Aesops Fables is a series of theatrical shorts created by Paul Terry which were loosely based on the fables written and told by Greek fabulist and storyteller, Aesop. These cartoons began in 1921, 9 years before the TerryToons studio was founded.
In 1920 Paul Terry came upon the inspiration for the series by young actor-turned-writer Howard Estabrook, who suggested making shorts based on Aesop's Fables, Terry later claimed he had never heard of Aesop at the time, however he felt that Estabrook's idea was worth pursing. Terry soon after set up a new studio called Fables Studios, Inc. and received backing from the Keith-Albee Theatre circuit.
The series launched on May 13, 1921, with The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs. Only the earliest films were actual adaptations of the Fables, as later entries usually revolved around unrelated stories, some of which involved Farmer Al Falfa. Each short concluded with a so called "moral" that usually had nothing to do with the cartoon itself. Terry staffer Mannie Davis once remarked that "the morals were even funnier than the whole picture itself." Terry once said "The fact that they're ambiguous is the thing that made 'em funny,"
The process of creating these shorts were cheap but involved and lot of hard work, Terry and his small crew often created entire shorts in the span of a week, always cranking out large numbers of cartoons on record time.
The series was quite popular during this time of the 20's, in fact Walt Disney once admitted that when he first started creating cartoons "..My ambition was to be able to cartoons as good as the Aesop's Fable series."
With the popularity of Al Jolson's part-talkie The Jazz Singer in 1927, producer, Amedee J. Van Beuren, realized the potential of sound films and bought Fables Pictures to produce sound animation films. Van Beuren, now owner of the newly-named Van Beuren Studios, urged Terry to add the innovation to his films. Terry argued that adding sound would only complicate the production process, but ended up doing so anyway, the series would now be renamed Aesop's Sound Fables.
Released in October 1928, Dinner Time became the first cartoon with a synchronized soundtrack ever released to the public, a momentous achievement (Of course, from May 1924 to September 1926, Max Fleischer had already created cartoons with sound, but only the music, not dialogue, was synced.). However, the film was overwhelmingly overshadowed by the release of Disney's Steamboat Willie on November 18, 1928.
Fable Studios did not cease production of silent cartoons until the release of Presto-Chango on April 14, 1929.
In 1929 Terry quit, starting his own studio, which the world would soon know as TerryToons, with him gone John Foster took over the series under the Van Beuren Corporation, formerly Fable Studios, Inc. The series finally came to a close in 1933. there were 445 titles from 1920 to 1929 under the production company name of Aesop Fables Studio, and 270 titles under Van Beuren Studios from 1928 to 1936.
However while the series was still being created as Paul left, Aesop's Fables were and have always been in the public domain, so often TerryToons would create their own Aesop's Fables for years after.