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Breanna - a lifelong Disney fan - is a writer who lives on a cattle ranch in Alabama. She wants a t-shirt that says, "Where Were You When Mufasa Died?"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

“’Stone Sober!’ Salt Swears”

“A pop Fantasia” is how jon TK described Make Mine Music and I have to agree.  The third film in the package film era, I have to say that I remember seeing a lot of these shorts in my childhood but I can’t remember watching them all together in the way they were supposed to be seen, especially not as an adult.  So once again, here I am technically watching a Disney film for the first time.  These were some really hard times for the studios.  Walt had very little money and resources, with a lot of his staff being either drafted into the army or called upon by the government to make training and propaganda films.  The package films were a way to make back what they put into the films, but earned very little (if any at all) profits.  That being said, I did think Make Mine Music had several memorable shorts almost worthy of the Disney name.

At the suggestion of jon TK (a wonderful reader who regularly provides some amazing insights and observations, right alongside tinkerbellfan5 and keely-baily on IMDB), I looked up the original opening for Make Mine Music on YouTube called “The Martins and the Coys,” which had been cut from the home video release.  I think one of the YouTube comments summed it up the best: “The original Red vs. Blue” (sorry, I’m also a huge Roosterteeth fan).  They claimed to have cut this from the home video release for not wanting to expose children to cartoon gun violence.  While I can understand that, I think there are plenty of cartoons out now that kids are exposed to that make the “violence” in this short look like The Care Bears
The backgrounds for “Blue Bayou” were gorgeous and showed off some Bambi style with the multi-plane camera.  The cranes were photo realistic lovelies to watch.  Apparently animation for this sequence had originally been created for the deleted “Clair de lune” scene in Fantasia (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038718/trivia), explaining its exceptional quality.  “All The Cats Join In” was definitely a jazzy toe tapper with some interesting animation, in comparison to the previous segment’s photo-realism.  This piece has almost a comic book pop feel to it, reminiscent of some of the later shorts that would be found in Fantasia 2000.  It’s an impressive display of swing dancing, some of which I hypothesize they had photo reference for. 
I feel like there it’s required in every Disney film that there be a scene that allows effects animation to stretch its wings and show what it’s made of.  For Make Mine Music, it’s “Without You.”  Rain falling against windowpanes, twinkling stars, sunrises, and rippling water is a small sampling of what is shown in this short.  All of which would not be possible if it were not for the effects animation department.
“Casey at the Bat” most definitely is done in the classic Silly Symphony style, from the round cartoonish faces and the inhuman feats of bodily activity (like the guy getting his mustache tangled around his bat and the catcher braiding his fingers literally together).  I have to wonder if the three girls who fawn over Casey served as some inspiration for the three girls that later fawn over Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, because they all seem similar.  “Two Silhouettes” merged animation of live action performance almost seamlessly and was a lovely interpretation (if quite literal) for the piece of music it accompanied.  The little bit at the end with the two cupids dancing together was cute, and almost reminiscent of Fantasia with the way they merged into a heart.
None other than Sterling Holloway, who was great as always, narrated “Peter and the Wolf.”  It had been a long time since I had watched “Peter and the Wolf” and I was anticipating that the wolf be comical in design much like the Big Bad Wolf of The Three Little Pigs fame.  I was surprised by the viciousness hinted at in his design; he actually struck me as a scary wolf (though not quite on the level of that wolf that appeared in The Neverending Story; now that thing was scary).  The wolf does have a few moments of comedy, but remains a menace throughout the story, a rarity for a short done in this style.  Though the short is very cartoony it is still humorous.  I especially liked when Sasha reaches back into the wolf’s mouth for his hat; it was very Indiana Jones on Sasha’s part.
“After You’ve Gone” is done in a bit more of a Fantasia abstract style.  It’s very creative how they humanized all of the instruments to coincide with the music.  I had forgotten about “Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet” but it was really cute and very creative.  It’s impressive how they managed to tell the story primarily from the perspective of the top of a person’s head.  My favorite bit was how they made Johnny Fedora’s mouth the hat’s opening.  By the way, though the American version was sung very lovely like by the Andrew Sisters, the French version was sung by Édith Piaf, a very legendary French vocalist.

Oh boy.  I remember “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met” more than any other short in this film.  Why?  It’s the one that made me sad as a kid and it still makes me sad now. Willie was so cute the way he serenaded everyone!  I wish there were whales who could sing opera in real life, just because of how awesome that would be.  It also strikes me a little too close to current events now with the issues surrounding whaling in the world today.  Of course, whales aren’t being killed today because insane conductors think that they might have swallowed three opera singers.  Still, the world sounds a little less melodic without you, Willie.


