Aesop’s Fable Doll Revealed: I’m Puffie!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Picking up where I left off last week, a Pictorama cliff hanger first (can be found here), today I present Puffie. Those of you who have followed me over the course of my collecting know that I have a keen weakness for these somewhat obscure dolls and the sight of one I do not own, let alone have not seen, makes me a bit daffy. Puffie is one such toy, coming in an original box no less, which set my collecting senses a-tingle – more like ablaze! Caution thrown to the wind I snatched him up recently on eBay.

In the zoology of Aesop’s Fable dolls, he appears to be more of a bear according to the illustrations, as shown on the box below. In my opinion he doesn’t resemble his drawn self especially however. Anyone have any thoughts to enlighten me on this?

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Aesop Fable box, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection: Puffie’s tag – wonder if Edgar’s name was actually Wright instead of Wight?

 

Oh joy! He has his tag! Attached to a bright red ribbon as shown above it reads, I’m “Puffie” See my pals in the Aesop’s Fables Films and in a child’s hand in pencil EDGAR WIGHT is neatly printed. Let me tell you, Edgar took very good care of his toys. Unlike my other Aesop’s Fable dolls, Puffie has his W.R. Woodard Co. stamps on the bottoms of both feet. He sports the stick-on black eyes, not pie-eyes in his case. His ears are brown, at first I thought they had faded to that color, but that isn’t the case when I look more closely. I very much like the detail of a line of red in his mouth. I love his little blue trousers with the one strap holding them up and his stubby tail sticks out the back.

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Faded but visible stamps on the bottom of both feet, W. R. Woodard Co.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection, Puffie from the back

 

It is remarkable for the first time to see one of these dolls pretty much as it must have looked when it arrived under a Christmas tree in 1929 or ’30, almost 90 years ago. You might think that given my prediction for preserved toys that I was the kind of child who took exceptionally good care of mine. I did not. I mean, it wasn’t like I was especially abusive, but it really would not have occurred to me to keep a toy’s box (maybe with rare exception) let alone tag. My toys were played with and if anything excessively loved, worn down along the edges from being dragged around with me and tucked into bed nightly. Still, for all of that, I am so very glad that somewhere all those years ago, Edgar Wight was very different from me.

 

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection – Puffie like new in his box!

 

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W.R. Woodard Aesops Fable Doll, Part 1: Original Box, Puffy

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today I am pleased and even somewhat surprised to have this extraordinary tidbit to offer. On July 4 I was typing away at one of these blog posts when I decided to take a momentary procrastination break and look at incoming email. There was an eBay alert for Aesop Fable and much to my surprise, instead of an aging 8mm film print of one of the cartoons, there, pristine in their boxes no less, with tags were two Aesop’s Fable dolls for sale! Glory be! I almost fell out of my chair.

For those of you who have followed Pam’s Pictorama for a bit, you know I have a somewhat pathological interest in these dolls and collecting them. These dolls and a handful of other promotions. (I was most recently debating the merits of a handkerchief book at auction – a book of and about hankies embroidered with the various Aesop’s Fables characters on them. Fascinating, but really sort of odd. See below.) These are of course the products of the merchandising arm of cartoons of the same name, which are also much beloved by me.

These fine, if somewhat disparate, items are the product of the W. R. Woodard Company of Los Angeles, California. I have only found scant information about the company online, they were in existence for the lone year of 1929-1930. As toys go this tends to be high stakes collecting with the strange caveat that the dolls are not hugely well-known, and therefore can indeed languish until I, or one of my largely unknown compatriots, runs across it. Therefore, depending, one can be in an expensive dog fight over one, or they can lay unclaimed, sold cheaply.

Without a moment’s concern for my bank balance (toy blood lust takes this form), I seized on the one of these dolls I did not already have. Bam! I wasn’t going to have it snatched out from under me. When Kim came home from a quick trip to the drugstore I broke the news of my acquisition, which he took characteristically in stride. Less than a week later it arrived in all its glory. I made inquiries with the seller and she said all she knew was that it was part of a large buy she had made of an elderly woman’s things, being sold since she was moving into smaller, retirement home digs. The other doll, also in the box, Don, sold eleven days later.

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The box, shown above, is a bit longer and thinner than a shoebox. It is decorated with red line illustrations of the various Aesop’s Fable characters. It has a hole in on side that looks like someone took a big bite out of it, but we will assume it occurred in a less interesting and romantic fashion. Written in several places on the box in red is Genuine Aesop’s Fable Film Character. Stamped in black, VELVET DON periodically (yep, the seller gave me the wrong box. I thought it said DOLL at first, but it says DON.) Part of the pattern, shown below, is a mark that declares W R Woodard Co Los Angeles and also A Genuine Aesop’s Fable Film Character. There are renderings of the dolls including: Waffles, Don, Mike, Puffie, Al, Countess and Waffles. 

