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Individual Video Cassettes

1930? Aesop's Fables: Fly Hi. RKO Pathé. Produced by the Van Beuren Corporation. By John Foster and Harry Bailey. Synchronization by Gene Rodemich. Black-and-white eight-minute film short transcribed onto video tape for John Carlson. Gift of John Carlson, Nov., '98.

"Fly Hi" is a nice play on words, as two romantic flies say hi to each other musically over the phone, meet at her place, and then listen to music played by an insidious German-accented spider. After playing classical music for them on two pianos -- with four hands, of course -- the spider chases them, but is arrested by fly-paper. The film seems to rejoice in being a "talkie." There seems to be a simple pleasure in hearing music and voices. As the male fly goes to visit the female, the flowers and bugs along the road join in on his song. The film has nothing to do with Aesop that I can figure out!

1934? Walt Disney Silly Symphony: The Tortoise and the Hare. Ten minutes? No sound. Gift of an anonymous donor. One extra copy at the same time.

The version Disney offers here is the one familiar from his early print publications of this fable. Toby Tortoise and Max Hare appear first at their training camps. Much of the cartoon centers on Miss Cottontail's boarding school. Here Max beats his own arrow to the target, hits his own pitch and then catches it, and plays tennis with himself. The cartoon ends with a celebration of the tortoise and does not go further, as does one of the early print presentations of this film.

1935?/98? Video Scrapbook #46: The Best of Aesop's Fables. Black-and-white. 100 minutes. Paul Terry. Aesop's Sound Fables. Pathé. RCA Photophone. Van Beuren Corporation. £10 from Hollywood's Attic, Burbank, CA, through Whatamibid, April, '00.

I watched one or two of these cartoons. They include some talking, usually done very carefully and deliberately. There is a heavy accent on song-and-dance numbers and very little accent on plot. Typically a cartoon will end with a proverb, which we are meant to take as Aesop's moral. Just after that "Aesop's Fables" are presented as "Sugar Coated Pills of Wisdom."

1967 Aesop's Fables I-III. Metal master tape and two videotape copies of three sixteen-millimeter films. No author, illustrator, or reader acknowledged. Living Prose Series. In collaboration with Lumin Films. McGraw-Hill, Inc. Gift of John Carlson, Dec., '95.

See my comments under "Films."

1980? Fantastic Fables. Six Individual Aesop's Fables. Henry Honeybear and Company. With Cliff Walinski. Minneapolis, MN: Specialty Cassettes, Inc. $4.95 from Pam Wilkinson, Houston, TX, through Ebay, April, '00.

Henry and Cliff seem central to most presentations. In BC, Cliff reads the story to Henry. Further stories are enacted, with heavy dependence on an appropriate set projected in the background. Further stories include TH, "The Lion in Love," CW, FK, and "The Boy Who Wanted to Tremble."

1985 Aesop's Fables. Magic Window. Produced by Simon Nuchtern and Carmen Ventura. Edited by Arshes Anasal. Burbank, CA: RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video. Turner Program Services. 60 minute animated video cassette. $4.99 from Galaxy of Games II, Hamden CT, through Ebay, March, '99. One extra copy in a slightly larger clamshell for $5 from Barry Rieger, Buffalo Grove, IL, through Ebay, April, '99. Two extra copies in more usual cardboard slipcases dated with an 1989 copyright, one of them for $3.25 from Dr. Rob Tingle, Easton, MD, through Ebay, Feb., '00, and the other for $1.40 from Charles Evans, Bogalusa, Louisiana, Sept., '00.

Little Aesop, perhaps ten years old, likes mischief, like tying together dogs' tails. He himself tries the "Wolf!" trick when he starts his first job as a shepherd. The wolf chases him into a dark woods, where he falls through a hole into a new world. There he meets Skitter the Country Mouse, Silkwing the Flower Elf, and Hayhee the ass. Their adventures include an invitation to a City Mouse meal, where the master of the house is a cat. As the three travel, they run into a tortoise and hare arguing. The three soon get work along the way delivering salt; Hayhee's second load is cotton. They meet a fiddling grasshopper who entertains the whole pondside, all of whom join in ridiculing the ants who keep chanting "No time, no time!" Hayhee finds a lion's skin and plays dead when a bear approaches the foursome. In winter, the ants accept an apology and give the travelers food and warm clothing and send them on their way across Terror Mountain, where Winter becomes the North Wind and Spring becomes the Sun to play out a bet. Spring gives Aesop storytelling power and brings him home. As Silkwing reminds Aesop on arriving back home, the animals back here cannot talk. She has lost her wings and will live with him forever. There is a clever attempt here to weave a number of fables into a continuous narrative. Part of the price is to make Aesop into a small boy who, with friends, needs to learn lessons before he can return to his mother. I enjoy the attempt, though I am sorry to see fables turned into a fairy tale. The prose on the slipcases of the extra copies has little Aesop meeting not a Flower Elf but a Flower Elk. That kind of mistake makes me wonder about the claim "Duplicated, Packaged and Printed in USA."

1985? The Tortoise and the Hare/Hill of Fire. Reading Rainbow. TH: illustration by Janet Stevens. Narrated by Gilda Radner. Hosted by Levar Burton. Hill of Fire: Author Thomas P. Lewis. Illustrator Joan Sandin. Hosted by Levar Burton. Stamford, CT: Children's Video Library 1555. $9.50 from George Minkalis, Round Lake, IL, through Ebay, Nov., '00.

