Today was another film transfer day, but because of school meetings I wasn’t able to supervise the whole session; I dropped the films off and Pat Mathews, colorist and Telecine magician, performed his magic on them. I can’t show any
of this stuff here (yet anyway) but they’ll be seen before too long. What I can say is that it’s incredible to view how beautiful some of these films can look coming from first or second generation materials – in this case, new 16mm prints
made from vintage 16mm negs and 35mm lavender protection master positive picture materials (with original titles yet!). There are MANY more to do too! I was thrilled to be able to look at and evaluate these original materials, and even
more thrilled to see what they look like in HD. There are some good sets coming up, and there are so many people that have helped make these things happen. It’s important to me that Thunderbean remains an animation community effort rather than a silo. It’s unusual to be able to grow a little company like this one, but it isn’t without some major growing pains.
One of the major projects that we’ve been working on for the past three years is in a sort of holding pattern that I hope is resolved sooner than later. It’s the first project that Thunderbean had licensed, and involved gathering materials from archives and private collections around the world. The talented animation/comics researcher and writer David Gerstein is my partner on this project, as well as another soon to be announced set. Since it’s on hold, it’s opened up time for others to move forward, but we hope to be back to it soon.
The Technicolor Dreams disc has been getting good feedback as the copies go out – it’s been a bit of bottleneck here, but I’m finally caught up on sending things. It’s nice to have a house that isn’t full of yellow envelopes waiting to be packed, or packed ones sitting around waiting for the next morning. I’m happy to hear people are enjoying the set; one person wrote that he sat down with his kids to take a quick look, and they ended up watching the whole disc.
There always seems to be multiple projects involving all sorts of aspects going on here all the time; I’m going to do my best to really concentrate on just one aspect of each at a time in this coming period for once! Classes are starting for my ‘real’ job (at the College for Creative Studies) so this will be taking up my days again, and the night belong to Thunderbean. The company has continued to expand, but most of the projects right now are in earlier stages. I’m really excited to get further into each of them soon enough, and now had a little more help doing so. We’ll be expanding into live action for at least a few of the upcoming projects, but this blog is about animation, so I won’t talk about those too much here.
Getting feedback on projects that you, the cartoon diehards are interested in is one of the biggest influences on what to do next, though it’s sometimes like running a race in slow motion to work out deals as I get into licensing materials more. There’s a few things I really want to do, and deals working on coming together, so cross some fingers and toes for these please, even if I can’t tell you what they are just yet!
As I was going though things at my mother’s house recently, I found a box of cassette tapes from the 70s, all home recordings; one labeled ‘Thunderbean’ popped up and grabbed my eye. I had been looking for this one tape for YEARS.
Thunderbean was the name of a superhero puppet my brother and I came up with to perform puppet shows for our cousins. We adapted a ‘Cookie Monster’ puppet into the character. I think I was about 7 or 8 at the time. This tape was the voice work that went along with the puppet show. I haven’t listened to it yet, but will in the coming weeks. We spoofed the old Batman theme as the title song to the puppet show, singing ‘Thunderbean! (Oh yeah), Thunderbean (oh yeah), Thunderbean! (oh YEAH YEAH!!!)’. Later, we named one of our cats ‘Thunderbean’. Maybe that recording should be at the front on the new discs… .
Many years later we were trying to come up with a name for my small animation company. My friend and co-worker Charlie Reppuhn suggested ‘Moosy Chooch’ as the name, something his grandmother used to call him as a kid (I think it meant ‘face like a donkey’ or something close to that…). Sometimes I wish I had kept that as a name, but Thunderbean ended up getting picked. It may have been Mary that made the second to final call. Animator and artist Pat Pakula came up with the logo back in 1998. I wanted it to look a little like the old Cinerama logo, but it may also have been (at least partially) inspired by the “Thunder bowl” bowling ally in Allen Park, Michigan, near Lincoln Park where Pat was from.
My friend Ken Priebe had one of the biggest influences on helping to get ‘Thunderbean’ back into the business of releasing old cartoons again (on DVD instead of the first incarnations in VHS). His interest in the old films helped me to get excited about trying to go further than I had in the late 80s in tracking down these films. The color print of Mendelssohn’s Spring Song was found because Ken took an email I sent him and made a web page called ‘Steve’s History Bits’. The person selling the film found me through that site since it was the only information on the internet about the film at that time. When’Thunderbean’ was named, Ken had left our little animation studio and was in Vancouver, but his influence in moving the company forward can’t be understated.
So, there. Enough about Thunderbean! Time for a cartoon!
The Van Beuren cartoon Silvery Moon (1933) is well remembered among the company’s short films, and it must be at least in part because Official Film’s version (called ‘Candytown‘) was available in home movie prints as well as 16mm rentals, and appeared on TV. Animator Sally Cruikshank has said this cartoon was one of her major influences in developing her films. I’ve always liked the film, but The Wild Goose Chase (also 1933) I think is even more fun. It has a similar structure to Silvery Moon, with the same stars, but is even more bizarre, and features a memorable song (sung by studio regular Margie Hines and an unknown male lead.. does anyone know?). I especially like the relationship between the two characters in the story; he cheers her up with song in the beginning of the picture, and she returns the favor at the end of the film. In many ways it feels like a earlier Porky in Wackyland (1937). Someone recently suggested it would have been better if the Fleischers produced this one, but if they had, it would be a different film! I’m happy they made it just the way they did. It is on the DVD included on Technicolor Dreams. It’s close to my favorite of all the black and white Van Beurens. The print here is courtesy of the essential Mark Kausler. Enjoy.