Holiday Cartoons

In the 20 years that I’ve regularly attended the Redford Theatre, Thanksgiving weekend has usually meant no movie as Redford volunteers busily set up the Christmas decorations that help attract many people to the theater at the end of each year.

But the Redford used the last two Thanksgiving weekends to host its annual cartoon festival that started in 2010 (Cartoon Fun). This year’s festival—screened at afternoon and evening shows on Saturday, November 25, 2017—also included cute television commercials from the the 1950s and 1960s.

The energetic fun emanating from the wide variety of cartoons fit in perfectly with the many activities that animate Thanksgiving weekend and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Adding to the fun was the Redford’s holiday train set, buzzing with ever-changing images of tiny trains moving through a miniature world of homes and businesses.

Redford Theatre Holiday Train Set, November 25, 2017

Redford Theatre Holiday Train Set, November 25, 2017

Hosting this event was Redford volunteer John Monaghan and animation historian Steve Stanchfield. The festival cartoons came from the private collections of John, Steve, and others.

I attended the afternoon show, which also drew many groups of adults and children. The enthusiasm of the crowd was matched by the enthusiasm of the stage hosts, who enjoyed seeing films from their private collections projected on the big screen.

The festival has always included cartoons from different studios. This year’s show opened with a silent 1923 Felix the Cat cartoon from the Pat Sullivan Studios titled Felix Strikes It Rich. Steve Stanchfield has been involved in a worldwide search for all of the surviving Felix the Cat cartoons.

Steve and John Monaghan were particularly excited about a 1931 cartoon from Fleischer Studios titled Bimbo’s Initiation. This cartoon, which featured a cute cameo by Betty Boop, was propelled by the hypnotically repetitive phrase “Wanna Be A Member?”

The cartoons were projected both digitally and on film, part of the ongoing effort by the Redford to both preserve the film experience and use digital projection to show a wide variety of movies.

One advantage of film is the smoother appearance of color cartoons. Digital projections of color cartoons often make the viewer conscious of the different layers of images that make up the animation.

My most lasting impression of the program was the creativity of the cartoons in the 1930s and 1940s. I admired their carefully painted backgrounds, quirky personalities, and fast-paced, musically driven series of clever gags.

The short length of the cartoons added to the holiday feeling. The experience was similar to a multi-course holiday meal or the opening of different presents on Christmas morning.  John Monaghan said that the Redford would continue to screen the cartoon festival on Thanksgiving weekend.

After the two cartoon shows, Redford volunteers worked to put up the Christmas decorations that will greet the visitors to the many movies at the Redford this Christmas season.

These films include Home Alone (December 1); A Christmas Story (December 2); Elf (December 9); The Polar Express (December 9 and 10); White Christmas (December 15 and 16); and It’s a Wonderful Life (December 22 and 23).

Visitors to the cartoon festival also picked up the new Redford schedule for January-May 2018. Highlights of the schedule include a 90th anniversary celebration for the theater on January 27; 75th anniversary screenings of Casablanca; tribute weekends for Paul Newman and John Wayne; and a sing-along screening of The Little Mermaid.

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Copyright © 2017 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.

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