Thunderbean has long been the go-to source for quality classic
animation. They've released a collection of Famous Studios'
Noveltoons, a disc of Oswald short from Lantz Studio Treasures, and
several discs of Van Beuren releases including complete collections
of The Little King and Tom and Jerry (not the cat and mouse, the
other animated Tom and Jerry). Thunderbean searches out rare and
unusual animated films, cleans them up, and releases some of the
best animation DVDs. With Technicolor Dreams and Black and White
Nightmares they release their first Blu-ray collection of cartoons,
and what an impressive set it is. Filled with wonderful movies and
some gorgeous transfers, this is a must-buy for even casual
This collection is pretty impressive when you just read to list of
14 shorts that are included: there's an early color cartoon that
used the Brewster Color process, a pre-Mickey Mouse Walt Disney
work, silent films, a Fantasia-like animation set to classical
music, and the first color rendition of The Wizard of Oz.
The creators included in this collection are a stellar bunch
including Walter Lantz, Cy Young (who would work for Disney on such
projects as Snow White, Dumbo, and Fantasia), and
Bill Hanna (who would later co-create the cat-and-mouse Tom &
Jerry with partner Joseph Barbera). There is a lot of quality
animation here, most of it sadly forgotten.
There are several highlights but one of my favorite cartoons is the
beautiful Technicolor film To Spring, presented in a
high-quality version at last. This MGM short is wonderful to watch:
colorful, entertaining, and beautiful. It tells the semi-humorous
story of gnomes living underground who bring the world back to life
every spring. This year, Winter doesn't want to go and fights back.
The scenes where the gnomes are digging and processing colorful ores
to create all of the scenes of the rainbow is magnificent, and the
running gag of the gnome who can't dress himself works well too.
It's a fun short that proves not only Disney could make impressive
There are also three (!) shorts created by animator Ted Eshbaugh.
Though he's largely forgotten today, Eshbaugh made some very
impressive movies, as the trio on this disc attest. First is The
Snowman from 1931. Filmed in Technicolor (though rarely shown
in color today... it's usually found in black and white) it tells
the story of a animals that team up to build a snowman, only to have
it come to life and terrorize them. The creative short looked fine
in B&W, but it really comes to life in color.
Eshbaugh also directed Tea Pot Town, an advertising film made to
promote the pick-me-up qualities of tea, is a fun little romp. A
real treat however is Eshbaugh's Wizard of Oz. With a script
penned by L. Frank Baum's son and vibrant Technicolor animation,
this adventure in the magical land of Oz begins with Dorothy, in
drab sepia-toned B&W, living in the 'real' world until a tornado
picks up her house and flies her to Oz. As she falls into the
fantasy land, she becomes a full-color character. It's a great
effect and one that MGM would use in their famous live-action
version that was released six years after this film was completed.
There are two Tom and Jerry cartoons made by Van Beuren Studios.
I've enjoyed most of the shorts in this series, that these two (A
Swiss Trick and The Magic Mummy) are no exception. The
two main characters live in a world that's just a little off kilter.
They ride on a train the steams up a nearly vertical mountain, with
cars that tilt so that passengers are always level. There are
villains who steal multiple mummies from museums so that they can
listen to them sing. While you're watching them they seem like
regular gag-filled shorts, but afterwards it starts to dawn that
they're just a little bit strange.
The cartoons included in this collection are:
Dolly Doings (1917)
The Wrong Track (1920)
Alice Rattled by Rats! (1925)
Playing With Fire (1925)
Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1928)
Mendelssohn's Spring Song (1931)
The Bandmaster (1931)
The Snowman (1931)
A Swiss Trick (1931)
The Wizard of Oz (1932/33)
The Magic Mummy (1933)
Tea Pot Town (1935)
To Spring (1936)
The Enchanted Square (1947)
This combo pack arrives in a standard double-disc Blu-ray case with
a Blu-ray and DVD. Each disc has the same content, with the
exception of some additional extras included on the DVD but not the
BR. There's also an eight-page insert with liner notes that is very
I've seen a couple of these before (and only a couple... which means
there are some rare cartoons included here) and I've never seen them
look as good as they do here. Some of you will be familiar with The
Wizard of Oz (1932/33) cartoon which was include with the
"70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition" release of the
classic Judy Garland film. The version that Warners put on that set
was in color, but the tones had faded. The copy on this disc however
really pops! The colors are bright and vibrant and are incredibly
impressive. The difference is like day and night.
I had also seen Eshbaugh's The Snowman, but only in black
and white, so this original color version was a revelation. The only
other film I'd seen was To Spring. For the life of me I
can't find the DVD that contains this short, it's most likely on one
of the many collections of public domain cartoons that I've acquired
over the years or else as an extra included with a full length
movie. While it was in glorious color on the not-to-be-found disc,
it was plagued by heavy compression artifacts, something that
bothered me to no end. I can't describe how tickled I am to finally
have a good version of this favorite of mine.
The rest of the films look very good too, especially when you
realize that some of the films date back nearly 100 years. A lot of
time and effort went into mastering the disc as compression
artifacts and digital defects are not present. Aliasing, something
that tends to plague animation when it's converted to a digital
file, is happily absent. Overall this is a wonderful looking set.
The audio (mostly music) is fine. The soundtracks taken from the
prints are occasionally a bit scratchy and there is some hiss
present in a few, but overall the quality is pretty good.
There are some great extras included with this combo set. In
addition to the 8-page insert with information on the films, there
are a good number of on-disc extras. The Blu-ray includes some nice
rarities like Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid, a film shown to
possible investors to raise money for the Bosko animated shorts.
It's a fun cartoon, showing Bosko's real-life animator drawing him
on an easel and then interacting with the newly-created drawing.
There are also some neat cartoons advertising Coke the Walter Lantz
made. Next up is a copy of a Tea Pot Town promotional
coloring book (so kids learn the advantages of tea at an early age
presumably), and the Blu-ray extras are rounded off with a short
That was honestly more than I was expecting, but popping in the DVD
reveals more goodies. There are several cartoons included on the DVD
(in SD, naturally) which are generally in rougher shape than those
featured in the main program. That's fine... I'd much rather have
these than not. The bonus cartoons include:
The Hasher's Delirium (1910) - a nice mix of drawn and stop-motion
The Great Cheese Robbery (1920) - Krazy Kat
Dog Gone (1926) - from the Mutt and Jeff series
The Wild Goose Chase (1932) - a Van Beuren cartoon
Simple Simon (1935) - An Ub Iwerks creation
There are no two ways about it, this is a great collection! Filled
with rare, odd (in a good way) and wonderful cartoons this is a
must-buy for anyone who has the slightest interest in animation. Not
only are the cartoons included in the main program great, but there
is some really good odds and ends that are found in the extras menu.
Well worth seeking out. Highly Recommended.