Old King Cole Display Company: Christmas Promotional Campaign (1935)

In Thunderbean News:

Work takes over a lot of our lives sometimes, and these weeks here at the school have been a pretty heavy lift. Happily there’s a weekly history class where I get to show early 30s cartoons on film (and from some of the things we’ve worked on). I always find it to be a joy to show this stuff to people who have never seen it. In an odd way, it’s now a new film since there’s new eyes experiencing it- and, these days, many people haven’t experienced a 16mm film being shown at all!

Since school has owned me, there’s not much new to report in the land of Thunderbean. The coming weeks are definitely much more exciting. The Little King insists on being one of my best friends over these last weeks, but that particular adventure is wrapping up soon as films get cleaned and the two last films get scanned. It’s sort of a dessert set here after the heavy lifting on Flip the Frog and other things – but I’m really enjoying comparing prints and getting the last films cleaned up for it. Getting reacquainted with the whole series , especially the musical ideas – is pretty enjoyable. The team is doing such a good job on it. The materials we’re working on for the Max Fleischer cartoon restoration program are coming along as well. Each of these helps balance the others out in one way or another. I’m looking forward to getting Rainbow Parades volume 2 in full production soon.

Now — one of my favorite things ever (really!

I was talking with Eric Grayson earlier today about this “Cinema Gems” set from last year- and how much fun it was to work on it. It has on it one of my favorite things ever- a promotional film made by the Old King Cole Display company in Canton, Ohio. This particular film is promoting their Disney-themed displays created for larger department stores, and it’s an astonishing look back in time that you’ve probably never seen. Stills of these displays are not so unusual- and, after seeing this film, I feel like they do the actual displays a huge injustice. Seeing them actually in motion is magical- and must have been for the children seeing them in windows and walking through the various ‘Toylands’ at the department stores. While this film was never intended for public display I think it’s a pretty important in the history of department store displays (and the history of animation-related merchandise honestly). I literally teared up watching it for the first time.

Film archivist and collector Dennis Atkinson had a special love for moving displays, and especially loved his giant Laughing Sal’ made by the Old King Cole display company. She laughed proudly at the back of his arcade, a fixture in downtown Frankenmuth Michigan for many years. Dennis was able to get to know the owners of the Old King Cole Display company, and this film was one of the things he acquired from them. It appears on the set courtesy of Dennis and Dennis Atkinson Jr.

This film was shot at the end of 1934. I wonder if, somewhere, there is similar documentation of the displays form other years, or stills shots by the company (perhaps some even in color). I do hope these show up someday.

The actual displays in this film that survived are among the most highly sought-after Disney collectables. Mel Birnkrant has an amazing collection of figures and dolls and, well, everything, and you can see some of the Old King Cole Displays figures here on his website. They’re lovely to see in color (click this brochure cover below):

I was lucky enough to work on getting this little film tidied up for the Cinema Gems from the Vault of Dr. Film Blu-ray set, produced by Eric Grayson.  This set features other really cool films too, including the thought-lost “Monsters of the Moon” pitch film. It’s available on Amazon [click HERE] and at his website store.

I hope you enjoy this little film and it’s wonderful view back in time.

Have a good week everyone!