Aesop tells a fable to his son.


Original Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Jay Ward Productions
First Appeared: 1959
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Like all storytelling media, animated cartoons have owed a lot to one of the earliest storytellers of recorded history, Aesop. Probably the first cartoon producer to take advantage of this ancient resource was Paul Terry, whose "Aesop's Fables" series predated Fanny Zilch, Kiko the Kangaroo and all the rest, even Farmer Alfalfa. But a better-known example to modern viewers is Aesop & Son, produced by Jay Ward (Quisp, Quake and Cap'n Crunch) — which, while well-known …

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… for distorting the stories whenever they can be altered for comic effect, actually adhered more closely to Aesop's original formula of following each story with a moral.

In fact, the stories usually had two morals. After telling the tale, followed by the moral, to his son, Aesop would hear the punchline, given by Junior in the form of a second moral, usually an atrocious pun.

Aesop & Son started in 1959, as one of several rotating back segments in Rocky & His Friends, along with Peabody's Improbable History and Fractured Fairy Tales. Like those, it continued in 1961, when the show switched networks and Bullwinkle became the title character. For the rest of the '60s, these segments were rerun as back segments of other Jay Ward shows, such as Hoppity Hooper and even Dudley Do-Right, when that back segment guy briefly got a show of his own at the very end of the decade. The only exception was George of the Jungle, which had its own back segments, Super Chicken and Tom Slick.

Aesop's voice was done by a face actor who never did another role for Ward — Charles Ruggles, whose only other voice role altogether was Ben Franklin in Disney's Ben & Me. Not so with Junior. He was Daws Butler, a mainstay at Ward, Hanna-Barbera and wherever else characters were voiced. Among others, he was Huckleberry Hound, Chilly Willy and the Wolf who co-starred with Droopy and Red.

Aesop & Son was an enduring success in animation, but only in animation. They never starred in comic books, radio, or prose stories, to say nothing of feature-length movies. They can be seen today whenever Rocky & Bullwinkle is rerun.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Jay Ward Productions.