For the earliest members of the TV generation, this cartoon was omnipresent.
In his book, Of Mice and Magic, Leonard Maltin wrote that his childhood included "countless viewings" of The Sunshine Makers (1935). No less an authority than my mother vividly recalls it as one of the very first things she ever watched on television in 1952 - and that it was on practically all the time. Even after having not seen the cartoon for a half-century, she could still sing "Hail His Majesty the sun" perfectly.
The listing is from a New York City edition of TV Guide for June 1956, three years before I was born. I grew up in the NYC Metro area, but I don't recall Sunshine Makers, "Uncle Joe" or any kiddie shows on WABC, except maybe on Saturday mornings. I also don't remember cartoon titles being listed in TV Guide. It's nice to know that they once did that, just as it's nice to see that the stations had something for everybody during that half-hour - too bad there was only one set per TV household back then.
Once the major studios sold their cartoon libraries to TV, and stations got their hands on actual "stars" like Popeye, Bugs Bunny and Mighty Mouse, shorts like Sunshine Makers were consigned to oblivion.
Sunshine Makers was apparently produced independently by Ted Eshbaugh in 1933 for the Borden company. I don't know an awful lot about Eshbaugh, except that he was one of the earliest animation directors to work with color, and that he'd done a lot of independent work - including a cartoon version of The Wizard of Oz, which I understand is an extra on Warner Brothers' DVD release of the classic Judy Garland feature.
Two years later, the Van Beuren Studios in New York City
released the film to theaters - their output was distributed by RKO Radio Pictures and Eshbaugh was now working there as a director - as part of their "Rainbow Parade" cartoon series. The ad shown is from April 1935 for the Ritz Theater in Anniston, Alabama.
Fifteen years before U.P.A. was hailed for breakthroughs in the use of light, color and shadow in animation, this little gem was blazing the trail. Granted, it was hamstrung by the Cinecolor process, which only utilized blue and red tints. But I suspect that if a pristine 35mm print were to emerge, a few prominent film historians might sit up and take notice.The story is simplicity itself. The happy elves harness the sun to produce "bottled sunshine." The gloomy elves ("We're happy when we're sad") that live in the dark forest next door try to stir up trouble. This leads to a full-fledged battle that they are destined to lose, for goodness and light will always triumph.
Van Beuren went out of business in 1937, just after RKO Radio signed a distribution deal with Walt Disney. The cartoon library was divvied up between several interested parties - Guaranteed Pictures, Commonwealth Pictures, Official Films; all ancient history now. Eventually, the Van Beuren films fell into the public domain, but thanks to the dollar DVDs you can find at Wal-Mart, Target or almost any $1 store, Sunshine Makers is once more omnipresent. Look for it - if you enjoy cartoons, it's a title well worth owning.