October 17, 2019 posted by Steve Stanchfield

The Itch For the Unseen, Again…

I’ve just closed the door for the night of the small Thunderbean office after a day of sorting labels and packing and packing. Catching up is approaching, but all that matters is trying to get as much out the door each day as possible. Now, back at home, I’m looking forward to sitting down and fixing little things on some of the Rainbow Parades, but I need to write this first before taking a look. At times I’m convinced this stuff is all driving me crazy, but at other times I realize how much I really enjoy this particular hobby that has turned into a little business.

Thunderbean is located on the second floor of an office building full of little start ups and small businesses. There’s a guy next to me building websites when he’s not playing on his drum kit, a CD and DVD duplication service, A video game company full of early 20-something up at all hours of the night, a union office, insurance company, massage therapist and more than one counselor. I’ve taken on the task of helping the new owners of this large building with various repairs and updating tasks, something I really enjoy when it works out. I’ve had my battles with replacing 60-year old sinks these last few weeks, and these are particular battles that I’d rather leave to others at some times and embrace at others.

Giving good presentations of classic films sort of scratches the same itch, oddly. As with the sinks in this unusual building, being used by all these disparate small businesses, the cartoon sets find all sorts of uses that I’ll never know about, from at home to school presentations and everything inbetween. I feel like the collectors now are often filling a missing gap in presenting these films to others, so I hope to do my part in making sure they are good quality representations of those productions. In the end, just the original film should be present, not the effort to present it or, in my opinion, any aspect that alters the original intention of the production.

The one thing I wish I could somehow get into a Blu-Ray or DVD is the tactile nature of the materials involved, from opening an ancient can, repairing ailing splices or staring through light at IB Technicolor images to the smell of the film, reels and equipment. There’s a great scene in Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) where Mr. Toad, dressed in his nightgown escape outfit, rides on the engine of a train, pulling all the controls and knobs, then smelling the smoke coming out of the engine; he’s truly ‘in’ the whole experience. It’s similar to enjoying *any* pursuit that has a tactile nature. Hard to smell the computer in the same way though I think.

Of course, in the world of digital video, these are not concerns really. In fact, in the world of the Internet, both ever hungry for new images and nonjudgmental in their presentation, there isn’t a care as to how anything has come back into the public sphere. Perhaps the liberation of unlimited eye candy actually makes one want to find something more unique, more unseen. Certainly Thunderbean has helped to make many films more accessible, but still, the obscure material seems to find its way into being obscure again, even when it *is* with the unlimited masses of imagery.

Many of the really hard to find things are still the most interesting I think. There’s too many irons on the fire currently here, especially in the ‘special’ sets. I’ve learned to shut my trap a little more these days about *some* work in progress things, but other things I almost want to talk about with the hope that someone will pick up the mantel of film scanning and restoration, or that someone else has access to that is willing to work in partnership.

Cartoonist, writer and Animator Milton Knight somehow always found a certain brand of odd in many things he’s sent my way. This film was no exception. The Spanish animated feature Garbancito de La Mancha (1945), directed by José María Blay and Arturo Moreno, is the first European Cel-animated feature, and bizarre in a more 1930s way than 40s. Garbancito, a mini- Don Quixote, rescues his friends and has lots of adventures with the help of his goat. The design sensibility seems to be influenced by a combination of comics, Ub Iwerks, mid to late 30’s Warner Brothers cartoons and Disney influences. It was released in English speaking countries in 1946 as ‘The Enchanted Sword’, but I couldn’t find a US release of the film.

The animation quality ranges throughout the film, with most of the film looking quite primitive compared to its US counterparts- early 30s animation comes to find in some of the timing choices especially. I really like the music in the opening segment. It’s clearly a learning project, but really interesting and fun in some ways.

It seems pretty hard to find in any ‘official’ release, at least in any listings. The Internet Archive has a copy that must be from a DVD of some sort. It’s miles above the old VHS I had from Milt many years back, but still I’d love to have this get a much better Blu-Ray treatment. If you speak Spanish it’s a much easier watch. Perhaps some day they’ll be a good translation done and a version in HD.

Have a good week everyone!


  • “My Thunderbean helpers are working hard to get all the Grotesqueries and other titles that are done out to all the pre-orders.” – you, two weeks ago. How’s that going? Will the Halloween disc be here in time for Halloween?

    • Ha. I’m still waiting for last year’s Christmas disc.

    • …and Cartoon Commercials Vol 2, pre-ordered August 2017.

  • Watched most of GARBANCITO DE LA MANCHA and thought it looked great considering the lack of restoration involved. The audio quality is excellent. Yes, it does resemble something made in 1935 rather than 1945 with a mix of Silly Symphony, Comicolor Cartoon and Fleischer Color Classic; the magical fairy looks more 1934 THE FLYING MOUSE than 1940 PINOCCHIO here. However, apart from the Soviets succeeding with Soyuzmultfilm, France’s Paul Grimault and David Hand getting bankrolled by UK’s Rank empire, it must have been quite the challenge competing with Disney and his U.S. contemporaries at the time. Especially if you are in a country that did not have much of an animation “industry” to begin with. This is why so much of the truly great “Disneyesque” animation of post-war Europe, in particular, went in the direction of stop-motion puppets, since only George Pal was competing in America there and he had pretty much phased out his Puppetoons by the time Jiri Trnka & the Czech school, DEFA-Studio für Trickfilme and the reorganized Dollywood in Holland hit their stride.

