Thursday, June 30, 2011

Song of the South - Review

Song of the South, despite the controversies surrounding it, turns out to be quite an important film in the Disney canon. After watching this movie, I now understand how some of the later Disney live action films were influenced by it. For a viewer today, it appears like a standard Disney film. At the time, it was anything but.

Song of the South is an emotional film that tugs on your heart strings the way that you expect from Disney. It’s distinct, however, because the appeal is unique to the live action actors in a way that the Disney had ever done before this point. Bobby Driscoll as Johnny is a very appealing protagonist, playing a boy who has been left behind in the thoughts of his father and mother. He turns to Uncle Remus, played by James Baskett, to fill that void in his life.

The brilliant thing this story does is keep the focus on the people. It would have been quite easy to turn this film into a story of the Civil War and get caught up in slavery, politics and the sorts of things that other films have done. Instead, the lens is focused on Johnny and his relationship with Uncle Remus. Though there are other characters that make a difference to the plot, they serve merely as ways to make the story more interesting. It always comes back to Johnny and Uncle Remus and their symbiotic relationship.

Incorporating Joel Chandler Harris’ stories into a cohesive narrative would not be an easy thing, as each one was meant to stand alone. In the film, the stories are used as a device to illustrate a point that Uncle Remus is trying to make to Johnny or his friends. In the telling, Uncle Remus is fulfilled and by listening, Johnny is transported away from the difficulties of his father’s absence.

As complications arise in the relationship, either from Johnny’s mother or other sources, despite every move being telegraphed, it pulls at your heart on every level. I can see that critics might have viewed the film as overly melodramatic, but you could say that about many Disney live action films. I knew most of the complications that Uncle Remus and Johnny would face from the beginning of the movie, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

So while it’s true that this film is predictable, a little cliché and perhaps overboard with emotional appeals, that is what makes it fun. Think of the Disney films that come afterward, like Pollyanna, So Dear to My Heart or others set in these rural areas. They all follow a predictable pattern like this. Even Mary Poppins is a similar take on a child/protector relationship, and how that fosters a new relationship amongst a family.

I haven’t spoken about the animation yet, and that should tell you something about the focus of the film. While the stories of Brer Rabbit and his dealings with Brer Fox and Brer Bear are fun, they are typical shorts. The voice of Baskett telling the tale adds something to the proceedings, but for the most part they are fun diversions within the story. The quality of the animation is good, and the characters move and act superbly. But the three main pieces of animation are there to enhance the live action story, not be the story itself.

That’s a dramatic sea change in Disney history, and for that alone makes Song of the South a very important film. In the upcoming years after 1946, the studio would move to make much more use of live action, while not truly getting back into feature animation until the 1950s. It’s a charming little film, not groundbreaking except in the fact that the formula in this film would be followed for decades to come. As such, it’s very important for those like me who want to understand the Disney studio.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Song of the South - Background

We’re dealing with 1946, which means it is time to cover the most “controversial” film in the Disney canon, Song of the South. To this day, the film stirs up emotions in people that are difficult to quantify and talk about. But the origins of the film and the way it came to be are quite interesting on their own.

Song of the South is based on the stories of Joel Chandler Harris, a Georgia author who created Uncle Remus and his critter characters. Harris created the character for a column in the Atlanta newspaper, and his stories went on to be collected in books that were extremely popular. The stories that Harris wrote at his house in Atlanta, known as the Wren’s Nest, became widely read.

Harris created the character of Uncle Remus, a slave who lived on a plantation and told stories of animals given human characteristics. Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear were just some of the characters, but there were many others. His works were immediately recognized among the best writers of the day, up there with Mark Twain and other pre-1900 writers.

Walt read the stories of Uncle Remus in the early 1900s, and thought they would make a good subject for animation. Once the studio got going, Walt decided to revisit Harris’ work, in the hopes of making a film or series of shorts. He began negotiations with Harris’ remaining relatives in 1939, with the idea of making a live action film with animated segments for the critter stories.

Chandler's House - The Wren's Nest

Production finally began on the film in 1944, after Walt went to the Wren’s Nest in Atlanta to get an idea of what Harris was feeling when he wrote the stories. Originally titled Uncle Remus, the movie was the first full live action film Disney ever produced. While the studio had been doing live action for segments in films like The Reluctant Dragon or Saludos Amigos, this was the first film that was to be a complete live action film with animation supporting the live actors.

