May 26, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

The Van Beuren “Aesop’s Fables, Volume 1” Blu-ray is here!

In Thunderbean news:
I’m heading down to the Columbus Moving Picture Show Thursday morning, and I’m excited to see lots of old friends as well as show some of the work-in-progress stuff at the same time. I was *really* hoping Flip the Frog would be back from replication before the show, but delays with the project partner have thrown it behind — it will be moving forward before too long….

In the meantime, Aesop’s Fables, Volume 1 has returned from replication. It’s the first volume of what will eventually be a handful of volumes. Although it’s a little different in some of the contents, it’s also sort of an upgrade of the set produced in 2005. That set was a collaboration between Chris Buchman, Rex Schneider and myself. Some of the menus and graphics for that set were done in a higher DPI back then, others were not, so upgrading the set to work in HD presented some challenges.

The set features 16 cartoons from both the silent and sound era. Some of them were featured on the now retired ‘Classics from the Van Beuren Studio set’. That set seemed redundant now that the Rainbow Parades had their own collection, so we were able to combine the Aesop’s Fables from that set into this new volume, with a little more cleanup and care.

I had lots of help in getting the set together over this past year. The film collecting community was especially helpful since I didn’t have some of the same prints available that we had the first time around some 17 years back. Films were generously lent for this collection by Jeff Missinne, Chris Buchman, Mark Kausler, Mark Mayfield and Tommy Stathes. Digital cleanup for the collection was done by myself as well as a crackajack staff including David and Becky Grauman, Ciara Waggoner, Becca Smith and Mel McCann, who worked on many of these films years back.

Being able to update the special features was a lot of fun, especially being able to present the original ‘Aesop’s Movie Book’ in full pages in HD. Aaron Neathery was kind enough to scan his copy of this years back.

We always like to have lots of bonus features on these sets if possible, and the first time around was no exception. Upgrading to HD was also fun while producing these, especially with the side-by-side comparison of the animation in “Toy Time” and “Silvery Moon”.

We’re sending out the pre-orders first before putting the set up on Amazon, but it will be available there early next week. It’s up at Thunderbean shop though, and if you join those pre-orders you get a bonus disc of all the raw scans from this set.

For now, here’s Toy Time (1931). One of the things I’ve always loved about Van Beuren shorts is how freewheeling they feel, and I have to wonder what working on one of these films was actually like.

This little cartoon doesn’t concern itself too much with plot of course- instead basing most of the film around music. It’s full of wonderful cartoon drawing (go frame by frame on any action). The sweetness of “Goodnight Sweetheart” at the end of the film is one of my favorite moments in any Van Beuren cartoons- it’s just sweet in a way that is still disarming all these years later.

Although it’s not always consistent in model and even continuity, it’s just fine— it’s a fun seven minutes at the theatre to be enjoyed. Becky Grauman and I had a good time cleaning this cartoon up. I hope you enjoy it in whatever theatre you’re watching it in or on!


  • What was it like to work at the Fables/Van Beuren studio? Well, I bet there were toys lying around all over the place. I’ve noticed that the horses in these cartoons all have jointed legs like toy horses. A toy horse that could be manipulated and posed would make a far more satisfactory reference model for the animators than an actual horse (and would further save them the trouble of having to travel out to the country to observe one). The same goes for cars, trains, etc. Note that the toys in “Toy Time” are more realistically rendered than the grotesque cat and mice. Working there must have been more fun than… a Barrel of Monkeys!

    “Goodnight, Sweetheart” was a brand new song in 1931. It was a number one hit that year for Guy Lombardo, and was later recorded by — who else? — Crosby, Columbo, and Vallee!

  • I hope you have a good time at Columbus and that the showcase goes well!!

    SUPER excited for this set. Hopefully a V2 with more Foster Classics won’t be far off. If all goes well, I’m excited for the other Van Beuren sets that may come out this year, Tom and Jerry, Little King, and maybe even Rainbow Parades V2!

  • For what it’s worth, “Goodnight, Sweetheart” was composed by Ray Noble, who (many years later) contributed two songs to the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment of “Fun and Fancy Free.”

  • When you have a mousetrap at the beginning of the picture, you have to trip it in the final act. I believe Chekhov said that. (I was sure the cat was going to have it snap on his tail – a shocking lapse that the Old Van Beuren, with the Mickey and Minnie copies, would never have missed.)

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