Sunday, October 10, 2010

Post Zero: Will You Join Us?

A couple of years ago, I had the idea that it would be fun/interesting/educational to watch a group of cartoons that came out at the same time, at one time. That is to say, watch the cartoons that all came out in one weekend in August 1942, or in all of August 1942. (Cartoons in this context is actually quite limited; I mean US theatrical cartoons from/distributed by major studios.)

Looking at the available material in the marketplace on DVD, I quickly realized this would be somewhat difficult. Disney has essentially released almost the entirety of their sound theatrical short subjects, there are good swaths of Fleischer releases that are fully covered by public domain releases combined with the official Popeye sets (and the SOmewhere in Dreamland DVD), and Van Beuren has admirably complete coverage from public domain releases and boutique releases like those from Thunderbean. Warner Bros. and Walter Lantz, while they have an admirable number of releases, also have huge gaps. Columbia and Terrytoons, two major cartoon makers for decades, have almost nothing on commercial DVD.

There were a few cheater ways to approach my idea; pick a week with only a Disney cartoon in it and I'd be home free. But I'd be cheating myself; the point was to look at the cartoons from everyone at the same time, to learn about them, and maybe to share what was learned from a rather academic exercise that no one else seemed to be doing. Just watching a Disney short doesn't tell you very much about contemporary cartoons from the other makers. So I came to realize I would need to find cartoons from other than from modern DVD sources.

Fortunately for me, others have been coming to this conclusion for decades. And fortunately for them, companies had been making prints of their cartoons long before these individuals' need to find the cartoons came up against the companies' vault doors. History (and the wide world) is littered with home versions of cartoons, tv prints, and even some theatrical prints. Collecting from print ads and rummage sales to the giant indexed rummage sale which is eBay, personal archives were assembled. And archives are sometimes made available to others. Now is a happy time, where communication is instantaneous, and one may easily contact archivists willing to help for education purposes.

I soon realized that the effort to gain access to the cartoons of an entire year was only a little more than the effort to gain access to a single month. And I realized this was an excellent opportunity to share the knowledge I would gain in a systematic way.

And so was born the Cartoons of 1939 blog. Entries would convey information from the cartoons to educate, and would assemble the data in a chronological fashion, such relative assembly also being of educational value, as would be the contextual material surrounding the entries for each short.

As I write this, I completed the main entries for the 1939 blog several weeks ago, tho there are still more than three months until they will all have been posted. I look at the blog and find it to be fine and educational. But it is clearly lonely. Twenty eight years of US theatrical cartoons preceded, and more than thirty years followed it (as a regular continuous non-art house matter). I will be branching out, doing more years, but at a rate of covering three years of cartoons in every two, it will be around 2050 before I could cover them all.

Which brings us to you. You have an interest in classic cartoons. You could watch a cartoon, screencap it, and post your thoughts on it. So why not do it? Why not do it once a week for three years until you find you've covered an entire year and expanded the available knowledge of the cartoon loving community? Why not become one of the most knowledgeable people about a year in cartoon history by actually just watching all the cartoons from a year? Why not be a part of covering the entirety of golden age US theatrical cartoons? 60 blogs (maybe 45 if we ignore the silents) would do it, and the more people involved, the further from 2050 it will be complete.

I will be posting how to make one of these blogs. You can alter the recipe of course; I'll just be sharing what I find to work. But maybe you'll find it helpful. Or maybe you're not ready to do that yet, and you're just here to look at the blog roll for Cartoons of (Years). Still, consider the possibility, and post a link to your blog about the cartoons of a given year here if you make one.