First, in Thunderbean Blu-ray and DVD news:
Thunderbean land is humming forward here, with more things happening and getting closer to the finish lines each day. I’m looking forward to trying to get as many things to the door here as possible right now, and that’s already started happening. I’ll be keeping folks updated here on the things getting finished as they come. I’m getting heavy requests for some of the older titles as well right now; most will stay retired for the time being. More complete news next week!
The Toby the Pup cartoons have been high on my list of wants ever since I saw an article by Jerry Beck in Movie Collector’s World (back in 1981!). For a while, the only available short was The Museum (1930) in a very incomplete print (but still much fun) from the Library of Congress. A few others had shown up over the years, mostly in archives. Hope springs eternal for many more to show up, but at the moment other titles have proven at least semi-elusive.
We (Snappy Video) released a copy of The Museum in 1988 as part of the first ‘Cultoons’ set on VHS. This is the title card we made back then for the set, drawn by Mary Dixon. The print was a dupe of a reduction of the film, borrowed from a friend. That version (from the VHS) ended up being part of many PD cartoon DVDs. One company sold it (with our title and everything) to many public domain companies.
I made a deal a little while back to trade some Thunderbean materials to acquire some of the Tobys in HD, and have since done some work on those titles. Since more are not available as of yet, the best collection of the Tobys in one place is Inkwell Images ‘Toby the Pup’ set, featuring this cartoon and all the others that are currently available. This set is noteworthy in that it features really great commentaries by Mark Kausler, a sort of ‘Toby’ fireside chat.
Hallowe’en (1931) is my favorite of the currently available shorts. It feels like several cartoons sort of wrapped into one.
Toby’s behavior is reprehensible at the beginning of the short, kissing everyone and assaulting a friendly looking elephant before being slapped into shame and respect by his girlfriend. His attempt to redeem himself by playing the piano and performing inside a pumpkin seems to win over his all-animal audience, before ‘Hell’s Bells’ send all the guests into a state of fear at the impending ghost and Skeleton invasion. Any and all story sense in thrown out the window in this final section, and, in best Fleischer tradition, that’s a *good* thing. There appears to be a small section missing from the short near the end, leaving us to wonder what gag was excised.
This cartoon is a fitting predecessor to the ‘Scrappy’ shorts, featuring the unmistakable Columbia-esque animals (looking very much like they do in the Krazy Kat shorts from the same period). Even though the cartoon makes very little sense story-wise, it doesn’t really need to; the animation timing and posing puts over the gags just fine. Columbia’s abilities as a studio seem to take pretty big leaps during this period, especially in character personalty and gag timing. I especially enjoy the cartoons that Dick Huemer directed at Columbia through the early 30s.
The cartoon is also unusual in that, near the end, it features the earliest ‘smear’ frame I’ve seen in a sound cartoon, in the sequential frames below. I find the timing of this particular animation in that shot and this film) really fun and interesting:
So, here is ‘Hallowe’en’, late, but better late than never. It is featured on the *almost* done ‘Grotesqueries’ Blu-ray, from Thunderbean and Blue Mouse Studios. We’ve digitally cleaned up the material especially for this set. Here’s the premiere of this ‘almost’ finished version (special thanks to David Gerstein for his help with recreating the title cards). Grotesqueries will be available very soon! Have a good week everyone!