Molly contemplates a wall across the road.


Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: The Van Beuren Studio
First appeared: 1935
Creators: Burt Gillett and Tom Palmer
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Funny animal creators frequently choose barnyard species for the outward form of their characters, possibly because fauna of that type are familiar, non-threatening, even sort of friendly-seeming (which is also why they're often found fleeing …

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… in terror from gleeful children in petting zoos). Warner's Porky Pig, Lantz's Charlie Chicken and Archie Comics' Super Duck are only a few examples. But these are all anthropomorphic animals — they have hands, walk upright, speak human language, etc. It's unusual, however, for a barnyard-style funny animal star to look and behave like the sort of creature you'd find hanging around a farm. But then there's Molly Moo Cow.

Molly was a product of the Van Beuren studio, which film and cartoon historian/commentator Leonard Maltin called "the least-known cartoon company of the 1930s". Van Beuren licensed newspaper cartoon properties like The Little King and Toonerville Trolley for animation and had a few home-grown series like Cubby Bear and Parrotville, but its biggest claim to fame is that it's the one Paul Terry's studio split off from.

Animation's biggest moo cow star was first spotted in Picnic Panic, released May 3, 1935, directed by Burt Gillett (Bucky Bug, Three Little Pigs) and Tom Palmer (not the Tom Palmer who used to ink for Marvel Comics — this one directed cartoons starring Buddy, Oswald and, of course, Molly). It was part of the studio's "Rainbow Parade" series and therefore produced in color, not a universal trait back then, when Disney's contractual monopoly in cartoons on the Technicolor process had only recently expired. The only thing missing was her name. If the moo cow who appeared there had one, it wasn't mentioned. But she did look just like Molly.

The second one, Hunting Season, which came out three months later, had no such lack. After that, Molly's series was off and running — at least to the extent that moo cows run, which, as anyone who has ever so much as driven past a cow pasture knows, isn't much. In Molly's case, it was another four cartoons. The last was Molly Moo Cow & Robinson Crusoe, released February 28, 1936. All were directed by Gillett and Palmer.

At least one source lists another Molly cartoon, and says it came out in 1937. But by that time, the Van Beuren studio had folded. The title given there does not appear in other cartoon filmographies.

Today, Molly is seen mostly in video compilations of public domain cartoons.


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Text ©2007-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Van Beuren Studio.