James Baskett was cast as Uncle Remus, with young actors tabbed to fill out the cast, including Bobby Driscoll, the first child actor under contract to the studio. It was clear Walt envisioned an expanding role into more live action filming. Production was completed in 1946, and the film was released into the world in October.

With a grand world premiere at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Walt Disney released the retitled film Song of the South. It went on to be a mild financial success, but it was clear from the beginning that the race issue would always play a role in this film. There were praises and condemnations for the portrayal of the slaves in the film, which causes all the controversy today.

But how is the movie itself? Come back tomorrow and we’ll discuss it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Frank Duck Brings Em Back Alive

I have made no secret that my two favorite of the Fab Five Disney characters are Donald and Goofy. So it should be no surprise that I enjoy the shorts where the two of them get together. In Frank Duck Brings Em Back Alive, though, it feels like we have a rehash of another company’s material, and it diminishes both of the Disney characters.

Goofy here plays the role of a feral wild man, lost in the jungle. The titular Frank Duck, played by Donald, arrives in the jungle to take him away. No one consulted the Goof about this decision, however, so he manages to fight back with all the resistance he can muster. While this leads to great gags, it feels like something we’ve seen before.

That’s probably my modern retrospective eyes talking. This seems like something that we would have seen many times from the Elmer Fudd/Bugs Bunny camp, and it plays that way. In doing so, Goofy tends to act out of character. He is not supposed to be a cunning acrobat who gets the last word on his opponent. Goofy is supposed to be a bumbler who lucks into (or out of) great fortune.

That Goofy, though, is not what we get here. Jungle wild man Goofy is a confident bumbler, if such a thing can be said. While he still makes some simple mistakes, like helping Donald with a cage that the duck wants to put him in, this Goofy is smarter than Donald. That shouldn’t be the case.

Donald acts the way he should for the most part. He is aggressive and irritable, but still easily fooled by the Goof. That leads to some great gags, like the cage carrying scene, where Goofy gets trapped in a cage with no bottom, but Donald lifts it up to carry it anyway, not realizing that Goofy is not inside. That’s just one gag, but there were plenty more, and they weren’t bad for the most part.

The final one was my favorite, however, as the two enter a darkened cave during their chase, and end up switching clothes somehow. I will not speculate what Donald and Goofy were doing in the cave, but the clothes get swapped and they are chased out by a lion. It’s funny, but again it feels a bit more Looney Tunes than Disney. That’s not necessarily bad, but it keeps Frank Duck from being one of my favorites.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 25 - Thor

Verily, mortals, it has been 25 episodes thus far for the DFPP team. Forsooth, what a journey we have undertaken. We shall celebrate with much rejoicing and song, as we tackle the latest Marvel movie, Thor (2011).

Listen, download, etc.

Show notes:

Go forth and listen! Yea verily!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pooh First

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the trailers or commercials for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It’s likely the most anticipated film in the last decade, since perhaps The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. As such, most analysts and film critics expect Harry Potter to bring in lots and lots of money when it opens on July 15.

What you might have missed, even if you’re a Disney fan, is that the all new hand drawn animated film from Walt Disney Animation Studios comes out that same day. Yes, a brand new version of Winnie the Pooh arrives in theatres on July 15, the exact same day as Harry Potter. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

The last Disney hand drawn film was The Princess and the Frog. Some love it (me) and some hate it, but it was a moderate financial success, grossing $104 million dollars during release in the United States. That did not accomplish the task of recouping its production costs. Consider a marketing push and various other tie-ins, and you can see how people viewed the film as a failure.

Going back to Winnie the Pooh was considered a safe bet for Disney. Hand drawn tales of everyone’s favorite stuffed bear should be money in the bank, right? Not if you are going up against the boy wizard. Harry Potter will be a financial juggernaut, and we should not pretend otherwise. But what are the consequences if Winnie the Pooh does not do well at the box office?

Consider this – there are no other hand drawn films that have been announced by Disney. Andreas Deja, one of the key animators at the studio for the last two decades, has left the studio, for reasons he has not stated. No other animation house is doing hand drawn animation anymore. Is it possible that the reason Disney has put Pooh at this release date that they want to kill hand drawn films?

