March 12, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Thunderbean Travels – and an RKO Newsreel Featuring ‘Snow White’ (1938)

Spring break here has been really busy so far. I’ve been trying to make the most of this week away from the school by traveling to pick up some nitrate cartoons as well as some safety ones, work on scanning a lot of things, and trying to organize things. I got word just a bit ago that CCS, the college I teach at, will be closed an additional week as we figure out how to transition to online courses as much as possible in response to the current health challenges. I know we all hope things return to a more normal state for all of us sooner than later, worldwide, so I send my best to you wherever you are reading this.

On the travels, I was lucky enough to be able to swing by and say hi to our own Devon Baxter, who I had never met face to face. It was nice to now have met in person every member of the usual Thunderbean team now. We spent a brisk hour talking about cartoons and research, and I’m always impressed at his knowledge.

Although it’s largely virtual, getting things really up and running on the Rainbow Parade menu screen animation has been a lot of fun. I’ll be talking more about it in the coming weeks, but I hope to have things moving pretty fast as the first half gets closer to the finish line.

Something that us (largely older) folks that collect film take for granted is the coolness of seeing and working with original old film prints.

One of these weeks I’d like to haul out some things here and do a short video on looking at the actual materials. I’ve been looking at film since I was a teenager, and I was truly thrilled looking at some of the things just acquired. There’s so many more things to get to before they don’t exist. Many of these things are in peril, and even though they are in private hands and being cared for, sometimes that’s just not enough to combat the ravages of time, especially ‘Vinegar Syndrome’ (really just acetate deterioration).

After this weekend’s film pick-up, I’m pretty excited to get things on the scanner since some projects are now really coming together. One of them took a huge step forward. Between what is already here and some of the new material, there are 14 Paramount ‘Little Lulu’ cartoons here we haven’t scanned yet- some 16mm, some 35mm. We decided to do a special set to help support some of the other projects in the hopper. Details are here.

While sometimes the amount of projects in progress here has been dizzying, it’s also been a great opportunity to be able to get various films for all sorts of things scanned as they become available. While I really do enjoy a deeper dive into a single project for some time, I’m more than happy to have a bunch of them steadily on their way to the finish line. I only wish the operation was big enough to support them all moving forward all the time.

Something I hope to update at some point (way down the line!) is a set called ‘Makin’ ‘Em Move’. This DVD featured behind the scenes films showing the making of cartoons. More films of this type have become available, and even though a set like this is never one of the more popular ones, the footage is especially cool and often really rare.

One of the films on the set was an RKO Newsreel from 1938. The first half of the newsreel, ‘Spirit Swindles’ features tricks of the trade used by scam spiritualists. It’s pretty campy and fun when viewed today. The second half, ‘Cartoon Craft’ features behind the scenes footage of the Disney Studio producing Snow White. I have a pretty decent dupe of this newsreel (scanned here) but since then I’ve heard of a collector that either provided the print that this one was made from or another better print. This one will do just fine for today’s post though.

Disney’s Hyperion Avenue studio in 1938

There’s a wonderful shot at the beginning of the segment showing Hyperion Ave in 1938. That area today is, of course, unrecognizable. Walt pulling up to the studio, followed by some wonderful shots that give you a nice glimpse into what the studio was like around this period. From there, there are shots of Ham Luske, Les Clarke and others, along with Frank Churchill playing piano. While It’s not a terribly illuminating little peek into production, but still lovely.

Some of the same footage was recut and used by RKO in more than one film. Here’s another newsreel that features some of the same footage:

Have a good week everyone!


  • When you say “was just on the just on the ‘Terry/Lantz/ Famous set'” you suggest that set is out. Mine hasn’t yet arrived. But I did order Lulu.

  • I wonder if those seven dwarves figurines still exist?
    For some reason the film about Snow White made me sad.
    This truly was the golden age of animation, now all we have is CGI garbage.

  • That bit where the two sound effects guys drop a pane of glass from a ladder must have been staged for the newsreel. When an orchestra needs to do broken glass effects, generally one of the percussionists places a pane of glass over a metal barrel and smashes it with a hammer. The shards fall inside, so the mess is easy to clean up, and the timing can be controlled precisely. Making a two-man job out of it seems awfully inefficient.

    • Two man job? Nowadays the union would probably make the studio pay four workers to drop the glass.

  • The Little Lulu set sounds really cool, but I am very wary of pre-ordering anything from Thunderbean right now.

    I sent close to $200.00 to Steve for a bunch of Blu-rays almost 2 years ago. I have sent e-mails to try and check up on the status of the orders and have receives no response. For all I know, my order has been lost in tje shuffle and I may never receive the goods I was told I was purchasing.

    It makes me sad because I love the work that Thunderbean does and I want to support the various projects, but I just don’t trust that if I send them money for a pre-order or special set, that I will recieve said set. Especially if I see that they are offering NEW sets when I still haven’t recieved my two year old order.

    I still will support by buying already released discs because thunderbean does such a darn good job, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t frustrated and dissappointed that my purchase seems to have turned into a donation.

    • I gotta admit that I’m in the same boat, I’ve been ordering the special sets one after the other for a couple of years and to date have received exactly one of them, with no response to inquiries. I support Steve and Thunderbean, but this has been a cause for frustration.

