The Silly Symphonies in 1938 are kind of a double-edged sword for Walt Disney and his studio. Although they are great vehicles for trying new things, and for the most part are artistic achievements, they are also more and more expensive to produce. It was almost a given that these shorts would not make their money back, but were instead trial balloons for feature films.
Wynken, Blynken and Nod is a good example of this. The artistry in this short cannot be denied. The main characters are great designs, and the amazing shots of the three of them sailing through the skies in their shoe-boat are breathtaking. The effects of the stars, the clouds and pixie dust flying all around them are fantastic.
But, there’s no real story or emphasis in the short. It harkens back to older Silly Symphonies in that it’s a loose collection of gags with no dialogue, although the music here is not as prevalent as before. The gags are good, but not enough to make for a truly memorable short.
To start with, the three characters don’t have much going for them beyond their designs. Although the animators do a great job of having them emote when in various situations, that’s the extent of their appeal. Wynken, Blynken and Nod don’t have real personalities or anything that makes the viewer latch on to them.
The gags, as mentioned, are not bad. But they’re not great, either. Coming right after something like Mickey’s Trailer, with such inventive and relatable gags, seeing these three fish for stars is cute, but that’s about it. I understand that the point of this short is much like other Silly Symphonies (Funny Little Bunnies, for example), to be an exploration of a world, not a story. But, it just seems to fall flat for me.
My favorite parts of this short were the scenes of the boys sailing through the air in their dream boat. As I said before, the interactions of the boat and the clouds, the sparkle the boat gives off, and the feeling of pure fantasy it all gives off is fantastic work.
But for the most part, the short is merely the boys being silly, not knowing what they are doing to each other, and fishing for stars. It all looks wonderful, but I can see where audiences might have tired of this type of short compared to the wonderful Mickey or Donald shorts they had seen so recently. My guess would be they didn’t, but I did.
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