To be sure, there’s no love of tradition in today’s Walt Disney Company. There’s no Roy Disney there fighting to keep animation alive. Pixar has replaced hand drawn animation in being able to churn out viable characters. But I have to say that putting Winnie the Pooh out on the same day as Harry Potter seems like malpractice.

So, here’s what I propose we do about it. I know we’re all Harry Potter fans out there. All I will ask of you, my Disney loving friends, is to go and see Winnie the Pooh first. Weekend box office can make or break a film. When the Friday numbers for July 15 come out, Harry Potter will crush Pooh. But if all of us, as Disney fans, make a vow to go to see Winnie the Pooh first, perhaps we can make a difference.

I’m not saying that you should not go to see Harry Potter, just go to see Pooh first. If you can put Potter off until Monday, even better. If we want more hand drawn films, we have to demonstrate to Disney that hand drawn is still viable. If Pooh fails, they will have the excuse they need to shut it down. Let’s not give them that opportunity.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bath Day

Disney shorts in the 1940s are quite a mixed bag. While the energy of the Mickey shorts from the 30s is not there, the focus shifted to Donald Duck mostly, and partially some Goofy exploits. There are some notable exceptions, though, and one of them is Figaro. The cat from Pinocchio featured in an earlier short, Figaro and Cleo, and returns with Bath Day.

Figaro was never going to be a star on the scale of the bigger Disney characters, but he’s not terrible. The acting and animation of the character are perfectly fine, about on par with that of Pluto in some of his shorts. The problem is that there is not a good reason to have Figaro about. He doesn’t fit in any real niche that is underserved by the other Disney characters.

In Bath Day, Figaro interacts with Minnie, and the beginning of the short makes you think this will be a fairly typical idea. Figaro doesn’t want to take a bath, and Minnie is trying to make him do so. He puts up a little bit of a fight, but within two minutes, he’s bathed and ready to go. His big worry is not so much the bath but how the bath makes him look.

In short, it makes him look like a bit of a fop. Figaro is concerned that his looks will not serve him well in the world at large. He is right about that, because he immediately encounters some alley cats that threaten him. Seeing Figaro interact with the other cats is somewhat fun, but ultimately it lacks a little heart that we’ve seen in other shorts.

Figaro is the hero here, but as a viewer, I’m not familiar enough with him to really root for him like I would the other characters. It’s a catch 22, because if he doesn’t appear that much then you won’t develop familiarity, right? But the story here doesn’t do much to help matters. I don’t feel for Figaro or care what he ends up doing.

I’ll admit to enjoying the ultimate ending, when Figaro gets the best of the alley cat through no fault of his own. Seeing the cat get clobbered by the garbage around Figaro is fun, but it does nothing to further Figaro’s character. When he ends up strutting back to his house, he’s rather arrogant and not endearing.

Sure, that’s probably the point of Figaro, but it doesn’t make him likeable. I can see why Figaro is not in the pantheon of Disney characters, because in Bath Day, I just didn’t care what happened to him. That may be the modern viewer looking back, but for some reason, I don’t connect to Figaro.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lighthouse Keeping

People keep giving Donald responsibility in these 1940s Disney shorts. I’m not sure that is a good idea, but that’s what makes it so funny. In Lighthouse Keeping, Donald is in charge of a lighthouse, which means all ships at sea better be worried. For those of us watching at home, however, it’s some great animation and laughs.

There are some great gags in this short, with Donald doing some things that you would not expect. Take the beginning for example. He is sitting in the top of the lighthouse trying to read a book, but the light of course starts rotating, keeping him from reading. Donald smartly hooks himself to the wheel turning the light, so that he can keep reading. Sure, it only works for a moment, but it’s quite a clever gag.

The core of this short, though is focused on Donald’s cruelty getting him in trouble. When he gets bored because his reading doesn’t work out, Donald shines the light on a pelican nearby. How this might affect the ships at sea is not really dealt with. It definitely affects the pelican, however, and he ends up coming into the lighthouse to take issue with Donald.

What follows is a tit for tat, back and forth battle over the light in the lighthouse, with Donald attempting to keep it lit while the pelican battles him to shut it down. This is where we get fast and furious gags, in a way that we haven’t seen in some time during the Disney shorts. It’s not quite the frenetic energy of the early Mickeys, but it’s as close as Disney comes in the 1940s era.

