Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Water Babies

I have to admit, this was a tough one to get through. After years of advancement in storytelling and plotting in the Silly Symphonies, Water Babies seems like a step backwards. It has great character design, but that really is the only thing I liked about this short.

The short is a throwback to things like the “season” shorts of Spring or Summer. It features an opening scene where we see flowers unfolding to reveal small babies inside, who then proceed to frolic and play throughout the pond area. That’s the whole short. Nothing more to it than that.

Unlike previous Silly Symphonies that did not have a plot, Water Babies does not even feature good characters and great gags. The babies, while very cute and nice to look at, are practically indistinguishable from each other, and thus it is very difficult to connect to them. And the gags? There just aren’t that many of them.

This is an issue that has been popping up lately in the Disney shorts we’ve reviewed. Even in the Mickey shorts, the number of gags is slowly shrinking, as the focus has shifted more to story and what happens with the characters. If done properly, like in The Golden Touch, that’s not such a bad thing. However, that has not been the case in this short and others, like Mickey’s Kangaroo.

The main source of gags in Water Babies is the babes playing with some frogs. The frogs stand in for horses and bulls, as the babies act out little vignettes for each other. It’s strange, to say the least. There’s one sequence where a frog is caged up, and acts like a rabid bull. Once released, the frog chases one of the babies, and gets its head stuck in a flower. But at the end, after the frog has run off the babies, he pulls the flower off his head and reveals himself to be in on the act. Huh?

That’s the problem with Water Babies. Throughout the short, I did not understand all that was going on, and continually wondered why these characters were doing what they did. Sure, it was pretty to look at, and some of the scenes are very well animated. But I never got lost in the short, like I do with some of the Mickeys or even other Silly Symphonies. This one gets a hearty thumbs down from me. What do you think?

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. Blecch! I don't like it either. This is for me perhaps the ugliest Disney cartoon ever made while Walt was alive. Again it's an attempt to be more beautiful than the level of art and technical limitations of the time will quite allow. Usually I go easy on this because it's this kind of ambition that will lead to beautiful scenes in later projects, but here the imagery is so twee, it comes across as total puke.

    The babies just look gross. It is an attempt to be cute (too cute!) and fairly realistic, but the over-detailed outlines combined with one flat pink area of nudity on every baby is disgusting to look at. It also makes any imperfection in the drawings readily apparent. Then there's all the yukky coloured thick water and flowers, the dead-eyed stupid-looking swans and the ridiculously fat birds flapping about. Ugh! Make it go away.

    Previous cute cartoons (e.g Funny Little Bunnies) did have an abundance of gags and silliness to cheer things up and they bounce along quite nicely. However, this ones just about going to a magical world where everything's cute and a disgusting colour.

    As much as I hate this twee little film, it does have it's fans. I do admire that Disney tried to do something different yet again (there hasn't been a Silly Symphony quite like this one before), but trying to be cute and nothing more doesn't cut it for me. I know there are people who like pretty flowers, cute babies and all this sort of thing, but I'm surprised they don't see how ugly this cartoon is. I think the music goes a long way in carrying this film – Leigh Harline's score is lovely and suggests something much more beautiful than what we see in the visuals.

  2. This was one of my favorite cartoons as a child. I look back at it and remember a carefree point in my life when my biggest worry in the world was if Santa was going to get me what I wanted for Christmas. I found the cartoon 20 years later and all those memories flooded back to me and filled me with great warmth. With that being said, being a cartoon which is clearly aimed towards a child, I believe the short fulfilled its purpose.


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