1948)
Jeff Missinne sold this print to me as a teenage back in 1986, and I’ve been happy to have put it on Cultoons and the more recent Blu-ray ‘Odds and Ends’. I did an article a while back on this one for Cartoon Research back in 2014 here. Oddly enough, some internet sources are now listing this film as being made in 1950. It’s actually 1948 – and had the date on it in a crumpled piece of film at the very end that wasn’t scannable. Maybe someday another print will emerge of this short. There’s got to be at least one more survivor!
There’s 45 films on the new double disc set. It’s a project I’ve been working on for some time here and there, and I’m glad to be getting it together this year as some of the other collections near completion.
Cuttoons The Blu-ray Collection is available now as a pre-order at the Thunderbean Shop
Have a good week everyone!