The pelican is quite the match for Donald. While there’s a long stretch of just blowing out the candle at the light and Donald relighting it with a lighter, there’s some fantastic gags the pelican pulls. One of my favorites is when he convinces Donald that he’s left, and the main duck hides in the pelican’s beak, thinking it’s a box. The use of the beak is one of the best things in this short.

During the short, I got tired quickly of the back and forth over the light with just blowing it out then relighting it, but it all made sense at the end. The two combatants see the sun coming up, which makes their battle pointless. Rather than give in, though, Donald decides to draw the shades and continue the fight forever. What better summation of Donald’s character could there be? He keeps fighting no matter what, even if it’s pointless. For Donald, it’s all about being right and winning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dumbell of the Yukon

Donald Duck the hunter is just a fun concept. It’s the reason why we see him feuding with Chip and Dale so often, and why Dumbell of the Yukon is so fun. In this short, Donald shows his true motivations very clearly, and provides us with a lot of comedy in the meantime.

In this case the action is driven by the fact that Donald needs to get Daisy a fur coat. That drives him to head out into the wild, gun in hand, in search of a bear. Seeing him in this light is amusing, because we’ve grown to know Donald as a bit of a bumbler. Certainly not on the Goofy level, but Donald’s not exactly known for his physical prowess.

Donald finds a baby bear easily, then pulls off an Indiana Jones style maneuver to wrest the baby from its mother’s arms. Anyone can see where this might be headed, but the journey is the fun part. When Donald gets the baby bear back into his cabin, we see him visualizing Daisy in his mind, wearing the skin of the bear. This could be a creepy segment, considering the cute design of the bear, but it’s pulled off very well.

The issue comes when Donald tries to shoot the bear. Try as he might, there’s no real sense of danger for the little bear. Donald is brandishing the gun and doesn’t shoot and ends up trying all sorts of weird ways to attempt the dirty deed. It’s a fun little sequence because the bear just looks at him in a cute way and doesn’t understand.

That makes this work so well. The psychology of seeing the innocent bear pitted against the “evil” Donald lets us enjoy the fact that our hero is getting thwarted at every turn. After all, we don’t want the cute little bear to get hurt, but we’ve been trained by watching Donald to root for the world’s angriest duck.

Where I found the most fun in Dumbell of the Yukon, though, was when the baby bear’s mother woke up. While the baby bear escapes, the mother comes looking, and Donald has to fill those shoes to keep the mother’s rage at bay. Seeing Donald snuggle up to the mother bear is my favorite part, because it reveals Donald’s other motivation – survival. Throughout his career Donald adapts to his surroundings to survive, no matter what it takes. Dumbell of the Yukon demonstrates that with hilarious results.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 24 - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Twenty four episodes in, mateys, and now we be lookin' to keelhaul the latest in the Pirates franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides. Join the DFPP crew and our mutinous first mate, John Saccheri as we take a look at the Disney summer Blockbuster.

Listen, download, etc.

Show notes:

Arrrrr!!!! Matey!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast Listener's Choice!

Alright, we solicited choices from you for what movie you would want us to do on the Disney Film Project Podcast.  We got some eclectic choices and some mainstream ones, so we chose 5 good ones to choose from.  Here's the finalist.

Never A Dull Moment - 1968

This Dick Van Dyke comedy is a hidden gem in the Disney canon.  So hidden that I had never heard of it.  I'm eager to get to it, so let us know if you want us to do this one on our listener's choice show.

The Black Hole - 1979

Lots of talk about Joseph Kosinski of Tron: Legacy remaking this one, but it seems that has died off.  However, this Disney take on sci fi is "interesting" to be sure. 

Oliver and Company - 1988

Before Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast came a couple of other animated features, including Oliver and Company.  This take on the Oliver Twist story with all dogs is one I'm very interested to see.

The Princess Diaries - 2001

Julie Andrews.  Anne Hathaway.  Need I say more?  We haven't done this one yet, but it's one I'm eager to review. 

Treasure Planet - 2002

When the same guys who did Beauty and the Beast take on the Treasure Island story in space, I'm there.  It will be interesting to talk about what worked and what did not in this one.

Alright, there's your choices.  You have until next Thursday night, June 23 to vote.  Get ready and vote!

