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.
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.
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!