Silly Symphony #4 Hell’s Bells

Hello all!  As promised here are my thoughts on the fourth Silly Symphony cartoon Hell’s Bells, made in 1929.  This cartoon is very different from the last three cartoons.  The mood is completely different, along with the music featured in the background.  It has a very dark connotation underlying throughout the whole cartoon.

As I said, the music is much more dark and hits the audience the second the cartoon starts.  It is a very powerful entry for a cartoon.  Elements of fire and demons are also present.  I see this cartoon as a depiction of the artists idea of what would look like and how it operates.  Humor is still present, but with a dark undertone to it.  The cartoon is still enjoyable, but I can’t help but find it hard for children of that time period to watch.  It is a little creepy with the way the creatures and demons stories play out.  There is a lot of death and consumption of others throughout the cartoon, which can be off putting.  Aside from that, it is still a great piece of animation and I find the depiction of hell to be quite creative.


Silly Symphony #3 Springtime

Springtime is the third Silly Symphony cartoon, made in 1929.  Just like the last two posts on Silly Symphonies both the Skeleton Dance and El Terrible Toreador, were all made within months of each other in the same year.  The background information for the time period is still the same.  This cartoon is also in black and white and heavily uses the background music to carry the movement of events taking place on screen.

This cartoon, in my opinion, is different due to the content.  The animals and insects are demonstrating the circle of life.  Smaller animals get eaten by bigger animals and the cycle goes on.  Now of course the cartoon makes it much less blunt than this.  There is a humorous tone to the way this all happens throughout the cartoon.  I have to admit, I found this cartoon to be rather cute and clever due to the way the animation moves the characters along the screen.  It is in a very comical way that they move and slightly joyous because of the music featured in the background.  Overall I loved the execution of the whole cartoon!

As always feel free to write your thoughts on the cartoon!  Stay tuned for the next post about Hell’s Bells the fourth Silly Symphony cartoon!

El Terrible Toreador Review

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!

The Skeleton Dance Review

Tone, reflection and strong contrast to music are what come to mind when reflecting on the 1929 Disney Silly Symphony cartoon the Skeleton Dance.  In 1929 Herbert Hoover was president and the roaring 20’s were reaching its end.  Devastation had begun to consume Americans’ starting with the stock market crash and the beginnings of the Great Depression.  These events taking place set the scene for the Skeleton Dance.

Walt Disney is famously known for his ability to distract audiences from their harsh realities and transports them into a land of fiction.  This is his earliest adaptation of that idea and was executed wonderfully.

The cartoon begins with gloomy setting, a cemetery, were darkness is everywhere and inescapable.  The use of tone is meant to convey the darkness shadowing the struggle American’s were facing through this terrible time.

Animals that are normally seen as harmless now become a source of fear in this dark setting.  An example would be when the owl is blinking, looking around as if to check its surroundings.  By showing tone variation between the owl and the background, it makes the viewer more attentive.  It also clues the audience into the idea of something will soon take place in the story.

Reflection is also used to create a sense of a never-ending cycled nightmare.  One moment I found very powerful was when two cats are mirroring each other’s movements.  The cats begin to turn violent and soon are frightened by the appearance of a skeleton emerging from behind a grave.  The cats are an example of the stock market crash, something unexpected and sudden.  Americans were terrified when the stock market crashed not knowing that more hardships were to follow.

Repetition is used in the cartoon, to stress an important theme or idea.  The skeletons’ in general repeat their actions.  This repetition helps keep the viewers focus on the skeletons.  The skeletons represent the continuous cycle of terrifying nightmares, causing hysteria and havoc.  One could also notice that the cemetery is a repeated scene.  If you were to watch the background closely, you would notice that the cemetery is a circular landscape.  While the skeletons are dancing they move from one end of the landscape to the other, showing an inescapable cycle.  This I think is intentional by the artist; they are making the point that the economic hardships are seemingly like an endless cycle that results in darkness.

The skeletons’ dancing is a humorous contrast to the hardships Americans are faced with.   The endless cycle is being celebrated by the skeletons, which I think is trying to make the viewer think less depressing and more optimistic.  Walt Disney was making the point that everyone needs to take the positive side of a seemingly terrifying situation.

The humor is directly related to the music featured in the cartoon.  The contrast in content and music is used to make a serious topic more lighthearted and gives the audience a sense of hope for the end of their hardships.

No matter how this cartoon is interpreted, no one can deny is sophistication of this cartoon, especially for the time period it was published.  The artist elements are cleverly placed and used to support the overall message being told to the viewer.  The first Disney cartoon is well made, cleverly created and thought out through their attempts to reach a wide audience.