Mining More Rare Cartoons
|Radio City's "New Roxy" at Left, and Auditorium at Above Right,|
with Opening Night's Cartoon Depiction on Lower Right
Where Cubby Bear Met King Kong
Looking for the ideal short to program with King Kong? 1933's Opening Night, a Van Beuren cartoon featuring Cubby Bear, is it. Whole of the reel is set inside Gotham's RKO Roxy theatre, one of sites where Kong premiered (the other was
Winston-Salem's Carolina Theatre seated 1,380. I watched King Kong three times from one of those chairs in March 1970. The place seemed packed, or maybe that's rose-tint glasses I now view the experience through. Sentiment enhances everything. The thrice-view allows me to remember where every laugh came, none as I recall at the expense of King Kong, or is that nostalgia overtaking reality again? KK special fx had not been surpassed by 1970, Ray Harryhausen still active and using same techniques applied to Kong and taught him by Willis O' Brien. Could King Kong be the supreme audience picture of all time? I might have said so on that Friday-Saturday. Older age doesn't hand you many moments like that. For all of thrill seeing King Kong at the
I suppose nothing whips up children, or once did, like really big monsters in a really big auditorium. What we've lost is spaces of adequate size to contain them, or for that matter, an attraction to bring out so much youth. Opening Night, even though drawn, shows what enormous crowds really were like, and how organization had to be applied toward moving them along and getting everyone seated. A stairway shot has endless single files moving up toward balconies in what I'm satisfied was true caricature of mass humanity in orderly motion. Many an anecdote from the picture palace era refers to ingress and egress handled with mathematical precision, staff knowing a gum-up could put thousands where they shouldn't be, whilst thousands more seek entrance. There's romance to Gold Age exhibition from our distance, but ask anyone who worked the life, and they'd say it was shifts shot full with stress, bucks always stopping at the manager's desk, and no alibi for a botched presentation.
Opening Night is part of a just released Blu-Ray containing all twenty Cubby Bear cartoons made between 1933 and 34. Cubby was another attempt by the Van Beuren company to rival Mickey Mouse, to no soap result. The shorts washed out with a rest of Van Beuren tide, split among distributors who put them to home movie and TV plows, remembered by those for whom they'd be first cartoons seen on home tubes. Keith Smith of Modern Sound Pictures, a pioneer rental house, took what nitrate elements survived and did 16mm for customers. Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation, always on alert for rarities, got Smith's remaining inventory, plus survivor prints from far-flung collectors, to produce this best-quality-ever Cubby set. Opening Night, for instance, is a 16mm "print-down" (that is, from the camera neg) dated 1942. It looks for all the world like 35mm, as do many others in the group. There are the customary extras, plus liner notes, typical of Thunderbean releases. All of theirs demonstrate how cartoons should be gathered and presented. Greenbriar is pleased to have been associated with Thunderbean on several projects, including the Cubbys. Amazon has the Blu-Ray available now, and more background info from Steve Stanchfield is HERE.