Will Sloan, a film podcast host in Canada, first posted an old family photo online in 2016 and asked if anyone knew what cartoon was playing in the background on TV. Oddly enough, no one could find out. But someone finally cracked the case on Monday after six long years.
“My girlfriend and her friends spent years trying to figure out which cartoon (which can be seen in the background of a family photo) was from,” Sloan said tweeted a few days ago in his recent plea.
“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.
The image turns out to be from an animated TV movie called “The Soulmates: The Gift of Light‘ and aired in 1991. Why did it take so long to figure it out? It looks like the film only ran once on TV and only in Canada in the 1990s before it was released on VHS. And the videocassette release, again, was probably exclusive to Canada.
Sloan’s original photo was a snapshot where the TV and whatever was playing on it is clearly not the subject. But that made the mystery even more interesting. This piece of media was somehow both familiar and completely forgotten. It’s not like anyone intentionally photographed the TV as if it was showing something to viewers exclusive look at Elvis or so.
And this photo of Sloan has been shared multiple times on social media platforms like Tumblr, Twitter and… Reddit since 2016, with many people absolutely convinced they finally solved the mystery along the way. Sloan had few clues about the photo: It was probably taken in 1991 or 1992, certainly in the Southwest ontario, canada, and maybe around Christmas.
Many people immediately looked at other VHS videos on a bookshelf in the photo for possible answers, but that turned out to be a dead end. Prior to last week, Sloan’s photo last went viral in 2019 as people moved on tumblr began to collect the inaccurate guesses as to where the image might have come from.
The person who finally solved the mystery was a YouTube user Joshua Rastiawhich was pointed out by the YouTube show Blame Jorge, which recently covered the mystery. It was only after watching the YouTube show that Rastia realized he owned a copy of the show that everyone was looking for. Rastia digitized his VHS tape and uploaded the video to youtube on Monday.
When the picture was still a mystery, several people insisted it was from a show The small, but no one has been able to produce a video clip proving that it actually came from that program. Other people thought it might be the Smurfs or a TV commercial featuring the Keebler elves. But they were all wrong.
This reporter even emailed a former Bohbot Entertainment executive after someone tweeted the theory that the show might have come from a pilot TV episode that wasn’t picked for a full series. We never heard from them again.
But while sifting through newspaper archives, Gizmodo spotted the show, which aired at 7:30 p.m. on Ontario TV Nov. 27, 1991, just after Jeopardy and right before the sitcom Married With Children. The TV Listing described the show, “Two extraterrestrial children with special powers arrive on Earth just in time to save Christmas.”
Other listings indicate that the telefilm may have played again for viewers around Christmas in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 in Edmonton.
It doesn’t look like the TV movie that played anywhere in the US, at least not under the title Soulmates: The Gift of Light. And it seems the lack of an American presence has doomed this piece of media history to relative obscurity.
Canada’s population was only 28 million in the early 1990s, compared to the US population of 253 million. There were simply fewer people likely to have seen this show than the average American animated film, even if it only aired once.
The TV movie was directed by Chris Schouten, who worked in the animation department on films like heavy metal (1981), Anastasia (1997) and Titan AE (2000). The lead voices were provided by Al Waxman, who is probably best known for his role on the TV show Cagney & Lacey, and Sheila McCarthy, who had small roles in The day after tomorrow (2004) and die hard 2 (1990). Waxman died in 2001, according to IMDBalthough McCarthy still appears to be working.
You can watch the entire 24-minute show The Soulmates: The Gift of Light at youtube, at least until whoever owns the rights tries to remove them for copyright infringement. And if you do, remember that copyright protection used to last only 14 years for this very reason. The original content producers had their time to capitalize on this cartoon. Now it belongs to the internet – our gigantic collective memory. Or at least it should.