You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Walt Disney’ tag.

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: November 5, 1937
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

The Old Mill © Walt Disney‘The Old Mill’ is a milestone in effect animation.

From the first scene on special effects seem to be the sole raison d’être of the film. The cartoon is literally stuffed with them: dew on a cobweb, ripples in the water, light beams, fireflies, wind, rain and a thunderstorm.

Disney’s famous multiplane camera, with which the feeling of depth could be realized, makes its debut here. Together these effects create an astonishing level of realism, necessary for the upcoming first animated feature, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. In ‘The Old Mill’ even the animal characters are more or less realistic, a rare feat in Disney cartoons until then.

All this realism leads to awe-inspiring images, based on concept art by Danish illustrator Gustaf Tenggren, who had joined the studio in 1936. Unfortunately, the images do not lead to much of a story. The film is more of a series of moods from dusk to dawn. Despite its clever pacing, reaching a climax in the thunderstorm sequence, ‘The Old Mill’ is an overly romantic depiction of nature, and less enjoyable as a cartoon than as a showcase of Disney animation.

Watch ‘The Old Mill’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 68
To the previous Silly Symphony: Little Hiawatha
To the next Silly Symphony: Moth and the Flame

Advertisements

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: April 8, 1933
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Father Noah's Ark © Walt DisneyThe biblical story of Noah has been quite popular with the Disney Studio: it has retold the story three times on film .

‘Father Noah’s Ark’ is its first version, the others are a stop motion film from 1959 (‘Noah’s Ark’) and a sequence from ‘Fantasia 2000’ featuring Donald Duck.

This cartoon belongs to Disney’s operetta phase (see also ‘King Neptune‘) and tells the age old story as a musical, including some gospel singing. The story is quite straightforward and the short contains only a few mild gags, the best of which are in the building sequence, e.g. the wives using an assembly line of porcupines and some monkeys using a rhinoceros to make planks out of a log.

The designs seem to be halfhearted: Father Noah’s sons look ridiculously cartoony, wearing Mickey Mouse type gloves, for instance. His sons’ wives, on the other hand, are designed in art deco fashion.

The animals, too, are in different stages of naturalism, but the cows portrayed are much more realistic than the ones featured in the Mickey Mouse shorts of the same time. Moreover, when the animals flee into the ark, we see some unprecedentedly realistic giraffes, sealions and lions.

The most stunning naturalism is found in the animation of the sea when the ark is at the mercy of the waves. This is a spectacular scene by any standards. The storm part also features a complex scene of several animals rolling from side to side. There’s a good sense of weight in this sequence, with the elephant moving last.

Watch ‘Father Noah’s Ark’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 35
To the previous Silly Symphony: Birds in the Spring
To the next Silly Symphony: Three Little Pigs

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: April 25, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Barnyard Battle © Walt DisneyMickey joins a barnyard army of mice (many of which are Mickey look-a-likes) against an invading army of cats.

We see him naked while he’s treated rather badly by a very rude officer. Mickey’s body is extraordinarily mechanical in this scene: the officer is able to stretch his neck and tongue endlessly, and can even take out Mickey’s heart.

In the next scene another officer shouts “company, forward march!”, making him the first character in a Disney cartoon that actually speaks. Up to this moment characters would only utter single syllable sounds and laughs. Only Minnie could express two syllables with her yoo-hoo, but that was it.

In spite of this step forward, ‘The Barnyard Battle’ remains, in effect, a silent cartoon. The way the inspecting officer asks Mickey to stick out his tongue is a perfect example. The highlight of silent acting, however, is given to Mickey, who, when confronted with a large and mean cat, gives a performance that matches Charlie Chaplin.

Mickey’s size is rather inconsistent in this cartoon. His never as small as in ‘When the Cat’s Away‘, but in some scenes he’s clearly much smaller than usual. The battle has more allusions to the American civil war than to World War I, making it a little more comfortable. Mickey finally defeats the cats by clobbering them with a hammer to Verdi’s anvil chorus from ‘Il Trovatore’. This is probably the first animated scene in which something totally unmusical is done musically. A great cartoon idea, which would be greatly expanded in many cartoons to come.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 7
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: When the Cat’s Away
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Plow Boy

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 9, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Plow Boy © Walt DisneyIn this weak cartoon (Mickey’s seventh) Mickey and Minnie are farmers.

The most remarkable thing about this cartoon is that it marks the debut of Horace Horsecollar. One might say, it marks the debut of Clarabelle Cow, as well, but the early Mickey Mouse cartoons contain a little too many non-distinct cows to state that clearly, because this cow is not different from the others.

