Van Beuren Studios
Van Beuren StudiosFounded:
Van Beuren Studios was an animation studio in the 1930s. After Paul Terry left Aesop’s Fables Studio, due to a disagreement over sound with his partner, Amadee J. Van Beuren, Van Beuren reorganized the studio, prepared it for the production of sound cartoons, and renamed it Van Beuren Studios. Aesop’s Fables Studio’s animator, John Foster, became Van Beuren Studios’ first animation director. The studio continued to produce the Aesop’s Film Fables series until 1933.
The studio also introduced new series, starting with the Tom and Jerry (1931-1933) series, which was influenced by Barré’s Mutt and Jeff shorts. The studio managed to produce 26 cartoons but due to the lack of success, the series was ended, and John Foster was replaced by George Stallings in 1933. The studio was looking for a breakthrough star, and the animation team created the character of Cubby Bear, which proved not to be successful either. Van Beuren decided to take a step in another direction, and licensed the popular comic-strip character The Little King, and radio’s most popular personalities, Amon ‘n’ Andy, to adapt into animation. The two series did not bring popular success that Van Beuren was looking for.
With a need for a change, Van Beuren brought a new animation director to his studio, Burt Gillett, in 1934. At that time, Gillett was considered to be one of the best directors in the industry after directing The Three Little Pigs (1933). Even though Gillett brought with him a few animators from Disney, new working techniques, for instance pencil tests, as well as new ideas, none of his initial cartoons were successful among viewers. His first series, Toddle Tales, was a disappointment, and only three cartoons in the series were produced.
Gillett also supervised the first color series, Rainbow Parade (1934-1936), which featured new characters, for instance Molly Moo Cow, and established ones, namely Felix the Cat, and Toonerville Trolley. This was the first of Van Beuren’s series that resonated well with the audience, and achieved both recognition and success. Also, this series is considered by many writers and scholars to bring the most sophisticated and visually creative cartoons out of all Van Beuren shorts. Despite the success that Van Beuren Studios started to achieve with its series, RKO Radio Pictures, studio’s distributor, decided in 1936 to distribute Walt Disney’s cartoons, and as a result end distributing Van Beuren’s shorts.
Van Beuren was unable to find another distributor, and was forced to close the studio in the same year. The Van Beuren cartoons were sold to Officials Films, and Commonwealth Pictures. They changed the names of some of the characters and shorts, and sold them for television release and home-movie distribution.
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- Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2006.
- Maltin, Leonard. Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980.