Friends, originally I was going to write an article about today being the 92nd anniversary of Popeye the Sailor. While doing a little research on E. C. Segar’s iconic comic strip character however, I came across an article by the esteemed Jim Korkis (co-writer of Cartoon Confidential) on the Cartoon Research site about a Lone Ranger short from 1936. In the article itself, Jim discusses the many times that the character of the Lone Ranger and Tonto have found themselves appearing in animated form – whether that be as parody or as the more familiar versions of the beloved characters that originated on radio in 1933. If you happened to follow my work for nearly a decade when I was writing for the Retroist – you might recall on more than a few Toon In articles – where I shared the likes of the 1966 The Lone Ranger as well as the 1980’s The New Adventures of the Lone Ranger television series. While I do enjoy both cartoons, I must admit that I much prefer the animation style utilized by the Halas and Batchelor Cartoon Studios and Atransa Park Studios on the 1966 series.
Which brings us back to this Lone Ranger animated oddity from 1936 (the date offered by IMDB) – as there is very little information to go on besides the article on Cartoon Research. At the very least we do know that the producer for the nearly three minute long Pathegrams animated short entitled The Masked Rider was Roy Meredith – who not only is credited for producing a 1934 cartoon for Little Orphan Annie but also wrote as well as produced the TV mini-series entitled The American Civil War: A Pictorial History Through the Photographs of Mathew B. Brady in ’59. Apparently Meredith was something of an Civil War historian as before his passing on January 7th of 1984 – he wrote 12 books about the subject ranging from those famous photographs taken by Mathew B. Brady to the dark history of the Andersonville POW camp.
For what it might be worth, in doing my research I thought that perhaps The Lone Ranger short might have been part of the Pathegrams Cine-Vue collection – which featured the likes of Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Hopalong Cassidy and others. Although after digging deeper, it appears that these offerings were in fact film strips – basically a comic strip that you would turn frame by frame to read the whole story.
From that article by Jim Korkis, he mentions that the current belief is this 1936 animated short was somehow related to Merita breads – who were sponsors of the radio series and would go on to support the television series starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I do know that Merita as part of their sponsorship for the old time radio show created the Lone Ranger Safety Club which included all manner of merchandise like cut out masks, a star-shaped badge, calendars, a silver bullet pencil sharpener, and much more. I wonder if perhaps members of the club could have sent off for The Masked Rider animated short film – although you would assume that Merita breads would have been mentioned in the opening credits, right?
Whatever the true history is for this 1936 animated short – I am very glad that The Lone Ranger has been uploaded to the likes of the Internet Archive, so that future fans of animation can enjoy it for years to come.