This is a complex video that brings together many things, even within the separate stories that it presents. Burton is training for a bicycle race, and the story supports him. Little children give various morals. The whole TH segment lasts perhaps twelve minutes. The TH segment proper within that uses stills from Stevens' book. The one time that I notice something done perhaps for the video presentation occurs when the sleeping rabbit opens his eye.

1987 Five Lionni Classics. 30 minutes. Stories and Images by Leo Lionni. Animation and Direction by Giulio Gianini. Music by Egisto Macchi. Italtoons Corporation. Random House Home Video. ©1986 and 1987 Giulio Gianini/Leo Lionni. $9.99 from the Migomi Corporation, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, through Ebay, Feb., '00.

The presentation is faithful to the delightful approach that Lionni's books take. Thus in the first story, "Frederick," the mice walk on their back legs and often form bucket brigades to move things from one place to another. The other four stories are "Cornelius," "It's Mine!," "Fish Is Fish," and "Swimmy."

1987 Foxy Fables. 75 minutes. Claymation. ©Frame by Frame, Denmark, 1986. ©1987 Hi-Tops Video, a Division of Heron Communications, Santa Monica, CA. HT 0055. Produced by Mike Filderbaum. Directed and Animated by Rony Oren. Co-ordinated by Teresa Appleton. $6.50 from Dana Priddy, Louisville, KY, through Ebay, April, '00. Extra copy for $3.50 from Randy Lanser, St. Rose, LA, through Ebay, June, '99.

Delightful fables following traditional tales, though sometimes with new characters. Apparently, each fable receives an extensive repeated introduction, as though they were made not for seeing all at once but rather for individual viewing, say, one each week. I watched three. FC is very well done; it spends significant time on the theft of the cheese by Cranium the Crow. The second fable presents a story of "Guarding the Cherry Tree" that has Brixton the Hare talking the poor bear into untying him and taking his place. The third fable has the fox dividing a cake between two litigants who come to him for a judgment. Of course he is the one who eats the cake.

1987 Once Upon a Fable. 52 minutes. Wembley, Middlesex: Visionpower, Ltd./Crestshaw, Ltd. £2 from Video Vault, through Ebay, Feb., '02.

Unfortunately, this videotape seems to contain no fables at all. The items featured on the tape are "The Magic Mirror," "Three Clumsy Hunters," "Brave Whistle Stop," "Sleepy Keeper," "Dinosaur Hunt," "The Two Magicians," "The Santa Visit," "Wheels," and "Life in Dogywood."

1993 Lamb Chop's Play-Along Jump into the Story. Shari Lewis. Produced by Bernard Rothman. Directed by Michael Watt. "The Lion and the Mouse" by Lan O'Kun, ©O'Kun Music Corp. Hollywood: A & M Records. Purchased as part of a set for $39.95 from Time-Life, Oct., '93.

Set includes wrapping paper, a greeting card, a puppet, Lamb Chop's Fables, and Lamb Chop's "Sing-Along, Play-Along" cassette. LM is the sixth of the seven presentations on this half-hour tape. It is a song with audience participation. Shari cleverly uses a backyard geodesic hemisphere as a prop to work on and around, while Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, and Charlie Horse model participation. No animation or pictures or fable puppets are involved. The tape shows some overlap with both the book and the cassette.

1993 The Country Mouse & the City Mouse. An HBO Storybook Musical. Starring Crystal Gale and John Lithgow. Music Composed and Arranged by David Evans. About twenty-five minutes. First aired in Fall, '93. Produced by Michael Sporn Animation for Random House Home Video. NY: Random House, Inc. Gift of Pack Carnes, Oct., '94. Extra copy taped from HBO by Tom and Diann Greener, Fall, '93.

A sentimental animated development of the TMCM story, set at Christmas in the 1930's. The mice have fancy clothes and mice-sized furniture but live in the big-sized human world. Emily from the country accepts cousin Alexander's invitation to visit him at Antoine's in New York. She uses a horse-drawn wagon, train, and parachute-umbrella to get there. Alexander is an uppity, condescending tour guide who likes to drop French phrases. Emily is swept into Macy's and gets lost. She loves the city but misses home and the children there and sings the first of two songs, "When someone you love is far away." The chef at Antoine's hates mice, gets a Christmas cat, and declares war. After a narrow escape, Emily invites Alexander out to the country, where the children, missing her, have left cheese and gifts. Second song: "Christmas is where the heart is."

1994 Muppet Classic Theater. Where 6 Fairy Tales Take A Wacky Twist. Jim Henson Productions. 68 minutes. $4.99 from Sandra Gates, Paragould, Arkansas, through Ebay, Feb., '00.

BW, one of the six offerings here, is the only fable. In it the shepherd, played by Gonzo, becomes known for overreacting. During the presentation he has shouted "Earthquake!" and "Tidal Wave!" over small occurrences. When he comes shouting "Wolf!" the townsfolk claim that he is just overreacting again and list many more instances from the past. There is thus none of the usual motif of fooling people or making fun of them. The wolf gives this shepherd one day to get help. The townsfolk (where Kermit is mayor) sing a good song "Who do you think you're fooling?" At the last minute Cousin Norman, a very large sheep, is enlisted to confront and stop the wolf. Typically enjoyable Muppet fun!

1996? Jeep television advertisement using TH. 30 seconds. Gift of the advertising department at Jeep.

The tortoise takes a Jeep and crosses the line first. The producer of the spot advertisement assured me that no animal was harmed in the filming of this advertisement. I think she first read me on the phone as an activist against what she had done. When she found out I was only a harmless collector, she was happy to send me a copy of the advertisement. I will keep this entry also under "Advertising."