You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Leigh Harline’ tag.

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date:
October 15, 1943
Stars: Figaro, Cleo
Rating: ★★
Review:

Figaro and Cleo © Walt Disney

Figaro and Cleo, the two animal sidekicks from ‘Pinocchio‘ (1940) star in this short, which is Disney’s first spin-off cartoon from a feature film (apart from some propaganda shorts).

As J.B. Kaufman reveals in his insightful book ‘Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic’, this short even features some left over animation that didn’t make into Disney’s second feature film.

In ‘Figaro and Cleo’ the two animals are propelled into 20th century America and live in a mansion that’s kept clean by the Mammy Two-shoes-like character from ‘Three Orphan Kittens‘ (1935) and ‘Pantry Pirate‘ (1940). When Figaro doesn’t get his milk for punishment for his endearing misbehavior, he tries to capture the female fish Cleo, who actually seems to be in love with Figaro.

First Cleo is saved by Mammy from Figaro’s clutches, but at the third attempt Figaro’s rescued by Mammy from drowning. In the end, the two are friends again, and Figaro gets his milk, after all.

It’s surprising that this very cute, but remarkably unfunny cartoon was directed by Jack Kinney, famous for his hilarious Goofy films. The sweet tone is set immediately, as the cartoon starts with a sugary song by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, reminiscent of some 1930s entries.

This theme song would be used again in the two other Figaro cartoons. Besides these, Figaro would also appear in three Pluto cartoons: ‘First Aiders‘ (1944), ‘Cat Nap Pluto‘ (1948) and ‘Pluto’s Sweater‘ (1949).

Cleo, on the other hand, never appeared in a Disney short, again…

Watch ‘Figaro and Cleo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Advertisements

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: September 16, 1933
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Still from 'The Pied Piper' featuring the pied piper and some rats

‘The Pied Piper’ is a vivid re-telling of the original fairy tale in operetta fashion.

Thus ‘The Pied Pier’, together with ‘King Neptune‘ (1932) and ‘Father Noah’s Ark‘ (1933), belongs to the operetta- like Silly Symphonies. In its score, composed by Leigh Harline, practically all dialogue is sung, making ‘The Pied Piper’ an animated mini-opera.

Its human designs are way more detailed and anatomically correct than in ‘King Neptune’ or ‘Father Noah’s Ark’, making these two films looking old-fashioned, already. Disney was advancing towards the later realism of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) with a lightning speed…

Unfortunately, at the same time, a sugary approach is unleashed, as well. For example, the rats are not drown, but caught in an imaginary cheese. Likewise, the children, who are depicted as virtual slaves in Hamelin, do not just disappear, but they’re lured into ‘Joyland’, where even the crippled get cured. So, in the end, practically no harm is done to anyone.

And so, like the contemporary ‘Lullaby Land‘, ‘The Pied Piper’ is a strange mixture of ever advancing animation and rather infantile material. A great deal of the remaining Silly Symphonies would share this mixture, and even Disney’s first features, like ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ and ‘Bambi‘ (1942) are not immune to it.

The children designs used here would pop up in numerous sugary cartoons from the 1930s, including those from other studios. And, unfortunately, there would be a lot of them…

Watch ‘The Pied Piper’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 39
To the previous Silly Symphony: Lullaby Land
To the next Silly Symphony: The Night before Christmas

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: May 11, 1935
Rating:
★★★
Review:

Water Babies © Walt Disney‘Water Babies’ is sugary cute, contains a lot of repetitive animation and is one of those Silly Symphonies obsessed with babies and their bare behinds (other examples are ‘Lullaby Land’ (1933) and ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ (1938)).

There is not much of a story either: the sexless water babies wake up, make fun and go to bed again (apparently a day only lasts seven minutes in their world).

And yet, this is undoubtedly one of Disney’s most impressive efforts of the era. It feels like a showcase cartoon of the Disney studio, excelling in lush pictures, great effect animation and beautiful theme music by Leigh Harline. Especially the opening scene (dawn) and the last shot (night) are stunningly beautiful. The Disney staff had reached yet another peak, and more was still to come.

‘Water Babies’ itself at least must have been a success, for it was followed by the similar ‘Merbabies’ in 1938, featuring more or less girl characters instead of the boy-like babies in ‘Water Babies’.

Watch ‘Water Babies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No.52
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Robber Kitten
To the next Silly Symphony: The Cookie Carnival

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: October 5, 1935
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Music Land © Walt DisneyIn ‘Music Land’ a young violin falls in love with a young saxophone, much to the disapproval of their parents, the queen of ‘The Land of Symphony’ and the king of ‘The Isle of Jazz, respectively, whose realms are separated by the ‘Sea of Discord’.

When the young saxophone is imprisoned, the feud between the two very different nations leads to a war, in which the two young lovers are almost killed… The whole story is told through music, even the characters ‘speak’ with the sounds of the instruments they are. The complete score, by Leigh Harline, is a delight to listen to.

This reading of ‘Romeo and Juliette’ is one of the most inspired of all Silly Symphonies. The very idea of musical instruments ‘speaking’ in their own sound is brilliant. But there is much more. For example, when the saxophone prince is locked up, he’s imprisoned in a metronome and when he writes a letter to his father (a caricature of bandleader Paul Whiteman, ‘the king of jazz’) he does this in staff-notation!

The complete design of the cartoon is delightful. The backgrounds are particularly beautiful, rendering a totally convincing fantasy world, in which the cartoon develops as if it were an age-old story. The concept of a battle between classical music and jazz was a topical one in the 1930s, when jazz was still regarded by many as devilish music and a threat to ‘high culture’. Nevertheless, during the second half of the 1930s jazz gradually became a respected genre, as exemplified by Benny Goodman’s concert in Carnegie Hall in 1938.

Watch ‘Music Land’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 55
To the previous Silly Symphony: Who Killed Cock Robin?
To the next Silly Symphony: Three Orphan Kittens

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 887 other followers

Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories

Advertisements