This cartoon is particularly important in the development of Minnie: she now has lost the bra-like circles on her body and she’s singing for the first time. Notice how the animation of the tongue is completely convincing. Although Minnie’s only singing “lalalala” (something she would do in many cartoons to follow), this is an important step in the animation of speech. This was something I guess Disney was eager to master. Indeed, in the next cartoon, ‘The Karnival Kid‘, there’s suddenly a lot of talking and singing.

‘The Plow Boy’ contains a scene where the background moves the wrong way making the cow walk backwards.

Watch ‘The Plow Boy’ yourself and tell me what you think:


This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 8
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: 
The Barnyard Battle
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Karnival Kid

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 3, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating:
Review:

When The Cat's Away © Walt DisneyAwkwardly, in this sixth Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey and Minnie are portraited as real mice.

They are joined by several look-a-likes in a house party, while the owner, a drunk cat, is gone hunting. There’s still some silent comedy (and no dialogue), but there’s no real story, only an extended musical number. Therefore this cartoon can be regarded as the first of many ‘song-and-dance-routine’-cartoons that would dominate the early 1930s. It even predates the Silly Symphony series, which initial sole raison d’être seems to be song-and-dance-routines.

These cartoons no doubt delighted the audiences at the time. However, I regret their coming, because both story and surreal humor had to give way to the rise of them. ‘When the Cat’s Away’ is a prime example: despite some clever gags, it is easily the dullest of the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons.

After ‘When the Cat’s Away’ Mickey would never been portrayed as a real mouse again. Like in his first five cartoons, he would just be a boy in the shape of a mouse. The idea of Mickey being a mouse would become negligible compared to the cartoon star he was. Mickey was seen as an actor, not as an animal. This would eventually lead to the awkward situation of Mickey dealing with ‘real’ and very different looking mice in ‘The Worm Turns‘ (1937).

Watch ‘When The Cat’s Away’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 6
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Opry House
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barnyard Battle

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: July 30, 1932
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Flowers and Trees © Walt Disney‘Flower and Trees’ was the first film (animated or not) in full technicolor and it’s therefore a milestone of cinema.

Nevertheless, it feels like a transitional film. The colors make it stunningly modern compared to the earlier Silly Symphony entries, but some of the designs still firmly belong to the black-and-white era. The designs of the flowers and the caterpillars, for instance, go all the way back to the third Silly Symphony, ‘Springtime‘ from 1929.

The birds, on the other hand, have lost their cartoony designs they still had in ‘The Bird Store‘ from six months earlier, and the villain tree is probably the most elaborate character to have hit the animated screen thus far.

For contemporary audiences, the film may seem rather silly and a bit old fashioned, but its storytelling is very economical. It contains some original visual gags (flowers brushing their teeth, a pine portrayed as a hen) and fine drama, when the rejected mean old trees sets the wood on fire. The colors are not only used as a novelty, but add to the drama, as do musical quotes from Franz Schubert’s “Erlkönig” and Gioachino Rossini’s overture to William Tell.

Technicolor was a great advancement for the Silly Symphony series. The colors created way more atmosphere and allowed for more complex designs. Because of color, the Silly Symphonies would propel animated art forward like they never did before, making Walt Disney the undisputed leader in the field.

This leadership was greatly aided by the exclusive contract Disney concluded with the Technicolor company, giving him the exclusive rights to use the new technique for animated films for three years. So, when other studios had to stick to black and white, or were obliged to use far less convincing two-color techniques, Walt Disney made the most beautiful and literally most colorful cartoons of the 1930s.

‘Flowers and Trees’ enthralled  the critics so much at the time, they installed a special Academy Award for best animated short films, with ‘Flowers and Trees’ naturally being its first winner. During the 1930s Disney would win every Oscar in this category.

Watch ‘Flowers and Trees’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 29
To the previous Silly Symphony: Just Dogs
To the next Silly Symphony: King Neptune

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: March 28, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Opry House © Walt DisneyUnlike its predecessor, ‘The Barn Dance‘, ‘The Opry House’ relies heavily on sound and music.

Mickey is the sole performer in a local theater where he dances and plays music. He even dresses up as a female belly dancer, dancing the hoochie coochie dance.

