THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
September 24, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Toby the Pup in “The Museum” (1930)

Thunderbean Update: I spent the weekend working on the authoring of Arnie Leibovit’s Puppetoons 2 set. An extra hiccup on one of the films put things behind, but it’s nearly done now. It’s easily one of the most beautiful Blu-ray sets I’ve ever seen – I’m happy to have worked on it. Then, its back to finishing more Thunderbean by the weekend.

Judy – from “The Puppetoon Movie 2” blu ray

I think getting the technical right on these sets is important. Getting up to speed in the world of DVDs, and again learning digital cleanup and all the other stuff in making a Blu-ray, has been a fun challenge through these years.

I wouldn’t have thought that a little company concentrating on rare animation could even do as well as Thunderbean has at this point, and as its grown over these years it’s been hard to keep up with as it stretches. With the product fulfillment now nearly entirely in other, more capable hands, it’s been a time of moving forward and working on a strategy to grow further, increasing the capability of doing bigger projects and expanding the things we’re able to do, in licensing and expanding genres. I’ll always have my heart around the animation side of things, but looking forward to the other projects as we catch up with what we already have on our plate.

The ‘On Hold’ set is getting the attention right now with some additonal things being added, and second to that fixing a few animation hiccups on the Rainbow titles. My perfect scenario is having these projects out the door before the end of this month or a week into October, and it’s looking completely feasible! I had hoped to have ‘On Hold’ ready to go by this point this week, but it will be over the weekend or next week.

Of course, one of the reasons the ‘On Hold’ set exists is because there’s a lot of things that are just beyond our capability at the moment for one reason or another. Some of them have been about size, while others just required more time to be able to get what we’re trying to get for them film-wise. That has been a continuing theme, more than others- although, eventually, we seem to get what is needed, albeit a piece at a time. If we only did one project at a time and waited for pieces before working on other stuff, it would take 43 years to just get the current projects all done!

Many of these projects have been things I’ve always wanted to do. What else would explain a set of all the Cubby Bears or Little King Cartoons? The Cultoons sets were really just a way to get a lot of one-shot oddball things out there, back in the late 80s and then updated again in the mid-2000s. I’d love to get all of those in HD out at some point, but that’s a dream not happening anytime soon.

Of these animation oddballs, the Toby the Pup cartoons have been a quiet obsession for years. I was lucky enough to get some of them by spending a pretty penny scanning a lot of materials in trade with a close collaborator of mine. Various machinations caused that project to be put on hold a bit after getting the first four films. Clearly it just wasn’t my territory at that moment, even after all that expense.

The original negatives for the RKO Toby the Pups remain lost. I really like the series myself and especially love the experimentation in many of the cartoons. Dick Huemer did wonderful things at Columbia, even if he didn’t think so in talking about them in later years. I think its important to have them available in decent editions, where they exist, for all to enjoy.

The first Toby I saw was the first in the series, The Museum, in a very, very incomplete print with no opening. I borrowed and scanned Collin Kellogg’s print that was duped from Mark Kausler’s reduction. That was the version that ended up on all the dollar DVDs, taken directly from one of the Snappy Video VHS tapes, with the little title card. I was still a teenager, and I remember talking to Collin on the phone and asking for it. He said “Whydoya want THAT?”

The rest of this cartoon survived in a rare (only?) French 17mm print. Seeing that scan was really cool- because now parts of that cartoon started to make sense for the first time. I was excited to share it, but I shouldn’t have been quite so enthusiastic in showing a still from it here on Cartoon Research. Lesson learned! There’s more things from various projects that I’m now keeping under my hat until they’re ready to go out. I’m super excited about some of them. I’ll make sure I’m properly dressed for the occasion when they’re ready!

Eventually when all planets line up, I’ll scan the incomplete 35mm print and combine it with the incomplete 17mm. For now, I’ve combined the old SD scan with the print to cobble together the most complete print of the film up until now- so here is a pretty rough version of this little film, but it’s enjoyable! This version is on the On Hold set. More on that soon.

Have a great week everyone!

17 Comments

  • I, too, have loved Toby the Pup since I saw that fragment of “The Museum” on a public domain DVD compilation. I hope that Toby’s second cartoon, “The Fiddler”, will someday be rediscovered; I’d like to see how it compares to Iwerks’s “Fiddlesticks” and Disney’s “Fiddling Around”, both also from 1930.