I was stunned to find that the enclosed doll was in pristine condition, but more about him in our next post!

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Aesop’s Fables handkerchief book, not in my collection (yet) from the Creighton University site

Foxy Squirrel?

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Al the Squirrel Aesop Fable doll from Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Pam’s Pictoram Toy Post: Oh joy and bliss! My first of several post-birthday posts is devoted to this utterly magnificent birthday gift from Kim, the most unusual of the Aesop Fable dolls in some ways. This toy came to me via a lovely toy dealer in Belgium, Regine Beghin, who has been the source of several holiday and birthday acquisitions in recent years. I will hope that my travels eventually land me nearby so I can say hello in person one day. (That does of course have the potential to be a very expensive trip indeed.)

Unlike his brethren, this is the only one of the dolls I know of with a very different body type, a strangely long skinny neck and puffy tail. As seen in this publicity photo below, the others are largely interchangeable bodies, different heads, clothes and expressions. So now comes the big question – what animal exactly does my new friend portray and what is his name? Looking at my prior research, presented in my post Mine, all mine…at long last – a personal favorite post – I listed the names for those characters as identified on the back of the photo, but realize this fellow remained nameless!

Aesope's Fables toys

Photo from the Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Google remains stubbornly inadequate on information about these Aesop Fable toys. In fact, it has gotten to where Google images on the subject are mostly my toys and posts! I reached out, deep into the toy network, and tapped a friend who I consider the Kingpin of Toy Lore. Mel agreed that he had always thought this was a fox (Max Fox perhaps?), but in examining the Aesop Fable hankies book – he owns his own copy, but some of you know this was recently the subject of some covetousness on eBay by yours truly – all the characters are laid out and identified. It would appear, as shown below, that this fellow isn’t a fox (or a wolf) after all – he is evidently Al Squirrel! (This and some much more can be seen at melbirnkrant.com.)

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Collection of Mel Birnkrant – melbirnkrant.com

 

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Collection of Mel Birnkrant – melbirnkrant.com

 

I must say, on the face of it a squirrel seems like a strange animal to attempt immortalized as a cartoon character. I kind of like the fact that they gave him such a straightforward name – Al. Upon reflection, perhaps a wolf or a fox carries negative cartoon connotations. (Think Three Little Pigs for starters.) Squirrels, on the other hand, are industrious, hard working little fellows. I suppose more likable – although the image above is anything but, holding a dead rabbit and a ditty about shooting a bee. Hmmm. Bottom, line, he is clearly a bit of a stretch aesthetically – more foxy than squirrelly  however.

I will note that this little fellow of mine seems to have replacement eyes (as above all of the dolls with open eyes have flat black pasted on ones, mostly but not all pie-eyed) and as a toy collector I should care about that, but his eyes are very fitting and I admit to liking them very much despite being later replacements. Otherwise his is in very good shape overall.

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Detail, Al the Squirrel Aesop Fable doll, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

In the process of writing this post I realized something else – in the above photo the Countess, the character at the far right, has different feet than all the others. I own two (yes, two – for the most recent acquisition see the post about that variation on a theme Aesop Fable Doll – the Prize!) Countess dolls and neither has those strange feet. Additionally, in what I now think of as true Aesop Fable tradition, my friend mentioned above also noted that his “hankie book” had a different cover than the one on eBay.

Finally, to muddy the waters further, below I share a photo of a partial doll I have, given to me by my friend Zach Sigall a few years ago. This was clearly another variation on the Wolf, Fox, Squirrel figure and is substantially different than our friend Al. Although his tail is missing, he doesn’t have the skinny neck and there’s no indication he had the fat tail. Unlike the other dolls his eyes are painted on and could not come off at all – other dolls seem to have eyes that are very firmly attached, but applied on. If we are using the hankie book as a reference or guide this fellow does not seem to have a match – perhaps there is a Max Fox after all.

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Mystery doll fragment, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

I remain totally enthralled and fascinated by what appears to be the mix and match mysterious nature of this enterprise. I cannot help but wonder if, like the East End shop I wrote about that churned out many of the more off-model Felix toys I enjoy today, this was not also a fairly small company that just randomly combined pieces to assemble these toys. Meanwhile, as for me, that means that I can dream about there being almost endless variation on each of these toys I can hope to some day find!

Aesop Fable Doll – the Prize!

Pam’s Pictorama: Flashing back to last November, you may remember I posted Just in – a New Aesop’s Fable Doll about an Aesop’s Fable toy I had managed to score for a bargain price on eBay under a poor listing. (For those of you who are uninitiated, these wonderful toys are like hen’s teeth to find. For background on my collection I suggest the former posts, Mine, all mine…at long last and Van Bueren’s Aesop Fables – the Toys, for background.) While researching the November post I turned up an interesting ad for an Aesop Fable doll contest being held in theaters. The ad featured a four foot version of the Countess doll. I offer a refresher of the image below.

