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Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: December 2, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Still from 'The Haunted House' featuring Mickey startled by skeletons‘The Haunted House’ is Mickey’s first horror cartoon.

In this short he hides from a rain storm in a house, which appears to be haunted by skeletons. A cloaked skeleton orders Mickey to play on a harmonium, while all the skeletons dance.

This sequence reuses some footage of four skeletons dancing from ‘The Skeleton Dance‘. Unfortunately, the new animation on dancing and playing skeletons is hardly as good, and the dancing sequence feels more primitive than ‘The Skeleton Dance’. However, the opening shot is beautiful, with the house flexing in the wind. There’s also some good animation on the cloaked skeleton, and a beautifully lit scene when Mickey strikes a match.

Mickey’s role in this short is very limited, and his only function seems to be being the carrier of the audience’s fear. Indeed, he looks repeatedly into the camera for sympathy, dragging us into the haunted house with him.

The early scenes of this cartoon manage to evoke a genuine feel of horror, but in the end this short resembles the boring song-and-dance-routines of both the early Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony series too much to be a stand out.

Mickey would return to the horror genre in ‘The Gorilla Mystery‘ (1930) and ‘The Mad Doctor‘ (1933), with much better results.

Watch ‘The Haunted House’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 14
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Jungle Rhythm
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Wild Waves

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 10, 1929
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Skeleton Dance © Walt Disney‘Skeleton Dance’ is the first of the Silly Symphonies and easily one of the best. It deservedly even ranks among the best cartoons of all time.

It starts spectacularly to begin with: we first watch lightning crack, immediately followed by an extreme close up of huge eyes, which only after the camera zooms out appear to belong to an owl.

The complete film is simple, yet perfect in its timing and its peculiar mix of eerie atmosphere and silly gags. The animation (which includes a remarkable quantity of repetition) is extraordinary fluent and the skeletons are convincing throughout the picture.

More than in any earlier cartoon the animation and music are a perfect match. This cartoon single-handedly puts Walt Disney, animator Ub Iwerks and composer Carl Stalling to the eternal hall of fame. A masterpiece.

‘The Skeleton Dance’ clearly shows Disney’s ambition. From now on Disney would use the Silly Symphony series to propel the art of animation forward, until the series ended 1939, after becoming a little obsolete, because their role had been taken over by the animated features.

Watch ‘The Skeleton Dance’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 1
To the next Silly Symphony: El Terrible Toreador

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