With its many musical gags, this cartoon is the first step in the development of the ‘concert cartoon’. An orchestra plays George Bizet’s Carmen way out of tune, and Mickey performs the Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt on the piano. This sequence is particularly important for two reasons: first, Mickey here gains his famous gloves, and second, this is the first time that Liszt’s famous work is featured in an animated cartoon. It would remain a cartoon classic and many years later, Bugs Bunny would perform the same piece on the piano in ‘Rhapsody Rabbit‘ (1946), and Tom and Jerry in ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947). Already in this cartoon, Liszt’s piece is the source of several musical gags, as Mickey plays the piano in the most original ways, even clobbering it with his fists, until his stool kicks him.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 5
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barn Dance
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: When The Cat’s Away

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date:
March 15, 1929
Stars:
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating:
 ★★★★½
Review:

The Barn Dance © Walt DisneyIn ‘The Barn Dance’, Mickey Mouse’s fourth cartoon, Pete’s rivaling Mickey for the love of Minnie.

The first scene of this cartoon draws its inspiration from the Oswald cartoon ‘Rival Romeos‘, released only eight months earlier. Pete and Mickey both come to Minnie’s house to court her. Pete has the advantage of having a car above Mickey’s chariot, and like Donna Duck would do nine years later in ‘Don Donald‘ (1937), Minnie (wearing a bra, like she did in ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘) falls for it. Luckily, the car falls apart even before they’ve taken a ride, so Mickey and Minnie ride together to a barn dance hall.

Unfortunately, Mickey can’t dance: his shoes grow bigger every step, stepping on Minnie’s leg all the time. So after the dance Minnie’s leg is a long mess. She then ties it in a knot and cuts off the excess! These two gags belong to a surreal type typical of the silent era, which Disney would soon abandon.

After Mickey’s failure as a dancer, Minnie only wants to dance with Pete. Mickey solves the problem with help from a balloon, but Pete wrecks Mickey’s plan, regaining Minnie and leaving Mickey crying on the floor. This is a rather odd ending of a marvelous cartoon, which is still firmly rooted in the silent era with its surreal gags, limited use of sound and absence of dialogue.

‘The Barn Dance’ is far less known than the three Mickey Mouse cartoons preceding it, but with its clear storytelling, funny gags and strong acting it’s still a delightful cartoon to watch.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 4
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Steamboat Willie
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Opry House

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date:
August 7, 1928
Stars:
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating:
★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Gallopin' Gaucho © Walt Disney

Although Mickey’s first cartoon, ‘Plane Crazy‘, couldn’t arouse any distributor, Disney made another cartoon with his new character, ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’. It was to be Mickey’s second and last silent cartoon.

If possible, he is even ruder in this short than in ‘Plane Crazy’: according to a poster in the background, he is a sought-after criminal, we watch him smoking and drinking, and dancing a stout tango with Minnie (who’s wearing a bra in this cartoon).

Nevertheless, this cartoon is also the first in which Mickey shows to be a small, but clever and courageous hero. For when Minnie is abducted by Pete (who, in his first appearance in a Mickey Mouse cartoon, has both his legs), Mickey rescues her in a heroic fight. He then earns the kiss he tried to get by force in ‘Plane Crazy’. It was of course this character trait which was greatly expanded upon in later Mickey Mouse cartoons. Mickey’s nemesis, Pete, was in fact a much older character than Mickey – he already figured in some of the Alice cartoons and he was also Oswald’s adversary. His design was initially more dog- or bearlike, but in the Mickey Mouse cartoons it was settled that Pete was some kind of big cat.

Due to the melodrama ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’ contains less gags than ‘Plane Crazy’, but it’s still a wonderful and fast cartoon with ingenious gags like the scene in which Mickey uses his own tail as a tackle. ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’ also set out a storyline that was to be copied a couple of times (e.g. ‘The Cactus Kid‘ (1930), ‘Mickey in Arabia‘ (1932),’ The Klondike Kid‘ (1932)), and self-consciously parodied in ‘Gallopin’ Romance’, the film shown in ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ (1933). ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’ itself was a parody of the 1927 Douglas Fairbanks film ‘The Gaucho’.

This cartoon was de facto the first production of Disney’s new fledgling studio (‘Plane Crazy’ was made secretly when Disney was still under Mintz’s contract). Ub Iwerks, who had animated ‘Plane Crazy’ single-handedly, could now be assisted by the young assistant animators Les Clark and the recently hired Wilfred Jackson to work on ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’. Both men would have long lasting careers at the Disney studio.

