Friday, February 12, 2010

El Terrible Toreador - September 7, 1929

El Terrible Toreador is 2nd in the Silly Symphonies cartoon series, and unfortunately its name fits a little too well. Coming off the heels of the entertaining The Skeleton Dance, this film manages to pale in comparison with decent animation but nothing spectacular.

Notice the title cards used for this toon. Mickey Mouse makes an appearance here because he was an already a popular character. In a way he was used to endorse the Silly Symphonies until the series was able to make a name for itself.

El Terrible Toreador opens in a Mexican cantina with Carmencita, the cantina girl. This toon is an early attempt by the Disney animators at human characters. The effect though is not quite right, as the characters possess a "rubber hose" quality allowing their arms and legs to stretch.

The audience is next introduced to the Mexican officer who obviously has an eye for the lovely Carmencita.

In enters El Toreador, the best bullfighter in all the village. He is an instant crowd pleaser as he saunters through the cantina.

Carmencita is instantly infatuated by the handsome El Toreador, but the Mexican officer wants her all to himself. Here is a perfect example of the rubber hose quality given to these characters: the more the officer stretches Carmencita's arm, the thinner her stomach becomes.

Displeased with the officer's manhandling of Carmencita, El Toreador calls him out and saves the cantina girl.

The toon then abruptly switches to La Gran Corrida de Toros, the local bullfight. El Toreador enters the stadium with his bull.

In the stands, Carmencita claps for her lover while the officer looks on resentfully.

The actual bullfight turns out to be anything but. El Toreador and the bull dance, skip, and at one point are shown playing patty cake.

Determined to get his revenge, the officer sprinkles Carmencita's flowers with pepper just before she throws them into the ring.

As El Toreador and the bull smell the flowers, the pepper bothers the bull's nose. The bull sneezes so hard that he knocks his teeth out!

Once he has his teeth back in, the bull is mad! He goes after the first thing he sees, which happens to be El Toreador. The next scene is another example of Disney's tendency to have its animation pop out at the audience. As the bull chases down El Toreador, it runs straight towards the camera and almost eats the audience.

El Toreador is scared hairless of the approaching bull.

But in the end, El Toreador's bullfighting skills pay off as he manages to turn the bull inside out. El Terrible Toreador comes "From the Vault" on its DVD for this scene in particular; the sight of a bull with its innards exposed is not the best thing to show in any Disney toon.

El Terrible Toreador is a dysfunctional toon with no character development. It's not a very good follow-up to the superb The Skeleton Dance, making the toon a bit forgettable.

The Skeleton Dance - August 22, 1929

The Skeleton Dance is the first film in the landmark Silly Symphonies cartoon series. The toon began a 10 year run of creatively inventive animated short films produced by the Walt Disney Company.

The Skeleton Dance is regarded as one of the best shorts in the Silly Symphonies series-- and for good reason. The film is a great mix of gags and superb animation, and its popularity among not only audiences of 1929 but also modern audiences has garnered it a spot on The 50 Greatest Cartoons list at #18.

The toon opens quite dramatically on a spooky night. Out of the darkness, a pair of huge eyes light up the screen. As the camera pans backward, a creepy owl is revealed atop a twisted tree branch.

This toon uses some great effects, like lightning in the sky and bats flying straight towards the screen. The setting is an old cemetery, and the beautiful artwork helps to up the creep factor.

A great gag occurs between two black cats in the graveyard. As they are fighting, one cat pulls the nose of the other. The harder the cat's nose is pulled, the shorter its tail becomes!

Just as the two cats are about to kill each other, a skeleton pops up from behind a tombstone. The bony figure literally scares the fur right off the two felines.

The next scene is a great example of just how good the Disney animators (specifically Ub Iwerks) were at this early point in cartoon animation. The skeleton leaps from the tombstone towards the camera, engulfing the audience! If only 3D film had been invented...

But even our scary skeleton isn't so tough. After hearing a strange noise in the darkness, he hurriedly seeks refuge from behind a nearby tombstone. It turns out the noise is just the hooting of that owl on the tree branch.

Enraged at the owl, the skeleton takes off his head and seeks revenge by pegging the owl squarely in the chest. As feathers fly, the owl is left with nothing but skin and bones.

Soon more skeletons come out to play in the darkness of the graveyard.

The Skeleton Dance is so named because of the unique dance the skeleton quartet perform. The animation of the four was reused in another cartoon, 1929's The Haunted House. That toon features Mickey Mouse exploring a creepy mansion full of dancing skeletons.

The great animation of the dance features the skeletons playing Ring-Around-The-Rosy, twisting like ballerinas, using each other like pogo sticks, and getting into all sorts of strange shapes.

At once point, a skeleton comes close to the camera and almost eats the audience again.

But all games must come to an end, and soon the rooster crows, signaling daybreak.

As skeletons really do not like the daytime, the four scramble to get back to bed. In their rush, they manage to crash into each other. Luckily they feel no pain and put themselves back together quickly.

Soon all four are back home in their grave, safe and sound.

The Skeleton Dance is really a great cartoon and a great way to for Disney to begin a new series.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Welcome To Silly Symphonize

Welcome to Silly Symphonize, a blog all about Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies cartoon series. The Silly Symphonies have always been my favorite cartoons because they are so full of charm. The melodies are always fun to listen to, and the characters are memorable. What draws me most to this toon series is the stellar animation.

Beginning with The Skeleton Dance and ending with The Ugly Duckling, the Silly Symphonies represents 10 years of fantastic animation coming from the Disney company. Walt Disney and composer Carl Stalling created the series to focus on music, and the onscreen action would be set to the soundtrack. This new way for Disney to create a cartoon eventually led to 1940's Fantasia, the ultimate "Silly Symphony" if you will.

The best thing about the Silly Symphonies was the absence of any real central character. The Disney artists were free to use their imagination in any way, and this freedom led to technological breakthroughs in animation like the multiplane camera and special lighting effects used in The Old Mill.

Disney was able to experiment on the Silly Symphonies. If a cartoon came out wrong, who cared? At least Disney would have the ever-popular Mickey Mouse to fall back on.

As a result the first color cartoon was a Silly Symphony (Flowers and Trees), a new character named Donald Duck premiered in a Silly Symphony (The Wise Little Hen), and Disney's first realistic human characters were used in a Silly Symphony (The Goddess of Spring -- used as tests for 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs).

Explore these pages and find out more about Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies.