It’s the first week back to school here, and I’ve spent the whole week exhausted, coming off a cold and just busy getting all the classes situated. Fortunately the little Thunderbean staff helped keep things running. Dave and Becky have been cranking on keeping orders going out, while Becca has been working daily on cleaning things up. It’s a tiny group but we’re getting a lot done. I can’t wait to be fully mended and up to my usual energies. I’m sure a lot of folks here have just had— or had— this cold going around. Wishing everyone a fast recovery if you’ve had it.
The Van Beuren Tom and Jerry will be back from replication in these next few days, and we’ll start sending out the pre-orders late this week and early next. It will be available on Amazon and the shop in about a week. Right now I’m most excited about finishing the Mid Century Modern, Volume 3 disc. I didn’t get absolutely everything on the set I’d like to, but as I was looking I kept finding things that made the set better and better, so now I’m pretty happy with the films on it. At the rate Becca and the handful of people we have working on them, we’re coming close to getting everything cleaned up for the set. Pretty soon Rainbow Parades and the Bunin set will be the main things on the plate.
I was talking to my friend Jeff Missinne about a week back, and, for some reason, every time I talk with him I’m reminded of how much fun we have talking about Walter Lantz shorts. I have a special love for many of the early 50s ones and have enjoyed collecting Technicolor prints of many of them.
I got to know animator Ken Southworth a bit in the late 90s, at first talking with him about his career, then doing freelance work for my tiny studio in Ann Arbor- his idea. One day we were chatting about the projects we were working on and Ken said ‘Why don’t you send me a scene?’ He worked on several projects with us in 1997 and 98. I’m not sure if it was the last work he did in the field professionally, but it may have been.
One of the things he talked about was his experience working at Lantz in the early 50s. He had been at Disney’s since 1944 as an assistant. He was working as one of the assistants to Milt Kahl on Alice, and as people were rolling off that film, some were getting work at other studios. He remembered ‘going down the hill’ at lunch into Hollywood and visiting a friend at Lantz. After seeing what a relaxed environment it was there and flipping some scenes he asked for a job at the studio. It wasn’t long before he was credited, something that never had happened at Disney.
While the Lantz cartoons from this period are not all top films, they are all pretty fun and full of energy. I especially love the Don Patterson ones, as I’m sure many of you do too. I really enjoy all of them.
This week’s cartoon is The Dog Who Cried Wolf (1953) directed by Paul Smith.
I have to admit that I loved The Woody Woodpecker Show as a kid for *all* the different eras, but I especially liked Toyland Premeire (34) and Tom Thumb Jr. (39). The on-Woody early 40s shorts that were part of the package were all bizarre to this once 6 year old’s eyes, especially the unfunny (but really funny-strange at the time) Hysterical High Spots in American History (1941). While I didn’t always love the 50s ones in exactly the same way, I loved moments in all of them. The Moon getting buried in Dig that Dog, the outright strangeness of Ally to Bali, the mean Termites in Termites from Mars, Sugarfoot getting slapped with the giant make up powderpuff in A Horse’s Tale—-the list went on and on. I was also thrilled when they ran an early ‘ugly’ Woody, and was always confused in the later cartoons that Woody would drastically change sizes depending on the scene.
In this short, the odd take where the dog’s skin peels up to reveal his skeleton really stuck with me as one of the oddest moments when I was a kid. I remember trying to draw what that scene looked like. The Avery-esque gag also struck me as really odd — some years before I ever saw any of the Avery shorts.
This 16mm Technicolor print was from Thad Komorowski. I hope to keep getting Technicolor Lantz shorts from this period— and perhaps, someday, we’ll be able to gather all the Coke spots Lantz did around this period.
Have a good week all!