February 28, 2019 posted by Steve Stanchfield

“The Ski’s the Limit” (1949) – and projects in progress

Happy almost-March everyone!

Hard Drive 26 is plugged in all the time right now since it contains the working versions of many of the current Thunderbean projects. File management has become a big thing here now, and the concern of losing things to failing hard drives always looms in the background, so I back things up pretty frequently. So many things are sailing around right now that I haven’t had a chance to get back to work personally on too much, but I’m at least catching up with orders and missed things this past week. If you’re waiting on something that is done I hope to have them all out within the week, finally. Then I’ll be very happy to be back to getting new sets out.

While waiting on new sound and picture elements on some of the Flips, Rainbows and Noveltoons, I’ve had a chance to review materials for Stop Motion Marvels 2. I’m hoping to have a post about the set in the coming few weeks. Next week is spring break here, and I’m hoping to travel a little to get as many things done as possible. There’s films in three different parts of the country that need to get here right now, but all need some supervision first. Other sets are still in progress, with most of the special sets getting a lot of attention in the coming weeks.

One of the things I love best about doing the sets is the bonus features; it’s always fun to find production materials and other things related to the films or studio that produced them.I’ve always liked the idea of the sets being an organized place to see all the films in a series as well as having other materials for additional entertainment as well as knowledge. The bonus features end up being in production a majority of the time through each set, although they rarely come together until the very end.

I use a lot of the Thunderbean sets for my History of Animation class here. I especially like to use some of the bonus materials on the Cartoons for Victory set, especially the propaganda posters archive. I also really love the Famous Artists section by Chad on how to produce TV animation. My favorite commentaries on any of the sets are on Cultoons 1 and 2. They’re freewheeling and somewhat out of control gatherings of cartoon fans watching some of the more bizarre cartoons from the 30s and 40s.

Some of my favorite galleries are on the first Aesop’s Fables Thunderbean dvd. That one has been out of print for a while, but the bonus things are designed by Chris Buchman, including his sing-along rendition of the Aesop’s Fables song, form the back of a Aesop’s Fables children’s book.

I’ve been working on updating the Rainbow Parade bonus things for the first disc; since the contents are similar to the DVD set we did many years back, I have a lot of things for the still galleries already. I’m still looking for model sheets and related items to the films, so if you have anything especially rare and cool you would like to share we’d love to use it for the set. I especially love the model sheets we’ve been able to use on the set. I’ve collected some of them myself over the years. We also have a few surprises for the set too. I’m hoping major strides will take place on finishing the set in the coming few weeks. It’s closer than Flip is, but Flip is getting there fast.

The Flip the Frog set is humming right along, and Greg Ford as well as David Gerstein will be helping out with some of the bonus materials on the set. I’m looking forward to working with him as we start to get things together.

These two projects have been really long roads to gather materials, and while both are not there quite yet, seeing so many pieces start to come back all shiny as well as the ones I’ve been working on here is nice. It will be an incredible day when both are off the schedule here and into living rooms. I’ll be taking a trip up to scan more nitrate in 5k soon, and can’t wait for all elements to be in the can for both projects. We’ve thought about having one of these Thunderbean Thursdays as a youtube trip to doing scans one of these times- showing the process for both the 5k and a standard telecine scan.

Now.. onto today’s cartoon: The Ski’s the Limit (1949)

In theory, I’m nearly finished the Screen Songs special set, even though there’s a few more films I’d like to include on it, and still might if they show up here on time! Collector Paul Mular has been especially kind in helping with this set, and he has nice prints of many of the shorts in 16mm. All of the prints on this special set are really nice, and it makes me think I should just do a ‘real’ release of it….

It’s funny that I get more requests for the Screen Songs than almost anything else. I think a lot of their newfound popularity has to do with their presence on PD VHS and DVD sets in the 90s and early 2000s. As with a lot of the Famous Studios cartoons, the most available copies are the red TV prints from the early to later 60s that NTA made. Sometimes we’ve been lucky in that some prints were made in Kodachrome, and they still look good all these years later. Note that this cartoon was made in Polacolor; I have yet to see a surviving 35mm Polacolor print.

