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Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: December 6, 1941
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

rhapsody in rivets © warner bros.‘Rhapsody in Rivets’ without doubt is one of Friz Freleng’s finest films. The very idea of turning a building site into a symphony orchestra with the foreman as a conductor is marvelous.

The execution, too, is superb. Using Franz Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody, Freleng presents a string of clever sight gags, perfectly timed to the music. When the foreman enters the stage, an audience applauds. The foreman uses his blueprint as sheet music. We watch a cement mixer mixing as if it were a cocktail shaker, and a brick layer frantically building a wall to the fast music. While performing, the workers really do build a skyscraper (with some twists and turns), until a Droopy-like dog destroys it all.

Liszt’s composition had been a staple since the advent of sound in cartoons. For example it had been used in the Mickey Mouse cartoons ‘The Opry House‘ (1929) and ‘The Mechanical Man‘ (1933) and the Betty Boop cartoon ‘Betty in Blunderland‘ (1934). But Freleng was the first to devote an entire cartoon to the composition. With this move Freleng made his own mini-Fantasia. The short uses no dialogue, whatsoever, and is a prime example of Freleng’s famous musical timing. In 1942 the film was rightfully nominated for an Academy Award. Freleng would return to Liszt’s rhapsody several times, most notably in ‘Rhapsody Rabbit‘ (1946) and ‘Back Alley Uproar‘ (1948).

Watch ‘Rhapsody in Rivets’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rhapsody in Rivets’ is available on the DVD ‘Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Award-Nominated Animation: Cinema Favorites’

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Director: Walt Disney
Release Date:
 April 5, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Barnyard Concert © Walt DisneyWhile other studios, like Walter Lantz and the Max Fleischer drew inspiration from jazz, and while Warner Bros. could draw from an extensive music catalog, in the early sound days Walt Disney turned to (copyright-free) folk songs and classical music.

After ‘The Opry House‘ (1929) and ‘Just Mickey‘, Mickey’s concert career reaches new heights in ‘The Barnyard concert’. In this highly enjoyable cartoon Mickey conducts a barnyard orchestra in Franz von Suppé’s overture to ‘Dichter und Bauer’. There’s one throwaway gag looking all the way back to his breakthrough cartoon ‘Steamboat Willie‘ (1928),in which Mickey torments some pigs, but most of the cartoon is forward looking.

Indeed ‘The Barnyard Concert’ looks like a blueprint for ‘The Band Concert‘ (1935), in which many of the gags introduced here are improved to perfection. The cartoon features no dialogue, whatsoever, but is full of clever sight gags.

Unfortunately, at this stage the animators still had problems with Mickey’s eyes: in one close-up in particular they are placed awkwardly in Mickey’s face.

Watch ‘The Barnyard Concert’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 17
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Just Mickey
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Cactus Kid

‘The Barnyard Concert’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume Two’

Director: Don Patterson
Release Date: November 20, 1954
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating:
Review:

Convict Concerto © Walter LantzIn ‘Convict Concerto’ Woody Woodpecker is a piano tuner, who’s ordered by a gangster to play the piano continuously, while he hides inside the piano.

Consequently, during the rest of the cartoon we hear Woody play the Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt. This is the only interesting aspect of this cartoon…

‘Convict Concerto’ was the last of fifteen cartoons Don Patterson directed for Walter Lantz during 1952-1954. None of his cartoons were interesting enough to become classics, with ‘Convict Concerto’ being particularly bad. So he is all but forgotten now. He was replaced by Tex Avery, who, in contrast, was already an animation classic at the time.

Watch ‘Convict Concerto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.funniermoments.com/watch.php?vid=dc6c702b1

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: May 1, 1948
Stars: Woody Woodpecker (cameo)
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Pixie Picnic © Walter Lantz‘Pixie Picnic’ was the last of only three Musical Miniatures, cartoons based on classical music. 

In this cartoon we watch an orchestra of pixies playing the overture to ‘La gazza ladra’ by Gioachino Rossini.

The pixies are extraordinarily dwarf-like, and resemble the seven dwarfs from Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) a lot. This is no wonder, as one of those dwarfs’ key-animators and designers, Fred Moore, is also one of the animators of ‘Pixie Picnic’. Thanks to Moore the animation of this cartoon is very Disney-like and belongs to the best ever produced by the Lantz studio.

Unfortunately for Lantz, this was the last of only a handful cartoons Moore animated for his studio (others are ‘The Mad Hatter’ and ‘Banquet Busters’ from earlier that year). After that Moore returned to Disney, where he stayed until his premature death in 1952.

‘Pixie Picnic’ is beautifully animated, but it’s rather disappointing otherwise: the story makes no sense, and the gags come along almost randomly. Moreover, the cartoon suffers from a sloppy timing. The result is a well-animated, yet only moderately funny cartoon.

Watch ‘Pixie Picnic’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: June 16, 1947
Stars: Wally Walrus
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Overture to William Tell © Walter Lantz‘Overture to William Tell’ was the second of three Musical Miniatures, a short-lived series similar to ‘Swing Symphonies’, but based on classical music instead of jazz.

In this one Wally Walrus stars in his very own cartoon as a conductor conducting an extraordinarily sleepy orchestra in a concert hall. The main gag involves a horsefly, which looks like a miniature horse with wings.

‘Overture to William Tell’ is better than the erratic ‘Musical Moments from Chopin‘, the first of the Musical Miniatures. But still it’s only moderately inspired, and pales when compared to that other concert cartoon using the same music by Gioachino Rossini, ‘The Band Concert‘ (1935).

Watch ‘Overture to William Tell’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://tu.tv/videos/overture-to-william-tell-1947-walter-l

Director: Dick Lundy
Release Date: February 24, 1947
Stars: Andy Panda, Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★
Review:

Musical Moments from Chopin © Walter LantzWhen James Culhane left Walter Lantz, Dick Lundy remained Lantz’s sole director, until he left too at the end of the decade.

Being a more gentle director than Culhane, Lundy conceived a short-lived series of Musical Moments, in which classical music was the driving force. ‘Musical Moments from Chopin’ is the first of three, in which Woody Woodpecker joins Andy Panda in a piano recital of Frédéric Chopin tunes at a barnyard concert.

Unfortunately, the result is a very uneven cartoon: there’s practically no conflict between Woody and Andy, the driving force of such wonderful piano concert cartoons like ‘Rhapsody Rabbit‘ (1946) and ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947). Even worse, Lundy wastes a lot of time on gags involving the audience. In the end it’s a drunken horse who ends the concert by starting a fire.

Both the animals in the audience and the anthropomorphic flames have an old-fashioned 1930s-look. The complete cartoon is remarkably slow and unfunny, and pales when compared to its contemporary concert cartoons.

Watch ‘Musical Moments from Chopin’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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