    About four minutes into “The Museum”, Atlas sets down his globe and begins licking his thumbs alternately — right, left, right, left — and in the next shot several other statues follow suit. I’ve seen this gesture in other pre-Code cartoons: a weird guy with glasses does it near the end of “Swing, You Sinners!”; the Old Man of the Mountain does it when he first lays eyes on Betty; and the jury in “Betty Boop’s Trial” do it after they’ve handed in a verdict of Not Guilty and Betty starts blowing them kisses. Based on these examples, I’ve assumed that the gesture was indicative of sexual desire, but its presence here does not seem to bear this out. If anyone can shed any light on the meaning and origin of this thumb-licking gesture, I’m all ears — which of course is better than being all thumbs!

    • Years ago, I read in a book–probably “Belles on Their Toes” [the sequel to “Cheaper by the Dozen”]–of a dance move in the 1920s called “Picking the Cherries” which consisted of licking the thumbs while dancing the Black Bottom. I’m guessing that that’s what they’re doing. I tried to find a video online but came up empty.

    • If I’m not mistaken, the licking of the thumbs is a play on “hot licks”, meaning hot jazz music.

    • Thank you, Doug and Tony! Thumbs up to you both!

  • What are your qualifications to put out a Toby the Pup collection?

    • Possesion is 9/10th +1/10th of the law.

    • Where’s the “like” button for this comment?

    • And the “dislike” for Thad’s bizarre remark?”

  • Steve, you gotta put out the ultimate Toby the Pup collection. Please please PLEASE

  • So there are no RKO Toby original negatives – but are their any early Krazy Kat Original negs still out there?

    • The materials for the Columbia-distributed Krazy Kats (and Scrappys) ended up in Columbia’s hands one way or another, and as I understand it now reside – what survives of them, anyway – at the Library of Congress. If I’m not mistaken, the silent Winkler Krazy Kats (including those distributed by Paramount) suffered the fate of, from what I’ve heard, other silent series produced or distributed by Winkler: the negatives returned to the Winkler company, ending up in the Mintzes’ possession, and disposed of in the late 1940s by Margaret Winkler Mintz when the nitrate storage fees became too much of a burden (sadly just as this sort of material was starting to become valuable to early TV broadcasting).

      In lieu of someone coming along with solid insight on what happened to the Tobys, my suspicion is this was also their fate. I do find it curious how much of this series survives via retitled French versions…

  • I’m not familiar with “17mm” film – is this a typo of “16mm” or mayhaps a film format I haven’t heard of before?

    By the way, I love your posts about obscure 1930s cartoons. Can’t wait to see the completed “Museum” cut!

    • Isn’t it actually 17.5mm film? I think it was a Pathe format that made use of unperforated 35mm rawstock which was slit and perforated with one perf per frame, similar to 16mm. You can see the perfs on the right side of the overscanned frame in Steve’s example. I’m curious, was the soundtrack on the left? A film collector friend told me about this years ago when he first introduced me to 9.5mm and 28mm. At first I thought he was pulling my leg. I’ve never seen an example until now.

  • How many of the Toby cartoons exist in any form? The last I heard there were only about 4 or 5 known to remain in existence. Have they all been found? (How many were there originally? Were there twelve of them produced?)

    • I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer your question, but until someone with better qualifications steps forward, I’ll have to do.

      Twelve Toby the Pup cartoons were produced in 1930-31. French release prints have been found of “The Museum”, “The Milkman”, “Down South”, and “Halloween”. UCLA has a sound print of “Circus Time”. A 16mm print of “The Brown Derby” found in San Marcos, Texas, is undergoing restoration. A silent print of “Toby the Showman”, lacking opening and end titles, was discovered in 2010. The other five Toby cartoons — “The Fiddler”, “The Miner”, “The Bug House”, “Aces Up”, and “The Bull Thrower” — remain lost.

  • Don’t think I hadn’t noticed that there are quite a few 30s cartoons set in museums. It was one way to sneak nekkid women onto the screen.

  • I remember you had a copy of Toby the Pup’s Halloween (1931) up last year (I think). Any chance you could please repost that?

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