Farmer Al Falfa (also known as Farmer Grey), the quintessential grizzly old farmer type, is an animated cartoon character created by Paul Terry. He first appeared in 1915 on Down on the Phoney Farm produced by Thanhouser. Next came 11 shorts produced by the John R. Bray Studios. After leaving Bray, Terry retained the character and used him frequently during the 1920s for his Aesop's Film Fables series, the character's most prolific period. When Terry made the transition to sound, so did the farmer. The first publicly released sound cartoon, Dinner Time, featured Farmer Al Falfa as an irritable butcher who had to fend off a pack of hungry hounds. However, the short failed to grasp the public's interest like Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie, released one month later.
In 1929, Terry left his producer, Amadee J. Van Beuren to open his own studio, with distribution covered by Educational Pictures. Van Beuren briefly kept the character before Terry gained the rights to him again and was revived in a Terry cartoon beginning with French Fried (1930) and made frequent appearances in the earliest Terry sound shorts. But as Terry's studio began to grow and develop, Farmer Al Falfa wore out his welcome and was subsequently all but retired. The Farmer never entirely disappeared, though; he was featured as a supporting player in the first two Heckle and Jeckle cartoons, released in 1946, and starred in Uranium Blues (1956) ten years later.
In the fall of 1958, the white-bearded protagonist starred in the syndicated television program Farmer Al Falfa and his Terrytoon Pals, a compilation of the earlier black and white Terry shorts. Though no longer for sale in the mainstream television market, most of the early cartoons, the silents, in particular, have surfaced on public domain compilations including, most notably, Video Yesteryear's Cartoonal Knowledge VHS series from the 1980s.
In the early 1950s, the character was unofficially rechristened "Farmer Gray," probably by Fred Sayles, the host of a children's program called Junior Frolics on station WATV in Newark, N.J. Sayles certainly named some of the subsidiary characters (presumably previously nameless), e.g., "Bumpy" the donkey, "Casper" and "Bad Mike," the cats and "Marty" and "Millie," the mice.
In mid-1950s Terrytoons comics, the character was also briefly rechristened "Farmer Gray", presumably to capitalize on "Junior Frolics". But the renaming in comics didn't last—it was done inconsistently (sometimes changing from month to month), and by the late 1950s, the character's original name was back permanently.
- He made a cameo appearance in the Drawn Together episode "Clum Babies" as an old man who wants to be cured of his Alzheimer's disease along with Sylvester, a Warner Bros. character
- He was also planned to make a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but they couldn't get the rights to him during this time.