On September 7, 1929 America was recovering from what is known as the “Babson Break,” which was a small decrease in prices that lasted a day. Also on this day Disney’s second Silly Symphony El Terrible Toreador premiered. As always the instrumental music in the background carried most of the comedy, but in the best way possible. The music at some points added extra comedy due to the contrast of content on screen.
The cartoon opens with a waitress in what seems to be a bar somewhere in Spain. Now this waitress is a bit of a stereotype for the time. She is wearing minimal clothing and delivers alcohol to a male patron. During this time period people were beginning to struggle financially, which explains why the waitress did a little song and dance for the patron to earn extra tips. This starts the whole cartoon in motion. The patron now believes that she is attracted to him and starts to act pushy towards her. As this is taking place, a man comes in who is greeted with cheers from the other patrons in the bar. He starts a stand off with the pushy patron and ends up making him look like a fool in front of everyone. This in my opinion is another example of women being sidelined by men during this time period.
The cartoon now has these two men pumped up on their egos and the need to show dominance over one another. The next scene opens with the man in a bull ring. Another show and dance is performed between the man and the bull. It’s very comical and takes advantage of the music in the background. Everyone cheers except for the pushy patron who puts pepper in the flowers that the waitress is about to throw into the ring. One small thing I want to touch on is the fact that the waitress is sitting next to the pushy patron at this event. It was very subtle, but for me it seemed like another example of women not having the choices and decisions they can make today. After the flowers are thrown the bull spits out his teeth and the man takes advantage of the new development. They now get into a stand off, with yet another example of men needing to be in control and have power over those who are in a weak position. The cartoon ends with the bull being pulled inside out by the man who stands victoriously over it’s body.
The struggle between America’s past morals and the corruptness of the stock market of the time is what I think this cartoon is trying to comment on in a subtle way. I agree that the men are bulls, hungry for power and advantage over each other. Success was a contagious disease in the 20’s and still is ruling society today. Overall the cartoon was a little provocative for the time, but executed tastefully. The animation was really impressive for the time period. You can really appreciate the detailed work in each of the main characters and the motion they create. My favorite element so far in the silly symphony cartoons is the clever usage of music to create a comical tone throughout the story.
Thanks for reading and make sure to leave a comment if you have anything to add onto the review. This is just my interpretation and I welcome other points of view!