Director: John Foster
Release Date:
 January 4, 1930
Stars: Farmer Al Falfa
Rating: ★★½

The Iron Man © Van Beuren‘The Iron Man’ was one of the last of Van Beuren’s Aesop’s Fables to feature Farmer Al Falfa, before Paul Terry claimed this character to be his own.

It takes some time for we watch the title’s iron man itself. First we watch a cat with a hurdy-gurdy, then two fighting roosters with ridiculously large feet, and then some remarkable animation of a large tree falling down. This part is essentially silent, with music seemingly added.

Then Farmer Al Falfa receives a package with the iron man in it. Together they perform a bizarre slow dance, to psychedelic effects. It’s clear the Van Beuren studio was still struggling with rhythmical movement, for in this sequence both Al Falfa and the robot seem to float in air. There’s no weight or gravity involved, at all.

Then, when Farmer Al Falfa kicks the robot, it grows millions of miles tall, towering over the earth, before it explodes. This is a mindblowing piece of animated weirdness. However, the pieces fall together to form the robot again, which chases our hero into the distance. Iris out.

‘The Iron Man’ is in no sense a classic film, but it shows the difficulties of the sound age for the silent era studios. The second part also shows some embryonic weirdness that would become staple for the Van Beuren studio films of the early 1930s. Finally, ‘The Iron Man’ is one of the very first cartoons to feature a human-like robot. Other studios would follow years later, like Walter Lantz’s ‘Mechanical Man’ (1932), Max Fleischer’s ‘The Robot‘ (1932) and Walt Disney’s ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man‘ (1933).

Watch ‘The Iron Man’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Iron Man’ is available on the DVD ‘Aesop’s Fables – Cartoon Classics from the Van Beuren Studio’