Sunday, June 21, 2009

All the Aesop's Fables cartoons should be out there...

The Aesop's Fables cartoons produced in 1921 to 1929 are an interesting topic of discussion among animation fans and historians. "Historians", if you will, tend to dismiss them for their lack of originality, inconsistent and occasional poor animation.
It can be said, though, that so-called historians are really just educated critics in their own right. Ask almost any baby boomer, especially from the Northeast of America, what cartoons they watched on television as a kid and many will cite Farmer Gray. Gray was the nickname given to Farmer Alfalfa by one of the New York kiddie TV show hosts while in competition with a rival host. The animated product was the same on both shows but apparently it's all in the naming of the character...and in both cases, these baby boomers speak of the Aesop's Fables cartoons lovingly, perhaps even if out of pure nostalgia for a time so recent yet so completely lost in today's American culture.
As I've probably mentioned on this blog before, at least three firms were responsible for bringing the 1920s Fables to television. Stuart Productions, also known as Guaranteed Pictures and later known as FilmVideo released 44; Saul Turrell of Sterling Television under the "Snappy Cartoons" moniker and most certainly Commonwealth Pictures which had the biggest stake of the cartoons. Those of you who have been watching public domain tapes for a long time probably recall seeing "Commonwealth" main titles on some of the color Van Beuren cartoons. Below we see a nice ad for Commonwealth's film package, found in a 1950's television trade paper. Mark Kausler tells me Commonwealth had at least 304 of the 430+ Fables. Considering the ad states 400 cartoons, it makes sense if they carried other Van Beuren product. David Gerstein agrees that it's nice to see Ub Iwerks' name proudly displayed on a 1950s advertisement.

What does this all mean? Television prints are not impossible to find, making the Aesop's Fables not only the largest silent cartoon series but also one that has the best odds of being completely archived and accessible. The TV prints don't account for all the original nitrates held in archives, either. For as long as I'm breathing it will be a quest to find more of these titles.
And now, a sound version Commonwealth fable cartoon for you.

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