Tweetwatch - Monday, June 20 at 8:30p - Cars

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the Tweetwatch train got derailed in June, but we're back on board to get everyone ready for Cars 2 with the original film.  It's one of my absolute favorites, so I can't wait to share all the little details I can cram in during the film.  In case you don't know what the Tweetwatch is, here's the scoop:

1.  Get the Cars Bluray or DVD, or rent it from iTunes or Amazon.
2.  Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to our Friendfeed room.
3.  At 8:30 pm on Monday night, gather around the TV and the computer.
4.  I'll give the cue to start the movie, and while we watch, I'll point out fun facts about the movie, like Pop Up Video on Twitter. 

It's that easy.  And it's lots of fun.  So everyone take care of grabbing Cars for Monday and we'll be ready for next week's Cars 2.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 23 - The Rocketeer

This week, the DFPP team takes a flight back to the 1930s to take on the 1991 Disney film The Rocketeer. It's 20 years since this film hit the big screen, and it's a great time to take a look back.

Listen to the show, download, etc.

Show notes:

Have a blast listening!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Make Mine Music - Part 2

I left off yesterday on the note of Casey at the Bat, the fun piece of Make Mine Music that has been pulled apart and shown separately multiple times. The next piece of this film is again a tonal shift, moving from the literal style to the impressionistic style with Two Silhouettes. Once again, it doesn’t entirely work.

Two Silhouettes could not be a better title for this segment. The short features two dancers, filmed in live action, then reversed out into silhouettes. They are doing ballet, and the figures are manipulated around the screen across an animated background. Honestly, it just doesn’t work. The music is good, the animation is fine, but the live action figures don’t play well in that world. Especially when you turn them into silhouettes, with not features to act from, the figures look stiff and unwieldy.

Once again, though, the film switches back to a more literal style, but this time playing off a piece of classical music in Peter and the Wolf. To say this is the best piece in the movie is an understatement. The brilliance of the short is the way it takes the inherent story of the music and brings it to life, not only through Sterling Holloway’s narration, but the acting of the characters.

Peter and his animal cohorts are visualized here in a way that makes them relatable and exciting. I was instantly hooked on this short by the bravery that Peter displays in going after the wolf, through his puffed out chest and bravado. The acting that these characters do, from Sasha the bird to Sonia the duck, is fantastic. It’s a tour de force of how to marry animation, music and narration to create a compelling story.

After You’ve Gone, the next segment in the piece, tries to marry the two conflicting styles we have seen so far in the film. Set to a Benny Goodman number, this short features instruments taking on human qualities to dance around the screen to the music. It’s a different piece than the other impressionistic segments, though, because the animation style is much more direct. It manages to soften the transition between the two styles rather well. There is still no narrative flow to the piece, but that does not matter quite as much, because the music is better and the figures are easy to follow and enjoy.

The final two pieces of the film are more direct storytelling, although the first, Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, is told entirely through the song of the same name. Telling the story of two hats that fall in love would be a difficult proposition if it weren’t for the skills of the animators involved. We get to see emotion on the “faces” of the hats very well and consequently develop an attachment for them.

The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At the Met, meanwhile, falls squarely in the tradition of other Disney shorts, and reminds me a great deal of Baby Weems, from The Reluctant Dragon. Not from an artistic perspective, mind you, as the style on this short is the typical short subject work, but from the way the story is told. The storytelling device is a flashback/news style that creates a momentum to the story.

While the ending is tragic, this short still manages to be uplifting and tell the story with a moral of letting people (or animals) do their own thing. It’s a fitting end to Make Mine Music, a jumbled mess of a film that allowed each different segment’s director to chart their own path. That’s not something you would have seen from Disney in the Snow White and Pinocchio days, but I can only assume the experience will be of use to the team in later films. For now, Make Mine Music doesn’t work. It has great individual parts, but the sum is not compelling.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Make Mine Music - Part 1

Yesterday, I talked about the disjointed nature of Make Mine Music, and how the different shorts did not hang together well as a feature film. Each of these shorts, though, have some unique features, and they are worth discussing individually, beginning with the one that originally opened the film, The Martins and the Coys.

This short was removed because of the gunplay and violence throughout, and that’s a shame. Featuring the King’s Men singing a narration of the story, it’s basically a retelling of the Hatfields and McCoys feud. The animation in this short is quite good, with fluid movements of the characters and appealing designs. It plays much like one of the better Silly Symphonies.