Unfortunately, ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’ didn’t stir the distributors any more than did ‘Plane Crazy’. Disney had to come with something original, if he would get Mickey on the screen. And with something original he came…

A few final trivial remarks

  1. Mickey has shoes in this cartoon, which he shortly looses while whistling his ostrich in one scene.
  2. Mickey’s eyes change from the goggly to the familiar ones during the same scene.
  3. The bird Mickey’s riding might very well be a Rhea, a relative of the ostrich, that lives on the pampas of Argentina, the place where the cartoon takes place.

Watch ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 2
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Plane Crazy
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Steamboat Willie

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date:
November 18, 1928
Stars:
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating:
★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Steamboat Willie © Walt Disney

In 1928 Walt Disney was at a low point in his career. He had refused to work for Charles Mintz at lower wages, he had lost most of his staff to Mintz, and he had no distributor for his new cartoon star, Mickey Mouse.

Mickey’s first two cartoons, ‘Plane Crazy‘ and ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘, were well-made and entertaining films, but they didn’t impress any distributor. The problem was that despite their high quality, they were not really different from other cartoons, like Disney’s former own Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series. Disney had to think of something.

And he did. Mickey’s third cartoon would have the distinction of sound. Sound was an extremely fresh cinematic feature at the time. The breakthrough feature, ‘The Jazz Singer’ had only been released in October 1927, and the first all talking picture, ‘Lights of New York’ was only released in July 1928, the month in which production on ‘Steamboat Willie’ started.

Using sound creatively

Surprisingly, ‘Steamboat Willie’ was not the first cartoon to use synchronized sound. The Fleischer studio, for example, had experimented with the technique as early as 1924, and in October 1928 Paul Terry would release ‘Dinner Time’, which also used a synchronized soundtrack. However, Fleischer’s films failed to reach complete synchronicity, and Paul Terry’s film (which can be watched here) is essentially a silent and remarkably boring cartoon, which just happens to have sound to it.

‘Steamboat Willie’ on the other hand makes perfect use of the novelty of sound. Already in the opening scene we’re treated on something no less than spectacular: we watch and hear Mickey Mouse whistling a joyful tune. After watching several silent cartoons, this sole scene still has a startling effect. But all scenes in ‘Steamboat Willie’ are there to show us the novelty of sound: we watch and hear whistles blowing, cows mooing, chickens cackling, and Minnie shouting “yoo”-hoo”. And thanks to the invention of the click track all sounds are in perfect synchronization with the moving images.

However, the real treat of ‘Steamboat Willie’ comes after 4 minutes, when a goat swallows Minnie’s sheet music and guitar. What seems a disaster turns out to be a delight, for the goat becomes musical, and Mickey and Minnie turn it into some kind of hurdy-gurdy. This gag, in fact, had already been used in the silent Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon ‘Rival Romeos‘ (released in March), but makes much more sense with the added sound. For now the goat-hurdy gurdy provides an intoxicating soundtrack for Mickey to improvise on, incidentally mostly by torturing animals. This musical number, based on ‘Turkey in the Straw’ is a sheer delight, and entertains even today.

The impact of ‘Steamboat Willie’

Needless to say ‘Steamboat Willie’ boosted both Mickey Mouse’s and Walt Disney’s career and it gave a valuable shot to the ailing animation industry. Yet, it also caused a setback, one that can already be seen in this cartoon. In ‘Steamboat Willie’, sound is the sole raison d’être of some of the shots (chickens cackling, a cow mooing). But more important, storyline has given way to an extensive musical number. While the two Mickey Mouse shorts that were made before, ‘Plane Crazy’ and ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’, had strong, albeit simple stories, Steamboat Willie has almost none. It wasn’t necessary: simply watching Mickey Mouse dancing and playing to the music was marvelous enough for the audiences of that time.

Therefore, in the years after the success of ‘Steamboat Willie’, Disney would favor often tiring sing and dance routines above great story lines. It took the studio almost two years to bring back strong stories to its cartoons (Mickey’s 19th film, ‘The Fire Fighters’ from 1930, is arguably the first).

Conclusion

Nevertheless, ‘Steamboat Willie’ is a great cartoon, and a lot of fun to watch. It is still deeply rooted in the silent era: because lip synchronization had not been developed yet, the characters’ vocabulary remains rather limited. Therefore, it still uses a comic strip-like visual language to express the characters’ feelings. Yet, the musical number is both fresh and catching.

When you’ve seen Steamboat Willie, you’ll be whistling ‘Turkey in the Straw’ for days, with a smile on your face.

Watch ‘Steamboat Willie’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 3
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Gallopin’ Gaucho
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barn Dance

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date:
May 15, 1928
Stars:
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating:
★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Plane Crazy © Walt DisneyApril 1928. Disney has just returned from an ill-fated journey to New York. There he had learned that he had lost his star character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and all his crew – all hired away by his distributor, Charles Mintz.

