THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
November 17, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

VB’s Tom and Jerry’s Final Journey: “The Phantom Rocket” (1933)

It’s Tuesday night as I write this, earlier than usual for Thunderbean Thursdays. I’m heading out to Los Angeles for a school trip to CTN. It will be the first time some of the students have been to California, and it really does help students that may want to work there establish the lay of the land and make contacts. Although I enjoy the time with the students and visiting friends and Thunderbean is in good hands while I’m away, right now a big part of my focus has been digging into final pieces on a few titles. I’ll be burning the midnight oil in the hotel room working on bringing together elements of a few sets, including some finishing touches for the long-in-progress Flip the Frog set.

On new special title news, we’re doing our almost usual Holiday/ Christmas disc pre-order special disc “Holiday Surprises 2022”. It’s available at thunderbeanshop.com.

As the year gets close to wrapping up, at Thunderbean we’ve been working on the strategy for the company in the coming years and what we’ll be working toward. We collectively decided it’s time to retire most (if not all) of the special discs by the end of the year. We’ve made the majority of them available one last time for a few more weeks, also at the Thunderbean shop.

Next week’s Thunderbean Thursday will be about Stop Motion Marvels, volume 1, the Blu-ray upgrade to the DVD we produced 12 years back. It’s coming back from replication while I’m away, but we’ll start shipping it in another week and a half or so. Thanks to everyone for supporting this set.

The Thunderbean drives are mostly packed away at the moment while I get ready for a trip in the morning, so I’ve grabbed something in progress to show today- The Phantom Rocket (1933). This is the last of the Van Beuren Tom and Jerry cartoons, but not the last to be cleaned up for the set. It seems like this is one of the lesser seen of the series. In this short, Tom and Jerry attempt a rocket flight that turns into a semi disaster as a thief attempts to rob them-just as the rocket takes off. A funny premise and gay master of Ceremonies attempt to lend a hand to what is, at best, a pretty average gag cartoon with a large part of the footage devoted to the rocket gags rather than our heroes. There is a nice tribute song at the end, stating ‘Hooray for Tom and Jerry’ as they’re bathed in their reward money for delivering the criminal to a well-fortified prison. A pretty mild sendoff into the world of past cartoon stars.

I wonder if the Van Beuren universes are connected like the DC, Marvel, American Horror Story and Stars Wars Universes are. They seem to be since Tom and Jerry show up in a Cubby Bear cartoon, and the next year the Little King visits a prison that looks suspiciously like the same prison in this cartoon. What your theory on all of this.

Finally, I would be remiss without a few thanks. Mark Kausler lent this lovely print for the scan, and Animator/artist and great film restoration artist Ciara Waggoner, who’s worked on a lot of the Tom and Jerry set, did a nice job on this one.

Have a good week all!

4 Comments

  • Although in general I prefer the earlier Tom and Jerry cartoons over the later ones, “The Phantom Rocket” shows how far the Van Beuren studio had come in a very short time. Compare the similarly-plotted “Rocketeers” from just a year and a half earlier. It begins with our heroes tipping their hats to the audience, then pointing to the “Royal Experimental Society” sign on the car. Then they point to themselves, and then they point to the rocket; and then they point to themselves and the rocket again. Finally, they point to the sky. Yes, they get the point across that they’re going to go up in a rocket, but they do it in the heavily telegraphed pantomime of silent cinema that had become obsolete by 1932. “The Phantom Rocket”, on the other hand, opens with an elaborately staged musical number. Granted, it’s a far cry from Cole Porter, let alone Disney; but compared to “Rocketeers”, the contrast is colossal, dynamic, tremendous, gigantic, an awe-inspiring sight!

    Too bad the boys didn’t get their own theme song until the very end of their last cartoon. “They never fail to put it over….” Well, except for “Wot a Night”, “Polar Pals”, “Trouble”, “Rabid Hunters”, “Joint Wipers”, and most of the others. But it’s nice to see their perseverance literally pay off in the end, with a shower of money and a paean of praise. Hooray!

  • Nice to see that MGM brought out the original Tom & Jerry’s contract for use in their cartoons. A fitting send off to the Van Bueren series.

  • I never saw a Van Beuren Tom and Jerry growing up. In fact I don’t think I ever saw any Van Beuren cartoons on local TV shows, or in theaters for Saturday morning kid shows. I still have packed away a 99-cent-store Tom & Jerry DVD. At first I was a little ho hum about them, but I’ve really grown to like them. Very prohibition era. Very jazzy. I’m looking forward to this set.

  • Krazy Kat followers will like the cameo of “Kelly’s Brick Yard” here.

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