While it takes a while for any story to come through, once it does it’s fantastic. We see one member of each feuding family come together to marry, but then end up still feuding. The dancing, fun and overall silliness of this piece is a great addition to the film, and its absence is truly felt if you watch Make Mine Music without it.

The next segment, Blue Bayou, however, is not such a piece. While The Martins and the Coys plays like a great short cartoon, Blue Bayou attempts to be something more. It is obviously an effort to be an interpretation of music like Fantasia. Unlike Fantasia, though, the short feels incomplete, and doesn’t provide characters to watch, just pastoral imagery.

This could be intentional, as one source I read claimed that Blue Bayou was intended to be part of Fantasia. Seen back to back with other segments of Make Mine Music, however, the tone seems off. It’s not the fault of the animation, which is gorgeous. This is feature quality stuff, which is rare at this point in the Disney feature films. There’s just not enough in the story to make it work.

What makes it even more jarring is going from Blue Bayou to All the Cats Join In, which is much more similar in tone to The Martins and the Coys. This is a fun and exciting segment, because the animation is so fluid and stylish. To the tune of a Benny Goodman song, it’s a moment in time captured perfectly. We get the bobby socks, the malt shop and the cruising culture all portrayed with fun and fast moving animation.

Once again, though, the next segment, Without You, makes a jarring transition from the quick pace and sends us back into the impressionistic style of Fantasia. If viewed on its own as a piece of art, this would be a perfectly acceptable short subject. Andy Russell croons the title song while we get a series of images accompanying him, moving from brush strokes and moving lines into more defined images like trees or rivers.

If you paired Blue Bayou and Without You together and made a movie with that style, it would not be a commercial success, but could arguably be an artistic one. What you have in The Martins and the Coys and All the Cats Join In is a less artistic statement but still a stretch of the medium. I happen to prefer the latter approach, and that is what happens during Casey at the Bat.

Jerry Colonna steps in to voice the short, reading the classic poem of Casey at the Bat while the story is told through animation. The style is again less impressionism and more short subject, but it works beautifully. The arrogance of Casey, the nervousness of the pitcher, the fluttering hearts of the women – all of them come across quickly and easily. It takes great skill to do that in animation, and this is a case where you can see the talent that Disney had on staff at the time.

The jumps back and forth between the two styles contributes greatly to the uneven nature of Make Mine Music. The first half of the film embodies this. But what of the second half? Ah…stay tuned, dear reader.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Make Mine Music - An Overview

We’ve come to the next feature film in our list, Make Mine Music, which is the third in the famous (some say infamous) package features. During World War II and shortly thereafter, Disney’s artists were taxed trying to keep the studio together and produce films at the same time. The solution was to package together shorts or extended short films into a feature length piece of animation.

Make Mine Music is a modern day version of Fantasia, featuring popular music of the time interpreted by the animators as opposed to the classical pieces we saw in Fantasia. There are some exceptions to that, such as the Peter and the Wolf section, but for the most part we get modern music of the 1940s like Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore and others.

The disjointed nature of this film should not be surprising, then, but it still comes off much worse than Saludos Amigos or The Three Caballeros did. In those films, the framing device was a story, such as Donald’s birthday or the tour of South America. In Make Mine Music, the shorts are presented merely as one program after the other in a theatre, with curtains raising to present title cards for each short. It does not even attempt to tie the pieces together.

Combine that with the fact that Make Mine Music features over 10 distinct shorts, as opposed to the 5 or 6 that were in the previous package features. Where pieces in the South American films flowed together to create an almost lyrical flow through the film, this film feels like a group of completely unrelated pieces. The number of different styles, settings and musical pieces makes the film difficult to follow.

This is not to say that there is not some great work within the film. The aforementioned Peter and the Wolf stands out, as does The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At the Met. Some of the items just don’t hit, however. The more abstract shorts tend to fail not because they are abstract, but because they are less abstract than they could be. In Fantasia, we saw colors and lines giving form to musical notes, whereas in this film they are represented by musical instruments.

It’s hard to judge Make Mine Music as a whole, because it was not constructed as such. It’s really just several shorts that were cobbled together to crack the feature marketplace. Instead of trying to make some cohesive statement about the film, I’ll review each piece throughout the rest of the week. Tomorrow I’ll touch on the first part of the film, including the Martins and the Coys, a short that has been edited out of the DVD release.