All, save one – only his friend and star animator Ub Iwerks has remained loyal*. And while the rest of the studio is working on the last Disney-produced Oswald cartoons, Iwerks is set to work in a separate office, secretly working on a cartoon, not for Mintz, but for Disney.

Iwerks works at an astonishing speed, and he finishes the animation on the cartoon after two weeks. This is a stunning effort by all standards. But what is even more extraordinary is that the finished product, ‘Plane Crazy’, turns out to be such a fine cartoon!

‘Plane Crazy’ is more consistent than most of the preceding Oswalds. It’s fast, it’s simply packed with gags and very funny. Moreover, it’s full of visual tricks. For example, the film opens with the behind of a cow (!), walking away from the camera. Later there are some great perspective scenes with Mickey’s plane flying under a cow’s udders, and almost crashing into two cars.

The film draws inspiration from the same event as the earlier Oswald cartoon ‘The Ocean Hop‘ (1927): Charles Lindbergh’s flight from New York to Paris on May 20-21 1927, the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. A goggle-eyed Mickey Mouse (without shoes or gloves) wants to imitate ‘Lindy’ and builds a plane himself, helped by the other farm animals.

Unfortunately his plane crashes against a tree. Then Mickey transforms a car into a plane, and asks Minnie to fly along. After a breath taking take-off, the plane flies, and up in the air Mickey forces a kiss from Minnie, with disastrous results.

‘Plane Crazy’ is, of course, Mickey’s first cartoon and it hasn’t aged a bit. Yes, it’s a silent cartoon with sound added later. Yes, Mickey looks and behaves rather differently than he would do later, and yes, some of the gags are rather crude. Yet, Plane Crazy is outstanding for its fast-paced gags, its extraordinarily rubbery animation, its awesome use of perspectives and its effective pantomime character animation (its only piece of dialogue is Minnie asking “who, me?”).

The film is a testimony of Ub Iwerks’s extraordinary skill. Not only was he an incredibly fast animator, as this short shows he was also an original artist, with a distinct style and an excellent sense of comic timing.

Unfortunately, in 1928, the distributors didn’t see anything distinctive in Mickey. True, he was not too different from Oswald. Both characters were of more or less the same size (with Mickey being outrageously big for a mouse from the outset). Both characters were kinda likable, had a joyful, adventurous spirit, and were seen courting a love interest. Nevertheless, Disney produced a second cartoon with his new character, ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘.

Watch ‘Plane Crazy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 1
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Gallopin’ Gaucho

* and, to be fair, animator Johnny Cannon, and the recently hired Les Clark (one of the future Nine Old Men – who was not even approached by Mintz), and some ink and paint girls, and the janitor.

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: March 24, 1934
Rating: ★★
Review:

Funny Little Bunnies © Walt Disney‘Cute Little Bunnies’ would have been a better title for this easter short, for the bunnies are very cute, not funny.

In fact, “Funny Little Bunnies’ is so cute it can only have been meant for children. It makes one wonder what movies it was supposed to support in the theaters (surely no grim gangster thriller!).

Because everybody copied Disney at that time, other studios were copying this ‘new cuteness’ as well. Especially 1934 saw an explosion of Silly Symphonies imitating series, combining the appeal of color with sugary tales. Former Disney associate Ub Iwerks was the first, releasing his first Comicolor cartoon on December 23, 1933. He was followed by Max Fleischer (Color Classics, August 1934), MGM (Happy Harmonies, September), Van Beuren (Rainbow Parade, September), Columbia (Color Rhapsodies, November), and Walter Lantz (Cartune Classics, December). This resulted in a spread of cute (and severely unfunny) cartoons in the mid-thirties.

One is therefore particularly thankful that in the late thirties Tex Avery restored nonsense, wackiness and absurdism in the animated cartoon. These qualities Disney sometimes seemed to have forgotten during his pursuit for greater naturalism and beauty.

Notice how, for example, ‘Funny Little Bunnies’ uses animation to tell a story that cannot be told in live action, but how it tries to tell this story in the most conventional, ‘live action-like’ way. Especially the opening shot of this short is stunning, with two bunnies hopping realistically and lots of birds and butterflies flying around.

Watch ‘Funny Little Bunnies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 43
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Grasshopper and the Ants
To the next Silly Symphony: The Big Bad Wolf

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

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

Join 937 other followers

Bookmark and Share

Follow TheGrob on Twitter

Categories

Advertisements