Hosted and narrated by actress and singer Meiko Nakamura, who also appeared in live-action segments between each shorts, Three Tales is an 30-minute anthology special that, as the title implies, featured three short stories. They were all children’s books that were published in Japan at the era. The three stories are “The Third Dish” by Hirosuke Hamada (1893-1973), “Oppel and the Elephant” by Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933), and “Sleeping Town” by Mimei Ogawa (1882-1961).
“The Third Dish” features the creation of the world, where God gets his angel assistant, Rumi, to help him create the world by giving her three tasks. In “Oppel and the Elephant”, a cruel factory manager forces an elephant to gather supplies, to the point that he starves. Finally,”Sleeping Town” has a boy asked by the Sandman to spread sand across a town full of people who are so awake, that they are making too much progress, destroying the environment as a result.All three stories, while having different designs, uses cut-out animation to create limited movements. Each segment has different directors doing all the design and artwork. Keiko Osonoe, who did “The Third Dish”, was primarily an children’s book illustrator. This special is her only known animation work. Makoto Wada handled “Oppel and the Elephant”, probably the most stylish of the three. He was a prolific illustrator who made a few independent animated shorts. Among other films, he directed a short called “Murder” in 1964. Shuichi Nakahara, who did “Sleeping Town”, later became an art director on a few anime, such as “Taotao the Panda”.
The special aired on NHK in January 15, 1960. It was thought to be the first anime made for television, until the discovery of “Mole’s Adventure”, which aired in 1958 on Nippon Television. That said, it’s still a landmark achievement, showing that anime can be viable in television. Astro Boy would debut only three years later, which lead to more animation being made for Japanese television.
Below is the entirety of the special, presented in three parts.