It’s the 24th year I’ve taught the class at the College for Creative Studies, and I’d like to think it’s a pretty good class. It has evolved over this nearly quarter century to include new films every year. I’ve loved watching the students faces light up in seeing things they’ve never seen. I also love reading their papers and the often really good class discussions. I’ve never talked about my own professional work in the class; I enjoy being the presenter and giving them good historical context. It’s always amazing to watch them springboard from what we’ve discussed and do further exploration into different genres, subjects and animation from around the world.
I’d really love to have a special topics class sometime and do a deeper dive into just the 30s or 40s since there’s such a rich history there, but there is really in every era, not just some of my favorite eras. The challenge always is to show great examples throughout the years in the class. Maybe someday we’ll expand it further if the fates allow.
I’ve been thinking a lot about access to harder to find films. Last week, I was asked to prepare a copy of the Eyvind Earle film The Story Of Christmas (1963) for a special showing at Disney Feature in Burbank. The only scan I had on the film we did when we did the 4k restoration of Were You There (1967) from the camera negatives. Sadly, the print of Story of Christmas was pretty red, but I was able to get a pretty good color grade out of the material with some work. I do hope this film and Were You There are available at some point to a wider audience. They are both religious films, but Earle’s work is so beautiful that it deserves to be seen in good quality.
In Thunderbeanland, we’ve just finished The Van Beuren Tom and Jerry Blu-ray. It’s off to replication tomorrow and rushing to get back here to be sent out to all the pre-orders. I’m so excited that we’re through another long-running project.
One of the most important aspects to me of presenting films is to make sure they’re as complete as possible. Knowing we’ve done our best to make sure what the filmmakers did is decently represented is important, and the collector in me knows that the folks buying the Thunderbean collections expect us to have done that work. Having anything less or purposely taking something out of a film seems so counterproductive to me that it’s hard to believe anyone would- especially for a home video release. I’ll continue producing these sets, and thanks to everyone for helping keep us around all these years!
About 20 years or so back, one cartoon historian I know stated to me he thought the Van Beuren shorts were ‘Ugly, badly produced cartoons’- but of course I disagree with that blanket statement. Anyone can see the draftsmanship really does vary in Van Beuren product, but they’re also really entertaining— and we, as a modern audience can for sure get a lot more accurate evaluation of the merits and shortcomings of the films from good copies of them!
Since it seems like a good time to celebrate the finish of this project, I’m sharing the whole Piano Tooners from the original camera negative. It’s one of my favorites from the series and a lovely little film, warts and all. I’m thrilled that the camera material still existed — I only wish *all* of them did and could look this good (heck, I’d settle for all 35mm prints if that was even possible).
This material is courtesy of Sony Archives as well as the Library of Congress. Thad Komorowski did a great job on the brunt of the cleanup work on this one. I tweaked it a little more and color graded. After working on the whole series, I really appreciate great material in great condition. There’s a few scratches that date from when the film was shot, but it’s otherwise amazingly clean and in good condition. I especially love how crisp the sound is as well.
Now that the Van Beuren Tom and Jerry set is done, We’re on to other things. I’d better make sure I’m properly dressed for those too since the animation fashion police are ever dilligent over these last 11 years. I’ll also check my eyes to make sure I have no color perception problems and make sure I have people invite me to events I’m already invited to as part of the process too!
As a finishing touch, I’ve used the classic ‘Markerfelt’ font as the Thunderbean Thursday watermark on Piano Tooners as a tribute to good graphic design ideas; as a font it has a long and well-documented history. I promise I’ll never use it on a Thunderbean package or menu, so don’t worry!
I hope you enjoy Piano Tooners (make sure to watch in the full resolution on YouTube!) and have a great week!