Will Sloan, a film podcast host from Canada, first posted an old family photo online in 2016, asking if anyone knew what cartoon was on TV in the background. Strange, but on the Internet no one could understand. But someone finally cracked the case on Monday after six long years.
“My girlfriend and her friends have spent years trying to figure out what cartoon (in the background of the family photo) this cartoon is from,” Sloane. tweeted a few days ago in his last statement. The photo shows a frame from an animated gray-haired, bearded elf in white overalls, red shirt, black hat, and glasses. He is in the middle of a conversation. A TV littered with VHS tapes looks like classic relic of the 90s, wide, hefty plastic box.
“Dozens, maybe even hundreds of people have seen this image, but no one knows where it came from. If you recognize this man, please tell me,” Sloan continued.
It turns out that this image is from an animated TV movie called Soul Mates: Gift of Light and aired in 1991. Why did it take so long to understand? The film appears to have only been shown on TV once in the 1990s and only in Canada before it was released on VHS. And the videotape release, again, was probably exclusive to Canada.
The original photo from Sloane was a shot where the TV and what it was playing are obviously not the subject. But that’s what made the mystery even more interesting. This medium was somehow familiar, but completely forgettable. It doesn’t look like anyone intentionally photographed the TV as if it were showing viewers exclusive look at Elvis or something.
And this photo of Sloan has been shared multiple times on social media like Tumblr, Twitter and Reddit since 2016, when many people were absolutely sure that they had finally solved the mystery. Sloan was only able to give a few clues about the photo: it was probably taken in 1991 or 1992, definitely in the US Southwest. Ontario, Canada and possibly around Christmas.
Many people immediately turned to other VHS tapes on the bookshelf for potential answers, but it proved to be a dead end. Last week, a photo of Sloane went viral in 2019 with people on tumblr began collecting inaccurate guesses as to where the image might have come from.
The person who finally solved the mystery was a YouTube user. Joshua Rastiawho was warned by a YouTube show It’s all Jorge’s fault, which was recently shrouded in mystery. It was only after watching the YouTube show that Rastia realized he had a copy of the program everyone was looking for. Rastia digitized his videotape by uploading the video to YouTube on Monday.
When the image was still a mystery, several people insisted that it was from a show called small, but no one was able to create a video clip proving that he really was from this program. Other people thought it might have been the Smurfs or a TV commercial featuring Keebler elves. But they were all wrong.
This reporter even emailed a former Bohbot Entertainment executive after someone on Twitter theorized that the show could be from a TV pilot episode that wasn’t included in the full series. We never heard back from them.
But looking through the newspaper archives, Gizmodo found a program that aired on television in Ontario at 7:30 p.m. November 27, 1991right after Danger! and right before the sitcom Married with children. The TV program described the show as follows: “Two alien children with special powers arrive on Earth just in time to save Christmas.”
Other listings indicate that the TV movie may have been screened again for audiences in Edmonton on Christmas Day in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
It doesn’t look like the TV movie is showing anywhere in the US, at least not under the title Soul Mates: Gift of Light. And it seems that the lack of American coverage has doomed this part of media history to relative obscurity.
In the early 1990s, Canada’s population was only 28 million compared to the US’s population of 253 million. There were simply fewer people likely to have seen the show than the average American cartoon would, even if it only aired once.
The TV movie was directed by Chris Schouten, who worked in the animation department on films such as Heavy metal (1981), Anastasia (1997) and Titan A.E. (2000). The lead voices were performed by Al Waxman, who was probably best known for his role on the TV show. Cagney and Laceyand Sheila McCarthy, who played small roles in Day after tomorrow (2004) and Die Hard 2 (1990). Waxman died in 2001. IMDBalthough McCarthy seems to still be working.
You can watch the entire 24 minute show, Soul Mates: Gift of Lighton the YouTube, at least until whoever owns the rights tries to remove it for copyright infringement. And if they do, just remember that copyright protection was only in place for 14 years for exactly this reason. The original content producers had time to capitalize on this cartoon. It now belongs to the internet, our gigantic collective memory. Or at least it should.