    • I know how you feel. I really wanted the Betty Boop special disc. The link didn’t work for me. I tried repeatedly to get a response, and an alternative. I never got a reply. Yes, I will buy Thunderbean official releases. Whenever that is.

    • I get a set from them occasionally. Always welcome. But I have been waiting for Mid-Century Modern, that Lantz set, and Censored Cartoons for quite some time. Over the years, I’ve moved twice and although I’ve let Steve know, I’m always fretful one of these sets I ordered 3 or 4 years ago will end up going to an old address.

    • My repeated inquiries about the presumably aborted (but prepaid, I’m sure, by many more than myself) POPEYE IN TECHNICOLOR also have gone ignored. It’s a bit reassuring that many of us are in the same leaky life raft.

  • The Thunderbean email was spammed pretty badly several times. If there’s something that’s missing that is finished that you don’t have, please send a note to, and be sure to include your address; we’re trying really hard to make sure that anything missed gets to everyone.

    • Unfortunately I have had to come to the conclusion you are not trying hard on this – & that perhaps you don’t really care that much; your priorities being more to do scanning etc rather than to actually send those sets which have been completed to all those who have paid for them.

      After protracted similar problems in the last 2 or 3 years or so (most notably it taking 6 months to get a faulty disc re-sent from a 2-disc set I ordered with you on Amazon) it is now seeming pretty impossible to get you to send to the ‘Cartoony Christmas” disc to me.

      You are still recommending people to contact you at the swat_thefly email address.

      As you know I’ve emailed you about 9 times at that address since January – the good thing is you have replied each time.
      The rest, now at this point & for a while now, is frustrating & has been at times quite irritating:

      First you told me a few times you thought it had been sent & would check.
      Each time you never actually did check.
      Then later you said you would send it tracked – you never did.
      I requested the tracking you said you would find it and send the tracking details & send it if not sent.
      We went through that twice or more.
      Eventually you still didn’t send tracking & implied it may not actually have been sent but that conversely I might end up with 2 copies.
      What I have actually ended up with is no disc & no tracking info either.

      Not surprisingly, somewhat irritated by now I asked “where the heck is the disc?” – though otherwise remained polite (quite a mild response all things considered) – & have done throughout.

      Your last communication was you said “I promise” to send it “sooner rather than later” including tracking – that was back on 14th February; now 30 days ago – clearly it is now later not sooner; except that there is still no disc or tracking.

      I feel there is no serious intention to send it soon – sure it might get here sometime, but that really isn’t good enough.

      I don’t mind making a few inquiries & some delay, allowing for the fact ìt’s a small company etc – but this is completely unreasonable.
      Especially as when pre-ordered we were told it would definitely arrive before Christmas.

      And let’s be clear here; I didn’t actually mind (& told you so) that it was unavoidably delayed til after Christmas & appreciated that not long after a free download was offered as a stopgap (even though personally I don’t do downloads).

      I feel I’ve been told what you think I might want to hear – not what you were actually going to do about it.

      We have a somewhat old fashioned phrase here in the UK which is “I’ve been fobbed off” which accurately describes how I now feel about this.
      Usually I wouldn’t (& haven’t previously) put these concerns in a public forum but your personal replues sem to take it for granted I will just keep emailing & you will keep giving me words & guarantees that don’t happen, on and on and on…

      The bottom line is I don’t think I really want the set after all this, as I’m not sure I’d be able to enjoy it after all this protracted obfuscation & let-down.

      A bit more context – I have bought at least 20, could easily be well more than 30 Thunderbean releases over the years going back to at least ‘Sam Basset’ (probably 2004-ish? ie. over 15 years or more) & still have over 10 others on pre-order.

      All that has happened – mainly since this last problem – doesn’t make me feel very much like a valued customer.

      So, please now refund me my payment for ‘Cartoony Christmas’ & please do this promptly, thanks.

      I will send the same refund claim with paypal receipt etc sometime soon to your swat_thefly email address, as although of course you know who I am, I don’t expect you to pluck my details just from this post here.

      I won’t go through everything again in my email as I’m sure you’ll read this post.

      Finally in future with Thunderbean sets once they are actually finished & dubbed/replicated if they don’t arrive within a few weeks I will email you 3 times about it & if your responses are not definite and either the sets &/or any tracking has not arrived after that, in the 4th email I will request a refund at that point – as life is too short to go on beyond that point of delay.

      I should point out that with previous delayed orders free discs were sent in apology which is very nice but when it’s happening repeatedly unfortunately doesn’t really put things right – I just want the items I paid for.

      Anyway, despite how it may possibly sound, there are no hard feelings – just a plan as mentioned to cut through this irritation in the future by going to refund on the 4th communication.

      Good luck with the great work you do beyond these issues.

      All the best,
      Tim Munton

  • Steve, if you heard now
    Amazon is suspending indie distributors during this pandemic
    Any plans to get your content out there to curve this?

  • For anyone who’s still checking into this page, I tried the new email address Mr. Stanchfield supplied two weeks ago, including a PayPal receipt, and still got no response.

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