  1. I get two shout-outs in tonight's post!! My ego is sufficiently stroked.
    The "pop Fantasia" thing is even notable in the films subtitle: a musical fantasy in ten parts. The parallel was obvious. It is unfortunate that the overall product doesn't quite represent that ambition, and uses ideas left over from Fantasia, and others that seem more about experimentation.

    Ten segments is a lot in one film. They go back and forth from fun to "artsy" until it nears the end. I so hate the editing out of Martins and Coys (which necessitated cutting the credits too!!). In the short, both families shoot themselves dead. Isn't this a lesson that gun violence is bad??

    "Blue Bayou" is a very pretty piece (as you point out, it's animation mostly left from Fantasia), but little else. Yet another reason for it not to begin the film, because it sort of stops the thing dead. It works much better between two goofier bits.

    Like you, I saw most of these shorts in constant rotation on television by themselves. I did see the full film once or twice, but usually it was just the pieces. "All the Cats Join In" was one I loved every time it came on. It's funny that Warner Bros gets most of the credit for those kinds of "interactive pencil drawing" gags, when they are used so effectively here. The design is great, and it's a nice slice of time. My favorite bit is the girl who demands the pencil erase her hip line.

    Some of the artsy sequences are better than others. "Without You" is a good effects piece. It's little else though, but thankfully its very short.

    "Casey at the Bat" is a fun sequence. The design of Casey of course would feature in later shorts whenever a character was named Casey (i.e. Casey Jones). It's a very sort of vaudevillian take on the poem, as it's quite ethnic in its presentation (very stereotypically Irish).

    The bit with Willy the Whale is a strangely somber piece to close the film. It was responsible for my mistakenly believing as a kid that one's singing voice came from the uvula. I've looked up reviews of the film from that period, and most cite this as the best segment of the film.

    My personal favorite is Johnny Fedora. I just love this sequence. It's easily the best of the new songs in the piece (some songs are classics of course, and "All the Cats Join In" was a contemporary hit). It's so beautifully singable, has a nice narrative and is a good marriage of song and animation. Love the Andrews Sisters, who would feature in a few more Disney films and shorts. I did not know that Edith Piaf did the French dub! That's interesting! We forget that all those responsible for the vocals in this film were established celebrities of their day. While we might recognize Benny Goodman or the Andrews Sisters, others were just as notable. It would be like these days a DreamWorks picture advertising all its celebrity voice talent (*cough* Shark Tale *cough*). Many do a great job, especially the narrators. Willy's narrator does every character's voice, and it's splendid (I'm blanking on his name).

    There is a lot of great work on display here, but Make Mine Music is a really mixed bag. While the parts work individually, there's just nothing holding them together. The film really could have used a Deems Taylor type to wrap it up nice. In the end, I'd probably only really take 3 or 4 of the sequences as major standouts. Worth checking out for some really bright spots, but the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts.

  2. Aww thank you so much for the shout out!! After reading jon TK's post on imdb about how this movie was edited, I immediately went looking on youtube for it. I was so glad I found it, but after watching it I could only stare in wonder. Why was this edited out? I'm still trying to figure out what made it be considered too violent. Oh well.

    "All the Cats Join In" was one of my favorite segments and still is. The movements of the swing dancers somehow mixes the cartoony with the realistic in an enchanting way.

    Willie's tale always makes me sad. I was kind of surprised that they had such a somber ending to the movie. I noticed that when they started showing what could have happened I actually forgot that they were still on the ocean until he shot Willie.

    However, my absolute favorite segment has always been "Peter and the Wolf." For some reason I must have a love/hate thing for Disney wolves. I was terrified of Big Bad, but loved him. And even though the wolf in this is kinda scary as well, I couldn't wait for him to come on. Sterling Holloway makes everything more amazing. His mellow voice fits it perfectly.

    One thing I did notice however is that they didn't really tie these together at all. Yeah they had the same theme, but there was no running narration. I could have run into "The Martins and the Coys" a random day on youtube and I would have had no idea it was originally from the movie.

  3. Aw, Willie the whale! Poor, poor Willie the whale! I thought of him the first time I went to the opera, believe it or not. Opera, too, is pretty tragic.

    There are so many famous shorts in this movie, but tink nails it on the head when she points out that there's no real common thread. It would be cool if they could've come up with some sort of framing device a la "The Three Caballeros".