THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
October 7, 2021 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Working on the Blu-ray Revision of the ‘Stop Motion Marvels’ Set

At Thunderbean, Dave and the crew are holding down the fort for the most part since a lot of my own days are nearly full with an overload schedule at the school- and up until recently helping with the TCM project that just aired.

Now that I’ve caught my breath a little, I’ve been working on getting some of the special sets out the door at the same time as well as some official ones. A set that hasn’t moved forward in a little while is the Blu-ray revision to the Stop Motion Marvels set.

Back cover art for the recent “More Stop Motion Marvels” set – featuring Pepito

The original DVD was ambitious. I liked the idea of having a good overview of a lot of Stop Motion shorts, especially rare ones and key things that were hard to find in good quality. As the project continued, it evolved into a hunt for the films produced by Kinex Studios, a tiny stop motion studio that produced a series of quirky films for home release by Kodak. Early in my hunt, Eastman House gave me a complete list of the titles and release dates, an invaluable document that allowed us to figure out what films were made in the first place. Professor and Illustrator Stewart McKissick was especially interested in these curios, and he jumped into researching the studio, writing what is easily the most information about the studio for the booklet.

Back then, we fell short of finding all of the films in the series, but came pretty close with the help of collectors and archives from all over the US and Canada. Now, all these years later, as we’re revisiting this set, we’ve have scans of nearly *all* the Kinex shorts, missing a single one that one private archive has wants $3500 to use! They think of the film as stock footage and require that much for its basic use, almost making it certain it will never be seen in good quality. While I understand that the archive exists for profit rather than for film preservation, I would hope that when a rare opportunity exists to preserve some film history that a small company comprised of people that love film would do their best to make a film available, especailly something that no one else would probably ever be willing to invest in. Sometimes I wish we had unlimited budgets for these things! I’m still hoping another print will surface, with some luck….

In addition to the Kinex-produced shorts, Animator John Burton continued to make shorts based on the films he had worked on at Kinex into the sound era. Pepper the Pup (1931), Horse Laffs (c.1934) and Hector the Pup (1935) show great improvements in the work of Burton through those years, Burton gave up stop motion for a position at Warner Brothers. We’ve upgraded Hector the Pup and Pepper the Pup over these years, and are still hoping to borrow the now-lost only known print of Horse Laffs to make a high def scan.

The new challenge is to make sure I can fit all the contents onto a single-layer Blu-ray. The set has something like 38 films- but many of them are pretty short. I’m looking forward to the point of building this set, and so happy the films are looking good.

One of the coolest things about doing the set was taking a trip to visit Bob Baker, who had worked on the Puppetoons in the early 40s. Bob was a wonderful man, and he did a great commentary for a film he worked on for the DVD set as well as showed some of the puppets he had from the Puppetoons shorts.

Bob Baker

Many other films on the set have been upgraded as well to HD scans, with a handful still left to tackle. Now that Flip and many of the special sets are almost done, I’m hoping to get the final films in the can for this set within the next month or two.

Since we’re talking about this set, here’s one of the Kinex shorts, In Wildest Africa (1929). It’s not quite the final version yet, but since I’ve been really enjoying seeing the Kinex shorts in HD as I work on this set I thought it would be fun to share one.

Have a great week all!


Semi-organized Chaos- some of the files and folders for ‘Stop Motion Marvels” in progress.

5 Comments

  • Thanks for sharing, Steve. Since I was a child, stop-motion animated films have always been among my favorite films to watch, initially because they had a sense of reality and tangibility that wasn’t possible with hand-drawn animation. As an adult, I started to really appreciate the sheer amount of work and artistry that goes into making stop-motion animation. It’s always wonderful to see films that are new to me.

  • With the accomplishments of 2D studios like Disney and Warner Bros. being so ubiquitously celebrated (and rightfully so), the early stop motion works often fall to the wayside, unless they’re special effects in otherwise live-action movies like King Kong and Jason and the Argonauts. But make no mistake, the early stop motion shorts are just as important to the history of animation, and I’m very glad they’re being rediscovered by more and more people, especially with efforts by you and Tommy Stathes.

    One missing link I’m worried we may never see, but always hope for, is the films of Helena Smith Dayton, one of the first woman animators. The few bits I can gather from the shorts show a lot of appeal and effort, and it’s a shame to see them disappear like that.

  • A $3,500 Kickstarter fundraising campaign will help underwrite a complete run of Kinex shorts.

  • The puppet my old friend Bob Baker is holding is from “Rhythm in the Ranks”. I have a similar one given to me by Duke Goldstone. When Steve Stanchfield interviews me I will show it. The Academy Award nominated subject will return on “The Puppetoon Movie Volume 3” re-scanned in 4K from the original Paramount Pictures preservation print made from the 35mm Technicolor Successive Exposure Negative and re-restored better than before. There are more surprises I will be announcing soon for “The Puppetoon Movie Volume 3! – not all have been updated but all can view the funder page here: http://www.puppetoon.org/vol3 and of course puppetoon.net for Puppetoon Volume 2

  • It is quite possible that stop-motion predates 2D animation. Although apparently disputed it is quite likely that Arthur Melbourne-Cooper’s Matches: An Appeal is from 1899, not 1914 as was thought for a long time.

    Some time ago I read the de Vries book about him asserting the 1899 date:
    Although I forget the details now, it was very closely argued & evidence based & I’d be surprised if de Vries is wrong about this.

    Most people here are probably familiar with Melbourne-Cooper’s later (earlier?!😂) work; Dreams Of Toyland, undisputed as released in 1908.
    Not sure when in 1908? ie. after or before October 1908 when J. Stuart Blackton’s Humpty Dumpty Circus came out (according to a brief internet search I just did on Blackton).
    I’m guessing after October, as otherwise Toyland would be credited as the 1st stop-motion film (or 2nd after Matches).

    First or not; Matches isn’t that interesting but – as I would imagine many here would agree – Dreams Of Toyland is sublime.

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