Aesop and Son (1959-1962)

“Aesop and Son” was an interstitial series of shorts that appeared on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show from 1959 to 1962, and in syndication for a long time thereafter. A total of thirty-nine five-minute episodes were produced, in which the ancient fabulist Aesop appeared as a character who attempts to teach a lesson to his son using a twisted version of one of the fables or a loose variation thereof. After hearing the story, the son sums up the fable’s moral with a witty pun.

“Aesop and Son” was very similar to the better-known segment “Fractured Fairy-Tales” that was also featured on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. While Aesop’s fables had been a huge source of inspiration to animators since the 1920s (see Paul Terry’s “Aesop’s Fables” series, Disney’s “The Grasshopper and the Ants,” and Warner Brothers’ “Tortoise Beats Hare” featuring Bugs Bunny, for just a few examples), the approach to the material and the animation style of “Aesop and Son” were quite distinct, largely due to the fact that these were produced for TV rather than for movie-theater screenings. The animation is less polished and low-budget, but the wordplay and clever writing, which incorporates satire and the kind of subversive humor that would become extremely popular in the 1960s and 70s, appealed to audiences of both children and adults.

“Aesop and Son” (and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show more generally) thus marks a turning-point in animated depictions of the ancient world. After this, attention would turn to “historicizing” portrayals of the past (see “Asterix the Gaul” and “The Roman Holidays”) or to portrayals based on fantasy and mythological motifs, and the fables of Aesop would receive little attention, with one exception: a 1971 made-for-TV movie that combined live-action and animation and featured Bill Cosby as Aesop.

A youtube playlist with about half the episodes here:



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