Producer Amadee J. Van Beuren first became involved in the animation industry in 1920, when he formed a partnership with Paul Terry and formed the "Aesop's Fables Studio" for the production of the Aesop's Film Fables cartoon series. Van Beuren released Terry's first sound cartoon Dinner Time (1928) through Pathé Exchange which later became part of RKO. Terry ran the animation studio while Van Beuren focused on other parts of the business. In 1929, Terry quit to start his own Terrytoons studio and John Foster took over the animation department. It was at this time that the Fables Studio became the Van Beuren Studio.
Van Beuren released its films through RKO Radio Pictures. The early-sound Van Beuren cartoons are almost identical to the late-silent cartoons: highly visual, with very little dialogue and occasional sound effects. Bandleaders Gene Rodemich and Winston Sharples supervised the music. The company's main cartoon characters were "Tom and Jerry", a tall-and-short pair, usually vagrants who attempted various occupations -- no relation to MGM's later Tom and Jerry, a cat and mouse. Van Beuren was keenly aware that successful cartoons often featured animated "stars," and urged his staff to come up with new ideas for characters. Cubby, a mischievous little bear, resulted.
Van Beuren still wasn't satisfied, and agreed to license the popular comic-strip character The Little King and radio's hottest comedy act, Amos 'n' Andy to adapt into animated form. Strangely, neither series was successful. Van Beuren then hired Walt Disney staffer Tom Palmer to create a new series of color cartoons. These handsome "Rainbow Parade" cartoons featured established characters: Felix the Cat and the Toonerville Trolley gang.
These Van Beuren efforts were well received, and Van Beuren had finally succeeded in sponsoring a popular cartoon series. Unfortunately, RKO jumped at the opportunity to release industry-leader Walt Disney's cartoons, and dispensed with Van Beuren's services.
The Van Beuren Corporation also acquired and produced live-action features and shorts (including Frank Buck's monster hit Bring 'Em Back Alive). In 1932, Van Beuren purchased 12 Charlie Chaplin silent films for $10,000 apiece, added music (by Rodemich or Sharples) and sound effects, and reissued them through RKO.
Cartoon series from Van Beuren included: