Aesop's Film Fables
Aesop's Film Fables was a series of animated short subjects, created by American cartoonist Paul Terry. Terry came upon the inspiration for the series by young actor-turned-writer Howard Estabrook, who suggested making a series of cartoons based on Aesop's Fables. Although Terry later claimed he had never heard of Aesop, he felt that Estabrook's idea was something worthwhile. Terry immediately began to set up a new studio called Fables Studios, Inc. and received backing from the Keith-Albee Theatre circuit.
The series launched on May 13, 1921 with The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs. Only the earliest films were loose adaptations of the actual Fables while later entries usually revolved around cats, mice, and the disgruntled Farmer Al Falfa. Each short concluded with a "moral" that usually had nothing to do with the actual cartoon itself. Terry staffer Mannie Davis once remarked that the morals were even "funnier than the whole picture itself." "The fact that they're ambiguous is the thing that made 'em funny," Terry once said. Morals included "Go around with a chip on your shoulder and someone will knock your block off" or "Marriage is a good institution, but who wants to live in an institution?"
The series proved to be enormously popular with the public during the 1920s. Walt Disney admitted that his earliest ambition was to produce cartoons of comparable quality to Paul Terry. With the popularity of Al Jolson's part-talkie The Jazz Singer in 1927, as well as the huge success of the first all-talkie Lights of New York in 1928, producer Amadee J. Van Beuren realized the potential of sound films and urged Terry to add the innovation to his films. Terry argued that adding sound would only complicate the production process, but ended up doing so anyway (the series would now be renamed Aesop's Sound Fables).
Released in October 1928, Dinner Time became the first cartoon with a synchronized soundtrack ever released to the public (from May 1924 to September 1926, Max Fleischer had released the series Song Car-Tunes made in DeForest Phonofilm but only the music, not dialogue, was synched to the Bouncing Ball gimmick.). However, the film was overshadowed by the release of Disney's Steamboat Willie on November 18, 1928. Fable Studios did not cease production of silent cartoons until the release of Presto-Chango on April 14, 1929.
In 1929 Terry quit, starting his own TerryToons Studios, and John Foster took over the series under the Van Beuren Corporation, formerly Fable Studios, Inc. The series finally came to a close in 1933. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) lists 445 titles from 1920 to 1929 under the production company name of Aesop Fables Studio, and 270 titles under Van Beuren Studios from 1928 to 1936.
- Crafton, Donald (1993): Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898–1928. University of Chicago Press.
- Gifford, Denis (1990): American Animated Films: The Silent Era, 1897–1929. McFarland and Company.
- Maltin, Leonard (1987): Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. Penguin Books.
- Solomon, Charles (1994): The History of Animation: Enchanted Drawings. Outlet Books Company.
- Paul Terry at the Internet Movie Database
- Terrytoons at the Internet Movie Database
- Aesop's Fables Studio at the Internet Movie Database
- Van Beuren Studios at the Internet Movie Database