Cartoon Brew TV #10: Sunbeam

This week on Cartoon Brew TV, we’re reaching back to 1980 and rediscovering Paul Vester’s animated short Sunbeam. The independent short, which is an homage to early cel animation, was released in UK theaters with the feature film Chariots of Fire. It was produced at Vester’s commercial studio Speedy Films inbetween commercial gigs.

Paul Vester, currently a Guggenheim Fellow, is working on a new short film, In the Woods. He is also repped for commercial work by DUCK Studios and teaches in the Experimental Animation department at CalArts.

Here is a bit of background about Sunbeam from Vester:

In 1974 I was taking time out from my studio in London and working on a film in Portland for an entity that I think was called the Energy Institute of New York. We got paid for the first two weeks and then the money dried up. For some reason we believed the promises we were given, and we all kept working on the film and did finish it, and were rewarded at the end of the job with all our back pay. I drove down to LA and rented a quarter of a small house on Cabrillo in Venice, which was very cheap then, and started work on a comic strip (unfinished) called the “Non Adventures of Nellie Nada.” I also did a lot of drawings and took many photographs of Venice. Sunbeam comes out of this period of my life.


  • http://doubleben.blogspot.com Emmett Goodman

    Magnificent. I have never heard of this, so thank you Cartoon Brew for posting this. I would love to see parts of this frame by frame.

  • Mark H.

    Wonderful! This is what animation has the potential to be. Better not let Jessie Jackson see it, he’ll slap a lawsuit on them so fast, their heads will spin.

  • Bob89

    awesome

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/siskavard corey

    Very cool! Looks like an animator’s film, lots of silliness that just looks fun to draw! Reminds me a bit of International Rocketship!

  • Saturnome

    I love the colors, very comic-book. There’s something extra with the bit of abstract Kandinsky-like details, with old-fashioned characters. It’s all very lovely, it taste candy I’m sure.

  • Chris Knox

    Lovely! I now feel nostalgic for early ’80s nostalgia for the ’30s!

  • http://rauchbrothers.com Mike Rauch

    The artistry here is pretty phenomenal. Was the song performed specifically for this animation?

  • http://rauchbrothers.com Mike Rauch

    By the way, this is probably my favorite Brew TV episode yet. I would DEFINITELY pay for a hi-res copy of this or buy a DVD, etc. if this were on it. Don’t suppose it’s available in such format, is it?

  • http://bobjinx.blogspot.com BobJinx

    Pure animation candy! The kind of thing that wants you want to get up and get animating. Thanks, Cartoon Brew!

  • joecab

    WOW I haven’t seen this in 20 years and it immediately came flooding back. I forgot how much I loved it.

  • jules

    When I first saw this as an animation student I was dazzled. Now i see what i loved about it then. It’s a film which captures the spirit of pure joy.

  • Rob T.

    Wow! I remember this from the “Animation Celebration” film and video series, and am amazed that no one had put this film online before. (I’d pay good money for DVD’s of the “Animation Celebration” and “International Tournee of Animation” series, if anyone would put them out legally!)

    Looking at Sunbeam again for the first time in years, I’m fascinated by Vester’s use of the classic Messmer/Avery strategy of reminding viewers that they’re watching moving drawings, especially how he heightens it by adding detail and texture so that it’s like watching moving blobs of paint freshly squeezed from a tube. Thanks for putting this up; I really enjoyed watching it again!

  • rhinotonight

    that was wonderful. i wish i alive when it was shown on the big screen!

    i don;t know what to say. honestly.

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~ironybread Taylor J.

    I love this thing’s gooey joy. It’s rather ostentatious about the technique, isn’t it? Right down to leaving in the frame numbers between the dancers… I have this on VHS as part of the Animation Celebration series (volume 1, 1992) and, fellahs, I’m happy to say that your online copy looks better! I second the move for a Cartoon Brew DVD imprint.

  • http://mattjonezanimation.blogspot.com Matt Jones

    What a treat! The commercial output of Vester’s Speedy Films is somewhat overshadowed by that of Dick Williams, Klacto & Pizazz but the studio produced really innovative work.

  • Mike Wolf

    If you liked this, check out Seaside Woman. You can find it on youtube.

  • Dominic Bisignano

    Congrats paul! Awesome to see this here; now I am just a click away from getting to see this any time I want :)

  • Thomas M.

    I remember this from my beautiful Super 8mm print back in the 1980s.
    I always thought that cable TV would show all the wierd stuff that used to be in my film collection. But it did not. However, the internet is another story, with a happier ending…so far.

  • http://www.rauchbrothers.com Tim Rauch

    I agree with my brother, this is easily one of my favorite “Brew TV” episodes. Very nice work, a real pleasure to watch!

  • http://www.segaltoons.com Steve Segal

    Mike Wolf:
    I agree about Oscar Grillo’s Seaside Woman. I saw both of these at the same animation festival in Ottawa. Paul Vester told me he found a book tiled “Songs That Won the War” and set up a recording session to sound like it was from the 40′s. At the time he had a commercial studio in London called Speedy Cartoons, it was right across the street from Richard Williams’ studio.

