Our sequential viewing of Disney animated films continues with Make Mine Music, another collection of shorts. That’s what Disney would continue to release as films until 1950’s Cinderella. World War II had done a number on their ability to come up with full-length movies. This time, there’s a musical theme running through the shorts, sort of like in Fantasia, but generally with sillier cartoons and more modern musical styles.
The Martins and the Coys – Due to weird censorship issues, this one isn’t on the video release, so here it is:
The alleged reason for cutting it was the gunplay, but it’s not like I haven’t seen that kind of thing in plenty of other cartoons. They were still able to show this Popeye cartoon approximately 20,000 times during my youth in the eighties, and Beth told me she saw “The Martins and the Coys” on television. So it’s okay to show gun violence on TV, but not on home video? Besides, what are they afraid of? Kids shooting their neighbors because they saw it in a cartoon? If anything, I’d say the flippant portrayal of domestic violence at the end would be more troublesome.
Blue Bayou – A lovely bit of animation originally intended to accompany Clair de Lune in Fantasia, but set to different music here. Thanks to cutting out “The Martins and the Coys,” this has become the first segment of the video version, and it doesn’t really work in this position. We can hardly blame the original creators of the movie for that, though.
All the Cats Join In – Benny Goodman and his orchestra play some of that hip new jazz music that all the kids are listening to (it WAS 1946, after all), and an interesting animation style has a pencil drawing in the scenes as the action is happening. This one is excellent as far as the music and animation go, but does have a few embarrassing moments. I thought the boy finding the girl repulsive until the Pencil of God had redrawn her butt in a smaller size was more offensive than anything in the hillbilly segment. Also, there’s a bit where a nerdy kid with a ukelele is thrown out of the club on his ass, although I have to suspect he’d be considered cool nowadays. Or is it only women playing ukeleles who are admired by the populace? I believe the ugly hand of censorship attacked this one as well, removing a hint of boob.
Without You – Sung by Andy Russell, and accompanied by Impressionist-style animation. I can’t say I really have anything else to say about this one, which was more of an interlude than a complete cartoon short.
Casey at the Bat – Comedian and singer Jerry Colonna recites the classic poem about a star batter whose overconfidence loses his team the game, interspersed with new musical bits. One refers to Casey as “the Sinatra of 1902,” certainly not a line that could have appeared in a poem from 1888! This segment features some really goofy animation, including a mustache that has a life of its own and a ball that hangs in midair and falls apart in a totally implausible manner. Casey himself sports a ridiculously enormous chin and chest. Actually, when Disney took on legendary engineer Casey Jones in their 1950 cartoon “The Brave Engineer”, he looks pretty much identical to the batting Casey, aside from a different hair color.
Probably an in-joke because both were named Casey, although I understand the real-life Casey Jones did play baseball. Also, both shorts had Colonna as the narrator.
Two Silhouettes – Another short one, with silhouettes dancing a ballet to a song sung by Dinah Shore.
Peter and the Wolf – This cartoon, narrated by Sterling Holloway, is not a totally direct retelling of Sergei Prokofiev’s composition, but it includes all of the characters and their music. Much about it is very stereotypically Russian. The bird, duck, cat, and hunters all have common Russian names; and the first two wear a chapka and a babushka, respectively. Also, it takes place in the snow, despite the fact that the original always seemed to be to occur in the spring or summer. Peter wanted to play out in the meadow, not build a snowman, right? But when Americans think of Russia, they think of winter, so there you go.
After You’ve Gone – Benny Goodman is back, with his clarinet and three other instruments becoming animated characters in their own right.
Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet – The story of two hats who fall in love in a department store window, are separated when different people buy them, and end up reunited on the heads of an iceman’s horses. It’s a pretty sweet little cartoon, with the tale sung by the Andrews Sisters. I know Beth has a particular fondness for this one.
The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met – This is described on the title card as an “opera pathetique,” and it’s really quite disturbing. Willie is a singing whale who has a desire to sing opera professionally, and thinks he finally has his chance when the impresario Tetti-Tatti takes to sea to find him. The impresario actually thinks he’s swallowed an opera singer, though, and harpoons him to death. Yes, it’s a cartoon that introduces a lovable new character and kills him off within a few minutes. Grim, huh? I guess it’s sort of along the same lines as the man who killed the goose that laid golden eggs. We’re told that Willie is playing sold-out shows in Heaven, but that’s small consolation.
And with that rather depressing ending, we’re finished with this movie. While the segments vary in quality and noteworthiness, I liked it quite a bit overall.
The VHS copy that Beth has also includes two bonus cartoons, presumably stuck on with this film because they dealt with music, so I might as well say a few things about them as well. The first is “The Band Concert,” a 1935 short notable for featuring the more primitive versions of some characters. Most notably, this was when Donald Duck was more squat in appearance.
In the band itself are an early take on Goofy, the semi-obscure Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar, and the very obscure Peter Pig.
The plot involves Donald, who is an ice cream vendor, repeatedly interrupting Mickey’s band’s performance of the William Tell Overture by playing “Turkey in the Straw” on a flute. The use of “Turkey” in so many cartoons (prior to this one, Mickey and Minnie played it in “Steamboat Willie”) was probably due to the fact that it was in the public domain even then. Anyway, Mickey breaks Donald’s flute, but he turns out to have an inexhaustible supply. Also, a tornado scares away the audience, but the band keeps playing during it. The other one “Farmyard Symphony” is one of a seemingly endless number (sort of like Donald’s flutes) of cartoons showing farm animals doing farm animal things to a song. Of particular note is a piglet who is unable to eat because its siblings are taking up all of their mother’s teats, so he seeks food elsewhere, and even tries to drink from a cow’s udders. Tori Amos isn’t anywhere to be found, but the piglet does manage to obtain some corn at the end, so I guess it turns out all right.