I wonder how many people sang along to these films; does anyone remember going to a theatre and seeing one with a singing audience? I think its especially fun to see the relationship these shorts have to the Fleischer shorts from the 20s and 30s with the bouncing ball.

Have a good week everyone!


  • So happy to hear of progress on so many of these sets. I noticed that MID-CENTURY MODERN, VOL. 1 on blu-ray is already up for pre-order. Can’t wait to check out my copy as that series of two disks has been one of my favorites…

    …My relationship with the Famous Studios’ SCREEN SONGS cartoons goes back to way too many TV viewings. When I was a kid, unfortunately, there weren’t too many opportunities in my town to see classic toons on the big screen. There was only that circulating of “THE TOM AND JERRY FESTIVAL OF FUN” show of classic MGM cartoons, and I’ve yet to see any posts on this site specifically about that show which must have toured the country sometimes in the early 1960’s.

    I wonder how many of the SCREEN SONGS are in the public domain. Do you think it would be possible to actually do a COMPLETE SERIES set? How many of the songs that we were asked to sing along to were actually copyrighted by the studio, and how much was in the public domain? The yodeling song that is often heard in mountain climber animated cartoons has shown up in so many places aside from its frequent use in Paramount cartoons. I even heard it in a later Warner Brothers cartoon with Bugs Bunny, but I cannot remember the title of the specific cartoon.

    • It’s a good bet that the entire series in in the Public Domain since they have been out of TV distribution for 50 years. While Public Domain songs were generally used, it would be judicious to do a copyright search on certain ones to be sure, especially songs from the Famous Music catalogue.

  • I do recall a screening of the Fleischer’s Screen Song LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART at the International Animation Festival of Annecy, France, way back in 1985: believe me, the whole audience was singing full-throated the title song!

  • I can recall some Fleischer screenings at FilmEx in the late-1970s where they showed some Screen Songs, and the whole audience was “following the bouncing ball.”

  • Was “Start Your Day With A Song” ever published as sheet music for the home market? It’s a top fave song of mine.

  • In the mid-90’s I was teaching a class on Film Appreciation to a mixed group of court-appointed teens, and I showed one of the black-and-white Fleischer song series as part of my Animation Week. I think the title of the song was “Because She Reminds Me of You.” With no prompting whatsoever from me, these tough and streetwise young people sang along with the bouncing ball. They were quite enchanted overall with the Fleischer films, despite the vast gulf of years. So I believe that people of all ages and all eras could be cajoled into singing along with these great old cartoons.

  • People have sang along to these cartoons as these fans have said– so would you please someday do a COMPLETE SERIES set? And if you do, NO CHICKENING OUT AND DOING VOLUMES AT THE LAST MINUTE (1,2,3,etc)!

    Here’s how you can do it:

    Make it a hardcore collector’s item—even more than any TB project before. Collectible glasses of the bouncing ball, plus Lithograph with Ginny Mahoney’s signature on it!

    Make the scans 8k or 10k, with compatibility with HD and 4K.

    Remember Steve, your fans are counting on you!

  • So, what was that penultimate line in the theme song? To me, it always sounded like “Orkey, on key, any old key. Except “orkey” is not a word.
    It would make sense if it was “off key”, but I don’t hear it.

    One online source has it as “low key, high key”, but it ain’t that either.

    • That was “off key, on key, any old key…just start the day with a song.”

    • It’s “Off key, on key, any old key.” The song was written by Buddy Kaye and Dick Manning, and originated in the 1947 Paramount cartoon “The Wee Men.” It’s sung under the main titles and has another chorus and verse. Here’s a link to a video clip that is in black and white but has good audio for the music.

    • Well, that didn’t work, here’s the link.

  • With regards to the original “Bouncing Ball” films of the 1920s, the KO-KO SONG CAR-TUNES, I purchased a negative reel of several of from 1926 20 years ago. These were the ones that were made with the deForest Phonofilm process, and were the first pairing of animation with sound that we know of. This collection was released as a program in VHS and DVD in 2003 and won the Platinum Award for Short Subject Entertainment in The Houston International Film Festival.

    • And if there’s a Complete Series set for Screen Songs (but that’ll be a pipe dream for now), I’ll ask for your prints of the Song Car-tunes to be transferred by Ray!

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