June 16, 2016 posted by

Berny Wolf’s “Nursery Rhyme Films”

I hope that summer finds all of you well and enjoying the outdoors. It was crazy hot here today as I write this, so the cool air at night is greatly welcomed. The light bugs are lighting up the country sky here as I peer out.

In the world of Thunderbean, this last week has been all about Cubby Bear as I push to finish the title. The happiest moment was seeing some rare drawings arriving courtesy of Mark Newgarden. They look mostly like story drawings, perhaps by a newer member of the staff.


This one below was the most unusual I think- I wonder if this is supposed to be Van Bueren’s Cubby beating up the Harman Ising version!

Courtesy of Mark Newgarden

Courtesy of Mark Newgarden

Film clean up takes the longest on the titles at this point, especially since stuff is HD now. Since all of the material on Cubby is coming from prints, the cleanup is extensive, even on seemingly ‘mint’ material. I’m super happy with the overall quality of the set, and am amazed that we’ve been lucky enough to get so many of these films in such beautiful prints. The summer allows pretty long days, and I find I’ve been spending every spare moment on the cleanups- so many hours! I started on the the first cleanup on the film Fresh Ham at 6 on Wednesday morning, and am approaching a fairly clean version on Wednesday night as I write this. I wish all of them were able to get to this point this fast; some of them have well over a week into cleanup in them.


Earlier today, my friend Chris Buchman was telling me about some of the finds he had recently come across. Chris especially likes neat little home movie films, and often material released on 8mm or 16mm in the 40s, 50s and 60s are orphan films or things licensed from small producers. Veteran animator Bernie Wolfe left us a neat little curio that will serve as this week’s short. When Chris mentioned he had just received some of the Bernie Wolfe Nursery Rhyme shorts in 8mm silent versions, I realized we had never shown them here, so here (at least most) of them are!

Bernie Wolfe (aka Bernard, Bern or Berny Wolf) worked on many of the major animation studios over the years, from Fleischer to Ub Iwerks to Disney to MGM, on to Hanna Barbara and many others. He started a small company in the 50s called Animedia Productions that produced animation for educational films and likely television commercials. My guess is that it’s an outgrowth or renaming of his earlier company, Nursery Rhyme Films, started in 1948. Of course, these were the first years of the baby boom, and educational film production was booming as well around this time. My guess is that he mostly sold prints to schools or rental libraries, but into the 60s the films were available in various formats for home use as well.


Wolfe’s animation on these low budget films is a lot of fun, and it’s also fun to see him using the bouncing ball device, having animated on the Fleischer bouncing ball films in the early 30s. They are clearly shot in 16mm film by the edits between shots. I’ve always liked the animation of the Three Blind Mice losing their tails, then happily displaying their bandanges! I also especially like the narrator/singer saying ‘Follow the Piggy!”.

This print came from 16mm film dealer Jerry Nelson, who sold me this battered 16mm Kodachrome reel for $14 in 1984, while I was still in high school. It actually had a fragment of one more of the Nursery Rhyme shorts on it, Humpty Dumpty, but it was incomplete and really too beat up to run, and I tossed it back then.



Have a good week everyone!


  • Steve:
    It’s the very first time I’ve ever seen these! A totally basic,but still interesting set of toons! Keep up the good work!

  • These are interesting films and, yes, I like the fact that he tells you what to follow on each film (“Follow the jumping Jill”?). They remind me of a kind of throwback to the Fleischer sing-along toons, but when it is noted that an animator worked at MGM, I often wonder what cartoons he or she worked on.

  • Love these!

  • Whoa,
    Van Buren’s Cubby beating up the Herman-Ising version of Cubby the Bear? Now that’s a rarity! Now I wonder if there was a drawing out there of Walt Disney’s Oswald the Rabbit beating up the Walter Lantz’s version of Oswald?

  • I think the nursery rhyme films should be bonus features if Steve ever does a “Screen Songs” set licensed by Paramount.

  • Interesting that Jack and Jill are portrayed as Dutch. Holland is almost completely flat – no hills!

  • Didn’t Dave Fleischer do the bouncing ball live on film with a white dot painted on the end of a stick?

  • Are Adrian and Louis Weiss, the famous Weiss brothers who took over Inkwell Films from the Fleischer brothers in New York? You see the Weiss credits on some of the re-issued Screen Song cartunes printed in the 1940s.

    • Alfred Weiss of Inkwell Films was, as far as I know, unrelated to the Weiss Brothers, Louis, Adolph, and Max. Adrian Weiss was one of Louis’s two sons. Adrian and one of his sons, Steven, formed Weiss Global Enterprises, a TV film syndicator. After Adrian’s death in 2001, Kit Parker bought the company’s library and rights.

  • Very nice little film!

  • I notice how the poster for Nursery Rhymes, promise 52 shorts based on nursery rhymes. First 6 seems to have been produced as four of those can be seen in Steve’s sampler video…but does any one know if the remaining 46 were ever produced?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.