Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cartoon Round-up 13: Disney's Silly Symphonies

Since I started reading "The Illusion of Life" lately, it has made me nostalgic for some of the classic Disney animated shorts.

"Beginning with The Skeleton Dance the Silly Symphonies series served as a training ground for the Disney artists, testing new techniques and technologies that would later be used in their ground-breaking features. Musical themes were the basis for these cartoons, which were produced until 1939 and won a total of seven Academy Awards." - Jerry Beck from Animation Art: From Pencil to Pixel, the History of Cartoon, Anime & CGI

"The Skeleton Dance" (1929) directed by Walt Disney

"Technicolor had introduced a two-color system as early as 1929, but it had been used sparingly by the major studios which, with good reason, thought it had little more than novelty value (its chief limitation was that the color values were somewhat distorted). By 1932, however, Technicolor had a three-strip system ready which offered far more accurate color reproduction, and Disney at once saw its advantages. Flowers and Trees had been partly made as a black-and-white film. This footage was scrapped and the whole thing was done again in color. It was premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood along with Irving Thalberg's production of Strange Interlude." - Christopher Finch from The Art of Walt Disney - From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms (1983 ed.)

"Flowers and Trees" (1932) directed by Burt Gillett

"In 1933, (Albert) Hurter designed the settings and main characters for what turned out to be the greatest Disney success up to that time - the famous Three Little Pigs. It is hardly necessary to recapitulate here either the plot or the success of Frank Churchill's hit tune, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" The movie was a smash. Theaters retained it week after week and its impact reflects the fact that it went far beyond any of the earlier Symphonies in terms of plot and character development. The story line is so strong that social commentators have seen it as a parable about the Depression (Disney insisted that it was intended as entertainment and nothing more, but the film had such an archetypal ring to it that it invited interpretations of this sort). The animation was excellent and the characters had a real existence of their own - something which, to that date, had only been achieved with Mickey and Minnie." - Christopher Finch from The Art of Walt Disney - From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms (1983 ed.)

"The Three Little Pigs" (1933) directed by Burt Gillett

Released on October 31, 1936, The Country Cousin won the 1936 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. It was based off of Aesop's fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. As was popular with most Silly Symphonies, it was accompanied by a children's picture book.

"The Country Cousin" (1936) directed by Wilfred Jackson

"Famous for being the first animation to make use of the multi-plane camera technique, pioneering Silly Symphonies. The Old Mill was made in 1937. Developed by the Disney studio, the multi-plane camera gave added depth to background shots." - Jerry Beck from Animation Art: From Pencil to Pixel, the History of Cartoon, Anime & CGI

"The Old Mill" (1937) directed by Wilfred Jackson

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