Aesop Fable Doll Ad

So you can imagine my stunned delight when a version of The Countess turned up at a Hake’s auction a few weeks ago that claimed to be a theater prize! I have to assume that these were made special for this purpose as she is about 10% smaller than my other Aesop Fable dolls. She is what I call a blond version, instead of black velvet she is yellow. (It confuses me a bit, but I have come to accept that various doll parts seems to have been assembled in random order to make up the dolls. Perhaps this is how they designed the endless cartoon characters in the animation as well.) Her skirt is a fabric I love, with other Aesop Fable characters dancing across the gingham surface. Best of all, under her skirt, written carefully in ink is the following: I’m The Countess and Fox West Theatre – August 20, 1932 – Junior Reed – 1909 – Lucky Number. Can you imagine being the lucky winner on August 20, 1932?

With significant help from Kim, Deitch Studios (Toy Division!) made this magnificent acquisition, beating out several other determined bidders and adding her to my growing collection. Welcome home Countess!

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Nathan Albert Headwear

Pam’s Pictorama Pin Post: I usually limit my forays into pin purchase to Felix and Krazy Kat – I have collected several of the little enamel pins of each. However this little number called my name on eBay the other day and I purchased it for a couple of dollars. I learned from the posting that most of these pins have Nathan Albert Headwear stamped on the back, although oddly this one does not. I thought that nothing would be easier than finding this haberdasher online – or at least some reference. Oddly, although the pins (which are great) exist in abundance in a variety of colors online, I can find pretty much zero about the company. Please enlighten me, any of you readers if you have info!

I wonder if there are many cases of this – a great logo living on well beyond the product it advertises, the product fading into the mists of time. I cannot think of another example, although I occasionally wonder if the Geico Geko will not somehow outlive the memory that he was tied to insurance. Meanwhile, who wouldn’t this splendid cat and fiddle appeal to? On the other hand, what did it have to do with hats? I had trouble getting a good photo of it and have ended up snatching the one off the listing.

It inspired me to dig around a bit and I grabbed up several notable buttons in our household collection, featured below. There is a Countess Aesop Fable pin that would have been sported by the doll, (I believe I purchased the pin alone before buying the doll) of course Bonzo’s Chad Valley pin which is affixed to my Bonzo, and I have (for good measure) included two versions of Kim’s Sunshine Girl pin – one original one from the Kim Deitch archive, and a splendid one that Bill Kartalopoulos had made for an exhibit a few years ago. Last but not least, I have thrown Kim’s Buck Jones Ranger pin in for good measure – certainly a collectible in its own right.

 

Just In – a New Aesop’s Fable Doll!

Which doll is this?

Which doll is this?

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I have a deep relationship with both the Aesop’s Fable cartoons and these splendid toys. (For another post on the subject and my collecting mania in general see my earlier post, Mine, all mine…at long last.) When I discovered the cartoons, well into adulthood, I felt as though these were finally the long lost cartoons I had always been looking for. Reel after reel of endless black cats and mice – chasing, charmingly anthropomorphic. I share an example that somehow is a high water mark for me Makin’ ’em Move, In a Cartoon Studio. It is, of course, animator cats, dogs and pigs, slaving away at the drawing table – just like something out of Boulevard of Broken Dreams…one of my favorite Kim Deitch books! 

The existence of the toys came to me even later, but I fell hard for them. The promotional photo below was my introduction to them. Not surprisingly, the cat in the polka dot skirt was my first acquisition – The Countess. I bought her in a Hake’s auction (I believe Kim helped on that one – in fact I believe he’s had a hand in helping to purchase virtually all of these. He’s very nice about supporting my habit.) We really paid up. She is pretty pristine. The dog in the red pants (Don the Dog) came off of eBay and I got a pretty good deal. The very hurt one on the lower right (another version of The Countess?) Kim picked up during a visit to San Francisco a few years back. The slightly grimy one in the maroon corduroy, I frankly don’t remember acquiring, although I am thinking it must have also been on eBay – he seems to have been altered and I am not sure who he is – Raffles is my guess.

The good news and the bad news it seems is since people don’t know what these dolls are so one most often just stumbles upon them.

Group of Aesop Fable Dolls

The question I pose for today is – which doll is this new one? It is generally thought that these six were it. But careful study shows he just isn’t one of them – and he’s in pretty pristine condition so I don’t think he’s been altered either. Any thoughts out there in cartoon land?

Aesope's Fables toys

Lastly, this tidbit I turned up while searching for the new doll. This is an old advertisement for a theater contest giveaway of Aesop’s Fables dolls! Oh lucky people of the past. Evidently the outsized Countess was four feet high and a replica of the doll! Would love to find that some day. As I’m sure you know, I will just keep looking.

Aesop Fable Doll Ad