  • Tony

    When Flash looks this good I’ll consider it the better format. But for now, this is beauty only cells can accomplish.

  • http://blog.ninapaley.com Nina Paley

    I saw this when I was 18 or 19 at the University of Illinois. It was part of a touring animation festival (the Tounee?), the only chance I had in those days to see art animation.

    It blew my mind back then. I remember crying because it was so beautiful, and crying afterwards just thinking about it. I just watched it again and have tears in my eyes now. Such love and beauty comes through in that piece. It’s not selling anything; it’s just talent used in the service of inspiration and beauty. That people come together and cooperate to make something like this makes my cynicism evaporate for a while. It really moves me.

  • http://blog.ninapaley.com Nina Paley

    Tournee. I meant Tournee.

  • Diana

    Agreed, delighted to see this again. Does anyone have any tips for downloading this onto a Mac? the download button seems to just launch the Quicktime. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Bob K.

    If you want a video version, it’s on Expanded Entetainment’s first “Animation Celebration” VHS. These do show up on Amazon Marketplace and EBay occasionally.

    To download to a Mac, you can use Real Player Downloader which is free. WIll save as an .flv file which plays in Real Player, but there are also plenty of good conversion programs. I use iSkysoft Video Converter

  • Ron A. Zajac

    After seeing this on the big screen in the early ’90s, I learned to play the tune on guitar and sang it.

    What a charming-as-hell nugget of classic animation!

  • Ron A. Zajac

    Nina! Love your work! So nice to see you here!

    And so nice to know we have a common bond, which is an undying love for that beautiful labor of love called “Sunbeam”.

  • CdC

    Great movie….for the colors, movement, etc. But I’ve always wondered why Paul chose those demeaning black caricatures to aid his aesthetic. Now that’s what’s always bugged me about this work.

    • Mike

      They’re anthropomorphized music notes – the piece even shows them coming to life by hopping off a staff.

      Some people just see what they want to see …

  • Dave Arnold

    I remember seeing this on Showtime back in the late 80s. They played it between features. It play all the time. I have always loved it but could never find it again until I found it here. Great Thanks!

  • John Constantine

    Vicky Silva is the singer. Haven’t found anything on her.

    • http://www.victysilva.co.uk Victy Silva

      I’m the singer on Sunbeam. I altered my name from Vicky to Victy in about 76 as there were a few Vicky’s out there at the time. I’ve only just come across this again this year; I don’t think I’d seen it since the first screening! The sheet music is copyrighted 1941 and I still have my hand written piano score.

      • Hemma_Royds

        Very well done Victy, I love what you’ve done with this. Do you know where I can find the lyrics? And are the musicians credited somewhere?

  • John Constantine

    Songwriters Hugh Charles and Sonny Williams seemed to have written quite a bit back in the WWII era, but I can’t find anything about this song nor any biographical information.

  • Reed Kirk

    I remember seeing this in an Tournee, and loved it.
    But the image that has remained in my mind is the final one–the door shutting.
    I always got the feeling that the part about the Golden Stairs, and the characters frantically climbing, only to find a closed door at the top, gave this an extra edge. Sunbeam to me was about the wonderful fantasy of Hollywood, that we imagine in the movies, but rarely achieve in real life.
    Or I could be reading WAY more into it than is necessary…

  • Reed Kirk

    I’ve been trying to find out more about this song.
    Is it possible that it is a wonderful prank? That Vester found a couple of guys who wrote songs in WWII, and attributed this song to them?
    We’re all smart folks here. Is there some reason we can’t find anything out about this song?
    Delightful puzzle.
    And I think this great cartoon has a lot in common with Dennis Potter’s “Pennies From Heaven.”
    My 2 cents. So to speak.

  • David Drake

    Thank you so much for posting this wonderful memory from my childhood.

  • http://www.drawingwithmark.com Mark Marderosian

    I am constantly and consistently amazed and blown away by this work of art, no matter how many times I’ve seen this. I first saw it back at the old “Off-the-Wall” cinema in Cambridge, MA when my oldest child was 7. We would sing this song all the time. Now I watch it on-line with his daughter. As so the cycle keeps going.

    That’s another aspect of great art like this piece – that it keeps speaking to us and that we can find new things in it. As time and age give us new perspectives, it continues to hold up and mean different things to us depending on where we are in our lives.
    And the song! I love the aspect of youth and innocence reflected here of an age when we would believe anything is possible, especially just because our Mothers told us so.
    Also, as another post mentioned, the ending with the old elevator gate closing leaves it all just a tiny bit bittersweet. It was the last film shown at the festival that night and it always seemed so powerful an image on so many levels to end things on.

  • David

    Thank you for posting this wonderful animation. I have such fond memories of watching this as a child in between movies on HBO. It’s still as magical as it was back then. :)