Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Farmyard Symphony

It’s been a while since the Silly Symphonies featured a short that had everyday objects or settings combining to make music. The trend has instead been towards higher artistic value in the shorts, with great detail and feature quality animation, involved in the telling of a well crafted story. However, the old shorts still have a certain charm, and Farmyard Symphony brings both of those elements together.

Farmyard Symphony returns us to the barnyard setting that was so familiar in the early years of the Disney studio, both in the Mickey shorts and the Silly Symphonies. It’s been quite a while since Disney has highlighted a rural setting, so it’s a treat to see what the changes have been.

The animation is simply stunning in this short. The opening shots, where the camera zooms into the farm, are very reminiscent of the work in The Old Mill. The various animals are no longer caricatures or oddly shaped avatars of an animal. Instead, they are now fully drawn characters that move, act and breathe like real animals.

The driving force of this short is the rooster who gets up and crows the morning for the farm. He is able to strut throughout the farm, waking up the animals, causing the various gags to be set in motion. There’s not so much a story to the short as there is this through line of the rooster stirring things up, which is quite the throwback to the earlier shorts.

The rooster’s noise wakes up a group of pigs, for example, who try then to start nursing from their mother. One of the pigs can’t get in, and keeps trying to find a way to squeeze himself into the mix, to no avail. He ends up trying to squeeze his way in with a nearby cow – again, to no avail. It’s a familiar gag, but the work on the pigs is so good that it feels more real in this short than in others.

The rooster gets a big part to play later in the short when he starts wooing a chicken from the hen house. After waking up the hens, this chicken catches his eye, and thus begins the Farmyard Symphony.

As the rooster and chicken sing together, the rest of the animals join in. What’s interesting in this short, though, is that the sounds of the animals are not morphed together to form a real musical track, but are left as animal sounds. In the earlier shorts, you would have had real notes coming from the animals, but here, it’s much more natural.

This is a great example of how the Disney shorts evolved after the release of Snow White. Take this short and compare it to some of the previous Silly Symphonies, and it blows them away in terms of storytelling, animation and detail. The whole short gives a very peaceful, pastoral feeling, and ends up making the viewer smile. That, I’m sure, was all the Disney team wanted.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Yep, this one feels like an early 30's Silly Symphony updated with late 30's Disney sensibilities. The action perfectly fits the music, but not in the same every-footstep-matches-a-note way of the old black and white shorts (I miss that!). Silly slapstick gags have been replaced by gentle caricatures of animal behaviour and everything is much more sophisticated and beautifully done. I find this cartoon, with its nice selection of classical music an absolute delight and it's great to see how far Disney animation has advanced. However, it still doesn't take away from how much I enjoy those earlier, bouncy cartoons!


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