    • You make a lot of good points jlewis, but I wouldn’t describe the Czech & probably the other European stop-motion generally as being ‘Disneyesque’. The overall feel of these is very different eg. pretty much the entire stop-motion work of Trnka.
      He was called ( by Time magazine, or some such I think) the ‘Disney of the East’, but that I would imagine, would refer to the great cultural impact he had not his usual artistic style (not as great an impact, in popular terms at least, as Disney in most ways – but not an unreasonable comparison in that sense).
      Possibly also as part of a valiant attempt to try to encourage Americans – & other English speakers also – to watch his films!
      Which is a very good thing as, which I’m sure you’re aware, a lot of his work is beyond incredible – eg Midsummer’s Night Dream, Emperor’s Nightingale, Czech Year, Cybernetic Granny , Bayaya & others.
      The fully restored English subtitled, fairly recent DVD of ‘Old Czech Legends’ is very artistic & so on, though with that one, due to its fairly unrelenting atmospheric gloominess, I find it a bit hard to watch despite the sublime puppet work throughout.

    • Maybe “Disneyesque” was not the right word. I was thinking in terms of production polish. Do need to see “Old Czech Legends” on DVD. Of course, I have the selected shorts with “The Emperor’s Nightingale” DVD.

    • I see what you mean about production polish, even though the budgets were often relatively low they do look immaculate nearly always!
      All his work as director, as you’re probably aware, was issued – alas without English subtitles – on DVD, in Japan many years back (with removable Japanese subtitles).
      I’m guessing they may well be out of print now.
      The visual/audio quality on those is generally very good (though not nearly at the fully restored levels of the new-ish Czech DVD of ‘Old Czech Legends’).
      The Japanese edition in widescreen of Midsummer’s Night Dream has particularly good visual quality (& an unofficial, not widescreen, version of poorer visual quality, but with the Richard Burton narration has also been available as a DVD on the internet – & may welll still be).
      I’d especially recommend the Japanese DVD which includes ‘Cybernetic Granny’, if you haven’t come across it, because as well as being a brilliant film, there’s very little speech on the soundtrack.

  • The Spanish 1945 feature looks charming.
    Like you Steve I’d love to see a better edition with English subtitles. I’m guessing it’s probably not that likely to be a Thunderbean project, but if it was I’d definitely love to see such a release & would definitely buy/pre-order it!
    Thanks for putting it up & will try to watch the whole thing in the near future.

  • Thank you very much for this review of my country`s first animated feature! This copy from Internet Archive might be from some taped TV airing, as there is no offcial DVD release of GARBANCITO DE LA MANCHA (although it was released on VHS in Spain in the 80’s). Although the animation may look crude and the script is naive and formulable, it was a real tour de force to produce an animated feature at a time in which Spain was living the darkest years of Franco’s dictatorship. It was filmed in Dufaycolor, a British-made color process; because there were no color labs in Spain in those times, film rolls had to be sent to London, at a time when Britain’s capital city was being bombed by the Nazis. GARBANCITO was successful enough to spawn a sequel, ALEGRES VACACIONES (“Happy Holidays”), which premiered in 1948, and in which Garbancito and all the characters from the previous movie (including the bad guys), after their animation studio has closed for vacation, they decide themselves to take a vacation as well, travelling to various regions of Spain. Despite a more polished animation, ALEGRES VACACIONES suffered from an uneven script, and was less successful.

    • so your actually from Spain? Wow. Small world after all. did you know that another Spanish animated film was made in 1966 called “The Wizard of Dreams” a couple days after Disney passed on

  • Both this and THE ROSE OF BAGDAD/THE SINGING PRINCESS (Italy) show heavy influences from the Fleischers’ GULLIVER’S TRAVELS. A busy period; Denmark debuted its first feature, a version of THE TINDERBOX from Denmark in 1946, and THE DYNAMITE BROTHERS came from Italy in 1949. Before “global economy”, nations wanted to point with pride to *their* Disney, for cultural pride and as an industry. A friend whose memory I trust said he saw GARBANCITO in English on New York television.
    GARBANCITO was enough of a success to warrant the production company Balet y Blay to rush another feature through production: ALEGRES VACACIONES (HAPPY VACATIONS), an attempted SALUDOS AMIGOS-type travelogue. Its hurried opportunism was evident onscreen, and the producers released just one more feature in 1951 before declaring its bankruptcy.
    Thanks, Steve, for mentioning me! Your discs are true treasures.

  • I’m getting a sensation of late 30’s Terrytoons here in some areas of this feature.

  • I am the happy owner of a complete super 8 Spanish copy of GARBANCITO and I agree at all points with Alfons. I want to add that the film is actually a series of short stories that form the plot,perhaps with the idea to release them separately in case of difficulty.

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